Justin Burke Samson’s Tahini Brioche Babka

Recipe by Justin Burke Samson. Photography courtesy of Bonjour Y'all Bakery

One of Justin Burke-Samson’s signature recipes, inspired by his time at Kindred in Davidson, North Carolina, this pillowy Tahini Brioche Babka gets rich and nutty notes from tahini swirled into the dough. No wonder this Tahini Brioche Babka is a staple at his hot new bakery, Bonjour Y’all Bakery. Read more about how self-taught baker Justin Burke-Samson is rising to the top of the baking world through his thriving bakery in our January/February 2020 issue!

Justin Burke Samson's Tahini Brioche Babka
Makes 2 (9x5-inch) loaves
  • ¼ cup (60 grams) warm whole milk (105°F/41°C to 110°F/43°C)
  • 2¼ teaspoons (7 grams) active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup (50 grams) plus ½ teaspoon (2 grams) granulated sugar, divided
  • 6 large eggs (300 grams), divided
  • 2⅔ cups (334 grams) all-purpose flour, divided
  • 5 tablespoons (80 grams) tahini*
  • 1 large egg yolk (19 grams)
  • 1 tablespoon (9 grams) kosher salt
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (198 grams) cold unsalted butter, cubed 1 to 2 tablespoons (15 to 30 grams) whole milk
  • ¼ cup (36 grams) benne seeds or sesame seeds
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together warm milk, yeast, and ½ teaspoon (2 grams) sugar by hand until yeast is dissolved. Whisk in 2 eggs (100 grams). Slowly fold in 1 cup (125 grams) flour until almost combined; sprinkle ⅓ cup (42 grams) flour on top. Let stand until top is cracked and sponge is soft to the touch, about 30 minutes.
  2. Add 3 eggs (150 grams), tahini, egg yolk, salt, remaining 1⅓ cups (167 grams) flour, and remaining ¼ cup (50 grams) sugar to yeast mixture. Using the dough hook attachment, beat at low speed until a dough starts to form. Increase mixer speed to medium, and beat until dough comes together around dough hook, 8 to 10 minutes. Scrape sides of bowl. Add half of cold butter, and beat at high speed until combined. Add remaining cold butter, and beat until dough is smooth, 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to medium-high, and beat until dough comes together and pulls away from sides of bowl. (Dough should pass the windowpane test; see Note.)
  3. Lightly flour a medium bowl; scrape dough into bowl. Fold dough in half, and press down; turn dough over, fold again, and press down. Cover and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.
  4. Butter 2 (9x5-inch) loaf pans.
  5. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface, and divide in half. Roll one half into a 12x6-inch rectangle. Cut rectangle into 3 (12x2-inch) strips. Starting at top, braid strips together. Pinch ends of braid together, and place into 1 prepared pan, tucking ends under. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place (75°F/24°C) until doubled in size or until dough reaches top of pan, about 2 hours. To test if dough is ready, make a dent in dough about 1 inch deep. If dough springs back fully, it is not ready. If dent remains and springs back only a little bit, dough is properly proofed.
  6. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
  7. In a small bowl, whisk together milk and remaining 1 egg (50 grams). Brush top of dough with egg wash, and sprinkle with seeds.
  8. Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 200°F (93°C), 40 to 45 minutes, covering with foil after 35 minutes of baking to prevent excess browning. Let cool in pans on a wire rack.
*Benne butter can be substituted.

Test the dough for proper gluten development by using the windowpane test. Pinch off (don’t tear) a small piece of dough. Slowly pull the dough out from the center. If the dough is ready, you will be able to stretch it until it’s thin and translucent like a windowpane. If the dough tears, it’s not quite ready. Beat for 1 minute more, and test again.


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