I have tried making many of the pastries and breads that we enjoyed in France in my own kitchen…usually without much success. I don’t have any professional training for such things, know that ingredients found in French patisseries and boulangeries are different that what is available here, and also know that a big part of the enjoyment of these delectable baked goods is that they are consumed in France…not in my kitchen.
I have found several recipes that are close to what I remember…I’ve made macarons many times and will occasionally turn out a batch that is at least respectable…and this recipe for Baba au Rhum from Ina Garten’s cookbook,”Barefoot in Paris.” Ina and her husband Jeffrey visit Paris often and her book contains wonderful little stories and tips about the city in addition to her always excellent, never fail recipes.
If you aren’t familiar with Baba au Rhum it is a small yeast cake saturated in liquor, usually rum. It was invented in the rue Montorgueil in Paris around 1835 by Nicolas Stohrer who was said to have revived a stale cake by soaking it in rum. It is a common practice today to let the Baba dry a little so that it soaks up the syrup better. Later the recipe was refined by mixing the rum with a sugar syrup. Ina’s recipe for this classic French dessert calls for an apricot syrup to be brushed on the cake over the rum syrup. This step may be “gilding the lily” but it does add a delicious fruity sweetness to the finished cake.
Stohrer, opened in 1730, is the oldest pastry shop in Paris and is still located at 51 rue Montorgueil in the second arrondissement.
Ina’s recipe makes a very soft dough, too soft to handle, and is spooned into the well buttered mold. I tapped the mold on the counter top several times to bring any air bubbles to the surface. There were several big ones that I pierced with a fork. You don’t want big holes in the cake. I used King Arthur Pastry Flour instead of the all-purpose flour listed in the recipe, and made the rum syrup with Meyer’s Dark Rum. The apricot glaze was made with homemade APRICOT PINEAPPLE JAM, a recipe from A Feast for the Eyes.
My friend Linda, at CIAO CHOW LINDA, made the excellent suggestion in her Baba au Rhum recipe to pour half the rum syrup over the cake while it is still in the pan and then turn it out right side up and glaze the rest of the cake. There is a lot of syrup and the cake should absorb all of it. I have made the rum soaked cake the day before I want to serve it and brushed it with the warm apricot preserves just before serving. Isn’t that glaze beautiful? Don’t you just want to take a big bite out of it right now? If you get the urge to try a famous French pastry at home I hope you will try this beautiful Baba. It’s so delicious and very impressive and I think your family will love it.
This post is linked to FOODIE FRIDAY at Rattlebridge Farm.
- ⅓ cup dried currants
- 1 tablespoon good dark rum
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup milk
- 1 package dry yeast (2-1/4 teaspoon or 8g)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
- 1-2/3 cup all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur Pastry Flour)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sugar
- ⅔ cup good rum
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ cup apricot preserves
- Combine the currants and rum in a small bowl and set aside. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and brush a 5-cup (6-1/2 inch X 3-1/2 inch) tube pan or kugelhopf mold with the melted butter. Be sure to coat every crevice of the pan.
- Heat the milk to 114 degrees and then pout it into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Stir in the yeast and sugar and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
- With the mixer on low speed, first add the eggs, then the flour, salt, and remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat for 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and beater to form the dough into a ball. It will be very soft. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and allow it to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Drain the currants, fold them into the dough with a spatula, and spoon into the prepared pan. Smooth the top, cover the pan with a damp towel, and allow to rise until the dough reaches the top of the pan, about 50 minutes to 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and make the rum syrup.
- Bake the cake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then tap it out of the mold onto a baking rack set over a sheet pan. Pour all of the rum syrup very slowly onto the warm cake, allowing it all to soak in thoroughly. Amazingly, the liquid will be absorbed into the cake, so be sure to use all of the syrup. After the syrup has been absorbed into it, brush the cake with the apricot preserves.
- Place the sugar and 1-1/2 cups water in a small saucepan and cook over high heat until the sugar dissolves. Pour into a 4-cup heat-proof measuring cup and allow to cool. Add the rum and vanilla and set aside.
- Heat the preserves with 1 tablespoon of water until runny, press it through a sieve, and brush it on the cake after the cake has been soaked in the rum syrup.
- Served with whipped cream or pastry cream if desired.