Babas, in the Indian context, are generally ascetics or spiritual gurus. My No Alcohol Golden Orange Babas are nothing of the sort at all. In fact, they’re on the indulgent side and the other end of the spectrum. These little desserts are my take on the French dessert Rum Baba or Baba au Rhum.
Like a lot of western recipes, especially dessert, I’ve never eaten a Rum Baba. It’s also a recipe that I have long wanted to make. All the more reason to make one but we’re teetotalers. So these Golden Orange Babas are my non-alcoholic version of the original. Rum Babas were bake of choice this month at the Bread Baking Babes. Lien, our kitchen of this month came up with a Champagne Baba inspired by the holiday season. Her recipe is based on one of Beth Hensperger’s recipe for Rum Babas.
What is a Rum Baba? It is an enriched yeasted cake with dried fruit that is typically baked as small individual 2-inch tall cylinders. These are then drenched and saturated with a spiced syrup with alcohol (usually rum). Babas are usually served with unsweetened or lightly sweetened whipped cream, and sometimes fruit or fruit compote as well. Rum Baba can also be baked in Bundt pans or savarin moulds as a single large yeasted cake.
The original Baba, made with rum and raisins, is believed to be the creation of a pastry chef named Stohrer. When 18th century Polish king Stanislas Leszcsynski moved to France, Stohrer went with him. There, the king found the French kugelhopf too dry. So Stohrer moistened it with a rum syrup. He supposedly christened it a Rum Baba after his favourite hero, Ali Baba! Some say it is the king who loved the story of Ali Baba and named the dessert so.
There is another version where the Baba is attributed not to the pastry chef but a Polish peasant woman who was a cook’s assistant in Stanislas Leszcsynski’s kitchens. Apparently the former Polish king (now turned French duke) was so happy with the dessert, he named it Baba au Rhum or “the countrywoman with rum”!!
Some say that the word Baba is derived from Babka Ponczowa. This is a sweet round yeasted cake from Poland, with cream in the middle. It seems Babka Ponczowa means “sweet grandmother”. Another story says the name came about because the shape of the now moist kugelhopf reminded the king of the flared round skirts worn by older women called Babka!!!
You can take your pick of these stories, but the fact is that the Rum Baba is a delightful dish. The soaking syrup turns the slightly dry yeasted cake into a moist dessert. If you do use alcohol then rum is the obvious choice for the syrup. You could also experiment with other liquers. Lien and the other Babes used champagne. If you want an alternative to alcohol a fruity juice like orange or even lemon would work well. Pineapple and I think mango, would also be good. As breads or yeasted cakes go, this is an easy recipe as it requires no kneading. Just some good mixing, as the dough is more batter like and less like dough.
I chose to work with oranges. To make these No Alcohol Golden Orange Babas, you can use whatever moulds you have on hand. Babas can be tall and thin, a little shorter and plump or really short and more spread out. I used Dariole moulds that I make steamed puddings with. Mine are 3-inches diameter and 2-inches deep. Another mould options would be muffin tins. You can also make a larger single yeasted cake in a Bundt pan or Savarin or ring mould.
Many recipes suggest using bread flour as the higher protein makes a dough that rises better. I used all-purpose flour and I was quite happy with the texture of my Babas. Lien’s recipe involves making a sponge first. Even with that, this is a very easy recipe. You can make the Babas and the soaking syrup separately and refrigerate them for a few days. This makes it easy to make ahead too. The glaze used is usually apricot jam but I used orange marmalde. I have seen the odd Rum Baba also topped with a sugar glaze.
No Alcohol Golden Orange Babas
For the Sponge :
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1/2 tbsp sugar
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
For the Dough :
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp fine salt
- 1/4 tsp dry yeast
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 egg
- 45 gm butter melted and cooled
- 1 tbsp zested orange
- 2 tbsp raisins
For the Soaking Syrup :
- 1/3 sugar
- 3/4 cup light tea or water
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
- 1 stick cinnamon
For the Glaze :
- 1/3 cup orange marmalade
- Mix all the ingredients for the sponge together in a large bowl or bowl of your kneading machine (the one you’ll be kneading the dough in). Now sprinkle the 3/4 cup flour for the dough over the sponge, so it is covered. Leave to rest for about 1 hour.
- Now add the salt, the yeast, vanilla, sugar and egg. Start to mix this. When it comes together after a few minutes, add the melted (and slightly cooled) butter, orange zest and raisins. Keep mixing it. The dough will seem a bit like a batter, but be sure to get some gluten developed.
- Scrape the dough out and divide equally among 6 well-buttered moulds. You can also use a piping bag to divide the dough into the moulds. My Dariole moulds were 3-inces across and 2-inches deep. This is why my Babas look a little like cupcakes. Loosely cover and the dough rise to almost double. Mine took about 1 3/4 hours and rose to about 2/3rds the height of my moulds.
- You can prepare the soaking syrup in this time. Put all the ingredients for the syrup in a small saucepan. Stir till the sugar dissolves and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for a couple of minutes. Then take it off the heat. Keep aside or refrigerate till required. You can prepare a double batch of the syrup and use half of it later to serve with the Rum Babas. If you’re doing this, just boil the syrup a bit so it thickens a little. Serve it slightly warm.
- Once the dough has risen, bake the Babas at 180C (375F) for about 30 minutes or until they’re done and golden brown. In the meantime don’t forget to preheat the oven to 180ºC (350-360ºF). If the bread gets too dark too soon, protect the top with a sheet of tin foil. Let cool.
- Yu can store the Babas in an air tight container for later. They should keep in the fridge for about 4 to 5 days. Otherwise get ready to soak them. Once the Babas have cooled poke holes all the way through using a thin and long wooden skewer.
- Place them in a shallow container like a deep baking tray. Heat (not very hot but quite warm) the soaking syrup if it has cooled. Spoon the syrup of the Babas so they soak it up. Collect the excess syrup from the tray and keep pouring it on the Babas until most of it is absorbed into the Babas. Don’t let the Babas get soggy.
- Heat the marmalade in a small pan with a tbsp. of water if necessary. Brush this on top of the Babas. This helps keep the Babas moist. Serve with whipped cream (plain or lightly sweetened), and/ or seasonal fruit and syrup.
- These No Alcohol Golden Orange Babas are best eaten on the day they’re baked. Otherwise they can be stored in an air tight container for up to 2 to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
The Bread Baking Babes are –
Though the Bread Baking Babes (BBB) are a closed group, you’re most welcome to bake with us as a Bread Baking Buddy. Here’s how it works.
Lien is this month’s Kitchen of the Month and the recipe for this month’s bread is on her blog. Bake the Baba and post it on your blog before the 28th of this month. Make sure you mention the Bread Baking Babes and link to her BBB post in your own post.
Then e-mail Lien with your name and the link to the post, or leave a comment on her blog post with this information. She will do a Buddy round-up for this month on her blog and send you a BBB badge to add to your post on your blog.