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
4 1/4 cups
all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
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.
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.
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.
For the filling: Cream butter and sugar and mix in egg yolks. Then stir in coconut.
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.
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.
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.
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.