The History and Recipe of Baba au Rhum, the Most Famous and Delicious Dessert of the Neapolitan Tradition – By Valentina Coppola


As you probably know, Italian cuisine is noted for its variety of food and it’s probably the most popular country in the world in this field. Many dishes that were regional, have proliferated with variations in different countries and with influences abroad.

An example is the delicious “Baba au Rhum” which was invented in Poland, by polish chefs.

The history of this dessert is very nice and strange: Stanislaw Leszczynski, the king of Poland from 1704 to 1735, was the father in law of Louis XV of France who married his daughter, Maria. That’s when they gave him the Duchy of Lorraine.

He studied and developed an important program of international cooperation and European integration, which required a lot of energy: He always needed to eat something sweet. That’s why the Lorraine chefs used to serve the “Kugelhupf”, a typical dessert of the territory, prepared with flour, butter, sugar ,eggs, raisins and yeast. But the king wasn’t very happy, he didn’t appreciate it… One day, he was very angry so he violently threw the dish with the dessert against a rum bottle, which broke it to pieces. It was like a miracle: The dessert got a really unusual consistency but almost perfect for the palate. The colour of the dough became brownish-yellow and the smell was irresistible! So the Baba was born in Poland thanks to an important figure and his anger. And then was brought to Naples. Is it a very unusual story, isn’t it?

Chef Sonia Peronaci, who works for “GialloZafferano”, a famous Italian food website, teaches us how to prepare a perfect and tasty Baba.

Here’s the recipe described by Sonia:

“Make the sponge: take the active dry yeast, dissolve in the water, meanwhile put the flour in a bowl, add the yeast mixture and knead. It should form a soft, yet compact dough. Once the ingredients come together, shape into a ball on the work surface and allow to rise covered with cling film for at least half an hour in a warm place (A turned off oven with the light on will work just fine). The sponge should rise and double in size.

Proceed with the recipe: the ingredients must be cold from the fridge, so cover the bread flour with cling film and place in the fridge to cool for a couple of hours: in this way we’ll prevent the dough from overheating while mixing, it takes at least 15-20 minutes the first time. Here we have 12 medium eggs, with a total weight of 1 1/3 lbs (600 g), which is equivalent to 2 ½ cups of liquid. Beat with a fork to mix yolks and whites, add the sponge to the mixing bowl fitted with a paddle attachment and add the eggs in a thin stream, they must be cold from the fridge too. Add the sugar and beat for at least 15-20 minutes until the mixture forms threads and clumps around the paddle. The dough has cleaned the sides of the bowl and it’s wrapped around the paddle; pull the dough from the paddle and switch to the dough hook. The dough is very elastic. Sprinkle the salt over the butter — the butter must be softened, but not too soft — and beat in the butter one piece at a time, until fully incorporated, it takes another 15-20 minutes; make sure not to add more butter until the previous piece is absorbed. The dough is ready, the butter has been fully incorporated and the dough is extremely elastic because it’s been mixed for a long time; remove the hook, clean the sides of the bowl, cover with cling film and place in the turned off oven with the light on for at least 3 hours: the dough should rise almost to the top of the bowl.

Move on to the soaking syrup: Peel the oranges and one lemon, pour the water into a deep, narrow pot and bring to a boil, adding the sugar and the citrus zest. When the water has come to a boil and the sugar has dissolved, turn off the heat and add the rum, then allow to steep until the babas are ready to be soaked. The syrup is boiling, turn off the heat, add the rum, give a stir, cover with a lid and allow to steep until needed. In the meantime, strain the apricot jam, so place a small amount at a time in a strainer and press it down with the back of a spoon. The dough is risen, remove the cling film and push it down to deflate it. Take the baba moulds, that have been well greased with butter; if your moulds are not non-stick, line with parchment paper. Take a piece of dough in your hand and press your thumb and index finger together to separate a portion of dough that weighs about 2 1/3-2 ½ oz (65-70 g). The moulds should be half full. The mould is 2 1/3 inches (6 cm) long, with a bottom diameter of 1 ¼ inches (4 cm) and a top diameter of 2 ¼ inches (5,5 cm). Allow to rise in the turned off oven with the light on and wait until the dough reaches the top of the moulds. Bake the babas in a preheated static oven on the lower rack at 350°F (180°C) for at least 35 minutes. Our babas are nice and golden brown, remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit, before taking them out of the moulds. Once completely cooled, soak with the soaking syrup: it should be around 104°-113°F (40°-45°C), drop in the cooled babas, push them down with a slotted spoon to keep it submerged, then squeeze lightly and place them upside down on a wire rack to drain, with a tray underneath to collect the drippings. After soaking the babas, brush with the apricot jam glaze, I added 2-3 tablespoons of the soaking syrup to make it more runny. Place in the fridge to cool before serving; after that, you can drizzle with pure rum or fill with custard or sweetened whipped cream and garnish with strawberries or sour cherries in syrup.”

Enjoy the video tutorial:

 

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