2 cups milk
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter; plus more for bowl & baking pans
2 envelopes dry yeast
½ cup warm water (100-110°F)
4 large eggs; plus 1 egg for top
4 large egg yokes
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon vanilla
9 cups unbleached flour, plus more for surface and baking pans
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Makes about 3-4 loafs.
In a saucepan over medium-low heat scald milk. Add butter and stir until melted. Remove pan from heat and let mixture cool to room temp.
In a small bowl, stir yeast into warm water. (Make sure water is about 100-110°F - too hot, it’ll kill the yeast - too cold, it won’t bloom). Let sit about 10-15 minutes until foamy.
In a mixer beat eggs, yokes and sugar until thick and pale yellow. Add salt, zest and vanilla. Turn mixer to low speed and slowly add cooled milk & butter mixture.
Add 1 cup of flour and bloomed yeast.
Change to a hook attachment on mixer. Add flour 1 cup at a time until dough is moist but not sticky.
Knead dough on a floured surface, adding flour if dough is too sticky, until dough comes away from your hands.
Place dough in very large buttered or oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and put in warm, non-drafty location. (Some newer ovens even have a “proof” setting, which I have come to love!).
Let rise for about 1 hour to 1 ½ hour. Punch down and let rise again for about 45 minutes to an hour.
Preheat over at 350°F. Move rack to lower portion in over (but not the lowest). Butter and flour 3-4 baking pans (I like to use my 3qt Le Creuset, it’s a perfect size and holds the heat well). You can also use loaf pans or angle-food cake pan).
Divide dough into portions, arrange in pans (the dough should have ample room to raise in the pan). Let rise to tops of the pans, about 30 minutes.
Whisk together 1 egg and heavy cream. Brush on tops right before place in over. Bake for 35-45 minutes - depending on the size of your loaves - until golden brown on top and the babka makes a hollow sound when tapping the top. Cool for 5-10 minutes in pans. Turn out and cool for another 20 minutes on racks.