Coconut Custard Babka

April 11, 2016
9 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes 2 loaves
Author Notes

Marrying traditional Hong Kong pastry filling—buttery coconut custard—with Jewish bread. —Miss Hangrypants

Test Kitchen Notes

This recipe takes a little effort; you need to start the dough the day before you want to bake and then it needs a second rise. But the instructions were clear and straightforward and the dough mixed well and rose nicely. Once baked, I really enjoyed the crunchy exterior and soft pillowy dough inside. I wouldn’t have called the coconut filling a custard, as it bakes into the babka and wasn’t "wet"—but does add a nice sweetness and the coconut gives texture. —Jo Keohane

What You'll Need
  • Babka dough
  • 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • Egg wash (1 egg + 1 teaspoon of water)
  • Coconut custard
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 6 teaspoons butter, softened
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
  1. For the dough: In a mixer bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, yeast, eggs, and water. With a dough hook, turn the mixer on low speed until it starts coming together. Pick up a little more speed and add a little water if necessary (2 to 3 tablespoons). It will look a little dry, but that's okay.
  2. Add butter 1 tablespoon at a time with the mixer on low speed, waiting for it to be incorporated into the dough before adding the next. Mix on low-medium for at least 5 minutes before you see the dough pulling from the side and becoming smooth.
  3. Mix and scrape down the bowl for another 5 minutes. Place rounded dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and stick it in the fridge to rise overnight.
  4. For the filling: Cream butter and sugar and mix in egg yolks. Then stir in coconut.
  5. Grease 2 loaf pans and line with parchment paper. Work with half of the dough from the fridge. Roll out on a floured counter into a 15-x-10-inch rectangle.
  6. Spoon half of the filling evenly over top, leaving a clean 1-inch border around the edges. Start by rolling the shortest side of the dough into a tight log. Using a sharp knife, cut the log in half lengthwise into two arms, leaving 1 inch of the end (where the arms meet) uncut.
  7. Braid the two arms by carefully crisscrossing the strands over each other. Repeat until the end of the log, press together to seal, and tuck the ends under. Swiftly transfer dough to the greased loaf tin. Repeat with other half of dough.
  8. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise for 1 hour. Heat oven to 375° F and place loaf on the middle rack of your oven. Make the egg wash and brush over the top. Bake for 30 to 40 mins. Cover the top with foil if it browns too quickly. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then loosen around the edges with a knife and carefully invert onto a cooling rack. Wait until cool before slicing into.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Mona Preeti
    Mona Preeti
  • Devangi Raval
    Devangi Raval
  • JanetFL
  • LeBec Fin
    LeBec Fin
  • Kyotodreams

13 Reviews

Tina January 4, 2019
I found that when I added 4 1/4 cups of flour the dough was very dense. So much so that the dough climbed up the dough hook and remained there as a solid mass. It was not as tacky as some other brioche recipes I tried, but nonetheless I baked it with the coconut custard filling and found the babka very dense. I ended up tossing both loaves :( and studied other recipes. I decided to give it another go this time with just 4 cups of flour and it turned out quite nicely. I opted for a dark chocolate + tahini filling for one loaf, and a kaya (coconut pandan) filling for the other loaf.
sherri August 17, 2021
wonderful additions - dark chocolate and tahini and kaya!
Mona P. December 27, 2016
Do you think this can be frozen after baking?
Devangi R. April 26, 2016
This sounds like a winner to me! Looks so good. Can't wait to try it.
GsR April 18, 2016
I think that this will be perfect to break Passover.
JanetFL April 15, 2016
This sounds amazing! I could use more help with the cutting and braiding directions, too. Thank you for this recipe!
LeBec F. April 15, 2016
i re-read it and finally understand it.
1) roll up the short side.
--now turn the roll north-south on your counter.
--with a sharp knife, cut the roll in half, beginning 1" below the north end,
and going all the way to the south end.
--now Braid the 2 pieces, beginning at the north end where they are joined,
and finishing at the south end.
Does that help? If not, you could email her via her profile page.
JanetFL April 16, 2016
Yes, it does help, Le Bec Fin - thank you! I'm not much of a baker but would like to try this and I need all the help I can get!
Kyotodreams April 22, 2016
Also, google Melissa Clark babka recipe for a video of rolling, cutting. I found it really helpful. These are difficult instructions to put into words! Good luck to us both!
Miss H. May 6, 2016
Sorry for the poor instructions! I drew a cartoon instruction on here

Hope that helps!!
JanetFL May 7, 2016
Thank you! Even I can follow your cartoon drawing!
Marilyn September 26, 2019
Big help! TY
LeBec F. April 13, 2016
Miss H, you are BRILLIANT!! I love it when a chef takes two different culinary traditions and creates a delicious dish!! I really can taste the creamy coconut filling with the soft babka. My only problem is that I don't understand the braiding and cutting directions. It could easily be my problem, but maybe you could see if you think it could be clearer if it were revised? At any rate, i think you deserve a trophy for this!