Reprinted from Life is What You Bake It. Copyright © 2021 by Vallery Lomas. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House. Photo by Linda Xiao.

Zulu king cake meets babka in this sweet recipe

If you’ve yet to hear of Foodie in New York blogger Vallery Lomas, you may have a television show to blame. Though the Baton Rouge native became the first Black winner of The Great American Baking Show during its third season, her victory never saw the glow of our TV sets due to the series’ sudden cancellation in 2017. Nonetheless, Lomas has continued to thrive, debuting her first cookbook, Life Is What You Bake It, in September.

In our October issue, we featured one of the recipes from the debut cookbook. Putting a New Orleans twist on babka bread, Lomas’ Zulu Babka is a treat for the eyes and stomach. Read on below for all the details.

[caption id="attachment_103250" align="alignright" width="325"] Reprinted from Life is What You Bake It. Copyright © 2021 by Vallery Lomas. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House. Photo by Linda Xiao.[/caption]


1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
All-purpose flour
1 (8-oz.) package (1 cup) cream cheese, room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
Dough for Challah (recipe follows)
8oz. semisweet chocolate chips (preferably mini chocolate chips)
1 large egg
2 oz. dark chocolate, melted (optional) 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line each of 2 (9 x 5-in.) loaf pans with a strip of parchment paper, leaving some overhang so you can easily lift loaves from pans.
Spread coconut flakes on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast in oven until lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. 
In a small bowl, stir cream cheese and confectioner’s sugar together until combined.
Use a rolling pin to gently roll risen Challah dough into a 16 x 8-in. rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Dough is supple and requires only a gentle touch. Use a rubber spatula to spread cream cheese mixture over dough in an even layer, leaving a 1-in. border around edges. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and half of coconut flakes (save remaining to sprinkle on top). Tightly roll dough lengthwise, starting from bottom, until it is a tight cylinder. Brush a little water along top edge and press it to close the cylinder; the water is like glue and will seal edge. Cut cylinder in half crosswise so you have 2 shorter pieces. Cut each piece in half lengthwise through center, exposing filling. Twist the 2 halves together and transfer a twist to each prepared loaf pan. Let dough proof, covered with plastic or a dish towel, until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place a rack in middle of oven.
Whisk egg in a small bowl. Brush loaves with egg wash and bake until nicely browned, about 30 minutes. Let pans cool on a wire rack until loaves are cooled to room temperature. Remove loaves from pans, drizzle tops with melted chocolate (if desired), and sprinkle with remaining coconut before serving.
Store covered at room temperature for up to 3 days. (It will keep longer in refrigerator or freezer.)
Makes 2 loaves.

Ingredients for Challa dough:
1 cup warm water
3 large eggs, room temperature, divided
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 (¼-oz.) pkgs. instant dry yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
Softened butter or vegetable oil for bowl
Grated zest of 3 lemons (preferably organic)
Add warm water and 2 eggs to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add sugar, yeast, flour, salt, butter and lemon zest. Knead on low speed until ingredients have come together, about 2 minutes. Increase mixer speed to medium and knead until dough becomes smooth and elastic, and gluten develops, 8 to 10 more minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when a single ball forms on dough hook and thwacks the side of the bowl as hook moves.
Remove bowl from mixer and shape dough into a ball. Transfer to a lightly oiled large bowl. Cover bowl with plastic or a clean damp towel and let rise until it doubles in size, about 1 hour.