I have been under a shower of SHF citrus entries this past week and although I need to (happily) bathe in over 100 entries in the coming days, nothing would make me happier. Thank you in advance to all of you who participated and remember I will accept a few stragglers if you come to the party with an extra box of lemon sour candies! Before I proceed with these lovely Rum Babas, I need to announce the winner of the Cherry Blossom Extract: Congratulations to Suzana of Home Gourmets ! Please email me with your mailing address so both Rachael and I can get the 2 bottles on your way.
When I was little, I loved going with my mom to the bakery in town after church on Sundays, helping her select the little mini pastries that would end up on a dessert tray after lunch at my grandparent’s. There always was a selection of different flavored eclairs and cream puffs, a couple of mini fruit tarts and Napoleons and a couple of mini rum babas. I used to repeat that name on the way there and on the way back to the house: "baba au rum…baba au rum…baba au rum…" I just found its resonance funny and comforting, thoughts of roundness and "plentiness" and exotic places. Except for one thing: even though I was already allowed to drink a little wine drowned with a lot of water on Sundays, I was not allowed more than one bite of the rum babas because they were drenched in alcohol…and drenched they were (no wonder our baker was a happy man!).
As soon as I started working in bakeries and put in charge of babas production, I figured I was old enough to eat them too. I had my share of this traditional pastry: a yeast based cake, with a very spongy and delicate texture all bathed in a orange and rum flavored syrup. Nothing else…no gilding the lilies with whipped cream or fruit. Although it is a little more on the bready side than a cake, there is nothing heavy about it….pure rum air….try not to inhale half a dozen minis at once! It had been a long while since I had made some but the arrival of a lovely birthday present prompted me to change that situation.
Last year, my buddy Inne and I started to discuss the pastry work of Hidemi Sugino, Japanese pastry virtuoso. I have loved and admired his creations for years and when she mentioned she had a friend who could get the book in Japan and bring it back to her so she could then send it to me, I know I let out a loud "Yes!". Lucky me, it came in the mail for my birthday along with some plates I used here and here. Thank you Inne! I don’t read Japanese but thankfully in this book, the recipes are translated in English. Allright, so translated may not be the right word as the English used is really wrong in some sentences but you get the gist of it fairly quickly. I was relieved to see that the original measures in grams had been kept although there are equivalences given in spoons and cups. I can’t tell you if this part is accurate because I had no time to double check and I must add that I used the grams, my personal preference in baking.
His Citrus Babas caught my eye the first couple of minutes I started looking at the mouth watering desserts put together for the book. The dough was mixed with a citrus puree, the baked babas soaked with an orange syrup and topped with an orange liqueur flavored pastry cream. The citrus puree called for whole citrus to be poached and puree, skin, pulp and rind. Where it might work beautifully for the kumquat recipe used, I thought not so much if I did a mix of grapefruit, lemons, lime and oranges since kumquats are out of season here now. I kept the rinds of the lemon and limes and used all the citrus fruit pulp. I changed the syrup to incorporate some rum and since I had half a batch of Lime and Mascarpone Mousse left, I topped the finished babas with a dollop of these.
Makes 8 small (I used square silicone molds)
For the babas:
3 gr. instant dry yeast
20 gr. lukewarm water
5 gr. sugar
100 gr. all purpose flour
2 gr. salt
1 large egg
60 gr. milk
40 g. butter, melted and cooled
50 gr. Citrus Compote, pureed
For the Citrus Compote:
100 gr. of mixed citrus fruit of your choice (I used a mixture of lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit and some of the lemon and lime rinds)
100 gr. sugar
100 gr. water
6 whole cardamom pods
Use the flesh and some of the rinds of the fruits, add the sugar and water and put all in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. Let cool. Remove the cardamom pods. Puree until completely smooth.
For the syrup:
100 gr. orange juice
100 gr. rum
70 gr. sugar
Bring all the ingredients to a simmer and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool to room temperature. Transfer the syrup to a wide, shallow pan.
For the mousse filling:
Half a recipe Lime and Mascarpone Mousse
Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water and sugar and let stand until foamy. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and the milk together.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the yeast mixture, flour, salt, add the egg mixture and butter. Mix until all the ingredients are combined and you get a soft dough. Let rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in volume.
Punch the dough down and add the citrus compote. Mix until well combined.
Drop the dough by tablespoons full in babas molds or muffin tins or whatever you have available. Let rise until nearly doubled. Bake at 400F for about 15 minutes. Let cool on wire racks. Unmold the babas.
Soak the babas into the syrup, upside down first and then flip them over. Let them soak a minute and transfer to a wire rack to drain the syrup. Reserve the syrup. You can keep the babas in the fridge until plating time, well covered.
To plate: top each babas with a dollop of mousse, drizzle with the reserved syrup and add some mint and lemon rind or zest if desired.
I thought that adding one more citrus post to this month of May could not hurt and wish to dedicate these Citrus Babas to my mother for Mother’s Day. I know I am a day late but I thought that she would forgive me if I made one of our favorites, a baba…all pretty and citrusy. Plus, she was spending the day with my dad, brother and her granddaughters. Mom, I love you! Everyday, you show me the importance of giving of oneself, giving love and friendship, lending an ear and a welcoming hand and I can only hope to be half as good as you are. You radiate love and laughter to all around you and I strive to make you proud although I make you worry sometimes and sometimes I make you laugh. I know I make you scratch your head and I know I make you raise your hands or roll your eyes…but I know that you and you only understands me when I sing you Sinatra or Singing In The Rain. Mom, you are my lucky star….I love you!