Not many people know that my grandmother (dad’s mom) actually grew up in Ecuador. When fleeing Nazi Germany, her parents tried to get into the United States but were denied. They had cousins in Colombia who found a way to get them into Quito, Ecuador.
It was here that my grandmother spent formative childhood years. Her father worked at the fish market, while my grandma has sweet memories of walking home from school snacking on the juices from the sugarcane growing all over town. Life was hard, as it is for most immigrants, but eventually, they were able to come to the United States.
I have always felt that there is a part of me to discover in Ecuador. While I have never physically been there, I plan to go sometime soon and explore the lives my family led there. This loaf is a testament to my family. Their hardships, their journeys, and most of all, their love and determination for each other.
1 Cup milk (or milk alternative)
¼ Cup coconut cream
¾ Cup granulated sugar
5 Tablespoons butter, softened
2 Tablespoons instant yeast
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ½ - 5 ½ Cups all purpose flour
1 ½ Cups shredded sweetened coconut
3 Tablespoons butter
1 Can sweetened condensed milk
½ Cup coconut cream
Pour the milk in a small saucepan with the cream of coconut and the sugar. bring the mixture to a simmer, then remove from heat.
Place the room temperature butter in a large mixing bowl. Pour the warm milk and sugar mixture over the butter and let cool briefly. Add the yeast and stir.
Mix in the eggs and vanilla extract. Add the flour one cup at a time to yeast, vanilla, and egg mixture. Using a strong spatula to mix at the beginning and using your hands to mix once it gets too difficult with the spatula.
Once the dough is fully mixed, turn onto a floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes.
Grease a large bowl with spray oil and transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover with a damp paper towel and put in the oven to proof. (Make sure the oven is off!) Proof until the dough is doubled in size about 45 minutes-1 hour.
While the dough is proofing, make the filling by toasting the shredded coconut in a pan until lightly browned.
Pour the coconut cream, sweetened condensed milk, toasted coconut and butter into a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Once simmering, lower the heat and continue cooking for 5-8 minutes while stirring constantly.
Once proofed, turn the dough onto a floured surface and cut into 3 equal portions. Take one portion of the dough, roll into a log and then flatten.
Divide the filling in two portions. Keep one portion to spoon over the top after baking. Spoon the filling into the middle of the rectangle of dough and roll back into a log, pinching the seam to ensure it’s sealed. Complete for two more of the portions.
Braid as you would for a 3 strand challah, then connect the ends of the loaf together to form a ring. Place into the pan. I baked mine in a springform pan greased and floured on all sides.
Let the loaf proof for another 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the loaves for 25 minutes.
When the loaf comes out, spoon the reserved filling over top of the loaf. Serve warm.