Coconut Babka (oy vey)
May 18th, 2011 | g.snapped
Food blogging, as I’m learning, is really fucking different than just cooking or baking. It’s not simply that I’m not good at taking pictures — which is true (food styling? No good. Having the right lighting on any given day without shadows? Impossible). You need to have some sort of uncanny ability to know which moments in the process are worth writing about, showing and sharing and should be captured. Not just simply illustratively (ie, here’s how to make this difficult step happen) but also what is going to make someone lose their breath and start salivating and get really excited. You can’t just fucking make it and be done with it already. I’m still not great at this, but I’m working on getting better. Hang in there buddies!
After the somewhat disasterous experiment with the challahhhhh, I stumbled over a few Babka recipes before I came to this magnificent Coconut Babka from another poster on Fresh Loaf, Sue, who has a blog full of really intense and brilliant looking bread.
Despite her commentary and guidance guidance, after a fair amount of re-tooling, reworking, reshaping and recreating the end result feels very much a different animal. Usually I’m dying to make whatever has just come out of the oven ten more times as soon as it’s hit the cooling rack; shape it up in a new way, incorporate flavor notes, taste again, throw away again, start again; but I rarely indulge in this sort of wasteful process (how does everyone else do it? Who else is everyone feeding?). Coconut Babka, however, was repeated 4 times over the course of a weekend and shuttled to various social events (PromCon bake sale, neighbors, um, also the office — my social life was not thrilling this weekend) and tweaked every single time.
The most important change is the swap from butter to coconut butter. I love baking with CB in general (try it out for moister vegan-style sweets or comb it through your hair as a deep conditioner. Multitasking!!11!), and it’s a no brainer for a perfumed dough in a coconut recipe without an aggressive artificial flavoring agent. Because it is more dense, my general formula is 3/4 total +10 grams to swap coconut for cow; but depending on a dough’s hydration it’s a real guess and check situation. I ended up with variants that wouldn’t rise because they were too densely oily and some that dried out in the oven very quickly, but I’m fairly confident with the end result.
After knocking out a multitude of styles of individual babkas (like Sue had done in the original recipe), I eventually decided this was a futile/garbage situation. The really delicious and indulgent brownie/cake bread that makes this so unique was locked inside the loaf and couldn’t be achieved in the smaller sizes. At lower temperatures, with more thorough egg washes, with cupcake liners, in casserole dishes — there was no way to make an individual babka that didn’t dry out by the next day.
I tooled around with several butter/cream style coconut fillings but finally settled on one closer to that of an almond joy. It’s sweeter, more versatile and rich and doesn’t melt into the already highly enriched and buttery dough. If you decide to go with chocolate chips folded in along with the filling (and I really encourage you to try it both with and without), they should be Tollhouse. Definitely. 100%. I have a weak spot for that god damned yellow bag and none of the higher end semi-sweet chunks or chips really did it for me in quite the same way.
Adapted from “You Can Do It At Home”
8 g instant yeast
15 g sugar
275 g warm water
100 g heavy cream
300 g all purpose flour
10 g salt
16 g non-fat powdered milk
80 g sugar
350 g bread flour (divided)
90 g coconut butter
1 cup sweetened coconut, lightly packed
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
Additional desiccated coconut and sugar to taste/consistency you prefer
2 Tb butter, softened
3 TB rice flour
2 TB sugar
2 TB desiccated coconut
Egg wash Ingredients
1 tablespoon water
Making the sponge
Mix sugar, yeast, and flour together in a bowl. Pour in the heavy cream and warmed water. Mix until smooth and cover with saran wrap. Set aside for 30 minutes until it becomes bubbly and nearly doubles.
Making the filling
Combine all ingredients until a thick, chunky paste forms. Set aside.
Making the topping
Combine rice flour, sugar and coconut in a small bowl. Add in the butter and cut together with your fingers until a crusty block forms (should only take 2-3 minutes). Make sure that all of the dry solids are absorbed and no butterfat is exposed.
Mixing the final dough
Add eggs, salt, sugar, powdered milk and half of bread flour (175g) into the sponge and mix until smooth (a thick batter with low gluten development). While mixing on a medium speed with dough hook, add the coconut butter to the mixture a couple of chunks at a time and beat well to combine. Add the remaining bread flour and mix until combined and butter is well incorporated.
Continue kneading on medium speed until the dough is smooth and silky, about 3-5 minutes. Resist the temptation to add too much additional flour — the dough should be sticky when you’re finished.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap lightly misted with water and let it rise at room temperature approximately 1 ½ to hours or until doubled in size. At this stage, you can chill the dough overnight or proceed with the below shaping. If chilling the dough overnight, degas the dough before chilling, and follow below instructions on shaping.
Gently pat the dough to degas it. Divide it into two equal pieces. Roll the dough into approximately 25 x 35 cm rectangle with 1-cm thickness. Spread half of coconut butter mixture onto the dough leaving 1-cm around the edges. If using, add chocolate chips. Roll the dough up (on the long side) like a jelly roll. At this point you can either shape it into a babka or rolls by following below instructions
To shape babka – Grease bread pan. Cut the roll open in the middle. Lay two pieces of
dough side by side with the cut side up. Gently twist the two pieces together. Start from the top, put the left piece on top of the right piece, and continue for the whole dough length. Gently lift the dough into bread pan. Cover the pan with plastic bag or wrap misted with water. Proof the dough at room temperature for 45 – 60 minutes or until almost doubled in size.
Brush the surface of the dough with egg wash (mix egg and milk together to get egg wash) before baking and crumble the topping all over with your fingers.
Bake babka loaf for 35 – 40 minutes at 325 degrees until lightly browned – DO NOT overbake.