By Christian Gillet

Pastry-baker trainer – French Baker Champion
BakeLabRC consulting

The ancestor of the rum Baba would have been invented in the first half of the eighteenth century. King Stanislas Leszczynski of Poland, father-in-law of Louis XV, then Duke of Lorraine and living in Nancy (France), found the Kougelhopf (Babka in Polish) too dry and asked that it be basted with an aromatic white wine, a Pinot-gris from Alsace (France), later replaced by rum. Today, “Baba au rhum” is considered a classic of French pastry-making, and several variations exist.

What could be better than an iconic French pastry revisited for spring?
The classic Baba with rum is transformed into Baba with citrus (with or without rum)!
A citrus and vanilla syrup gives Baba an exotic and fresh flavor…

Baba dough

For 15 to 20 individual Babas

  • 300 g Gruau T45 flour
  • 25 g sugar
  • 6 g salt
  • 1 g lemon zest (preferably untreated)
  • 130 g milk
  • 10 g fresh yeast
  • 5 g invert sugar* or liquid honey
  • 70 g melted butter
  • 200 g eggs

Melt the butter, reserving it for the end of the recipe.

Place flour, salt, lemon zest, warm milk, sugar, fresh yeast, invert sugar (or honey) and eggs in food processor bowl.

Knead for 5 min at low speed until the dough forms, then for 7 min at higher speed to create the glutinous network and make the dough elastic.

Gradually add the liquid butter (melted and lukewarm). Ideally, the dough should be around 24° C (75° F).

For a “classic” version, mold the dough in individual round molds (Savarin-type, 7 cm in diameter), buttered if your molds are metal.
For a “revisited” version, use a different shape of mold, such as a rectangular one (silicone “buchette” type, 11 x 3 cm).
Growing for 45 min to 1 h at 28° C (83° F).

Bake for 1 h at 170° C (338° F).

Unmold hot. Babas must be completely dry.
Cool and store in a dry place (without humidity).

*Invert sugar :
A mixture of glucose and fructose, obtained by hydrolysis of sucrose, used to make soft cakes and crisp pastries.

Baba syrup

For an alcohol-free version

  • 1500 g water
  • 700 g sugar
  • 1 lemon zest (preferably untreated)
  • 1 orange peel (preferably untreated)

Boil all ingredients together.
Dip Babas in hot syrup (approx. 50° C /122° F) to allow them to soak up the syrup and swell. They must be completely soaked.
Then place the Babas on a wire rack to allow excess syrup to drain away.

For a version with alcohol

Add 150 g rum after the syrup has boiled + 80 g after the Baba has been soaked (pour over the top).

Baba cream

  • 400 g milk
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 140 g egg yolks
  • 120 g sugar
  • 32 g cream powder or Maïzena (Cornstarch)
  • 2 g gelatin (leaf)
  • 350 g unsweetened liquid cream (35% fat)

This is the same recipe as for a “crème pâtissière”.
Heat the milk with half the sugar and the split vanilla pod.
In a bowl, whisk the yolks with the other half of the sugar, then add the cream powder (or Maïzena /Cornstarch).
When the milk is boiling, pour a little into the container with the yolks/sugar/cream powder
(or Maïzena/Cornstarch), and pour this mixture back into the saucepan, on the heat source, until it boils for 1 min.
After cooking, add the gelatin (previously softened with water) at around 70/80° C (158/176° F).
Remove the cooked cream and allow to cool down.
Whip the cold liquid cream (35% fat) to a stiff cream and gently add to the cooled “crème pâtissière”.
Pipe the cream onto your Babas using a piping bag (Saint Honoré type).
Zest a citrus fruit over your finished dessert.

Jelly “coulis” for decoration

  • 250 g fruit coulis of your choice
  • 35 g sugar
  • 2 gelatin leaves

Heat the coulis and sugar to 80°C (176°F).
Add gelatin previously softened (with water).
Mix, pour into your decorations and chill.
Unmold when cold.

Please note:
In Baba revisited version (photo right below), coulis is presented in a spiral shape. It is poured into a silicone spiral mold, frozen so that it can be unmolded, then placed on the plate. It thaws quickly to take on the texture of a coulis just slightly gelled.

Scientific complement

Fresh yeast : it is a microscopic fungus of the Saccharomyces family (because it feeds on sugar). 1 g of fresh yeast contains 9 to 10 billion cells. It’s this yeast that produces the carbon dioxide and swells the products during fermentation, as well as imparting flavor. Temperature is very important at the end of kneading, but also during fermentation, so that these yeast cells can multiply and provide the carbon dioxide needed for good fermentation. It’s important not to confuse fresh yeast with baking powder used in cakes: one is a living organism, the other a chemical reaction.

To order your French flours, click here

(Photo credit: C Gillet/BakeLabRC consulting)