Babas au rhum are yeast cakes saturated with syrup, with a high concentration (20%) of hard liquor, mostly dark rum. Babas are seen in most patisseries throughout France. As Dorie Greenspan explains, they have been around for about three hundred years. On all accounts, baba is a classic that may have derived from the Polish babka. I have to say, even for a non-drinker, I appreciate the distinct flavor of rum that brings the babas alive.
The baba dough is quite similar to the brioche dough. Both leavened by yeast. The baba dough is much thinner, using relatively less flour, less butter, but more eggs. After kneading in excess of 10 minutes, the dough looked more like a pourable batter without perceivable gluten development. I had to check the ingredients list several times to make sure I put in the right amounts. After the initial 30-minute rest, not much seemed to have happened other than a more bubbly and livelier dough. So I proceeded to put the dough in a warmer spot inside the oven. That helped. Next, I divided the dough among one larger Gugelhupf pan and four individual brioche and muffin tins. Set them aside for the final proof. They did not take long to rise about three-quarters of the way up the sides. Time to bake them.
The babas did not show much oven spring. Much to my dismay, they had actually collapsed because you can make out the high water marks. What could be wrong? Over-proofing? In the end, I managed to un-mold every tin, delicately, while holding my breath. Next time, pay special attention to ensure the tins are generously and thoroughly greased.
These babas are absolutely delicious and decadent. A little fermentation goes a long way in creating the nuanced texture and mouthfeel of these yeasted cakes. They should be – given also the richness of the whipped cream and the boozy rum syrup doused liberally on them.
I’m linking this post to Tuesday with Dorie where bakers are making babas au rhum from Baking Chez Moi this week. Give it a try. It’s a fussy dough, but worthy of my time, for sure.
A few tips on preparing the dough:
- Mix 2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast in 1/3 cup warm water (100°F to 110°F) and honey. Let it rest until the mixture is frothy. Warm water is key in activating the yeast.
- Mix dough ingredients (1 cup flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 4 eggs and 3/4 stick brown butter) in the mixer and beat in medium-high speed until smooth, about 13-15 minutes.
- First rise takes about 30 minutes at room temperature (70°F – 75°F) until the dough increases 20-30% in volume. If your kitchen is cold, move the dough to a warm spot inside the oven. The dough will get bubbly and slightly domed.
- Stir and divide the dough. Fill the dough halfway up the sides of generously and throughly greased baking pans. Let the dough rise until it comes about three-quarters of the way up the sides. Be watchful, not on the clock, but for dough activity. Err on the side of underproofing.
- Bake babas at 350°F on the middle rack for 25 minutes. I should lower oven temperature to 325°F since I use a convection setting with the fan on.