Technical baking, part 1.2: rum babas – making

Let’s get one thing straight, here. I have never made a yeasted cake in my life, with the possible exception of those friendship cakes that do the rounds which I might have done when at one school or another. Or maybe at Cubs. Or maybe Mum had one from around that time. I seem to remember a jar of something which eventually died. Or maybe that was the school hamster.

Anyway! The point is that I make a clear demarcation between what is cake and what is bread; in fact I talk about it at length when I’m asked to give my cake presentation. Cake is given lift with chemical raising agents and is crumblier than bread; bread is made with yeast and is chewier than cake. So kugelhopf or panettone is a complete change from what I’m used to making, and I would argue that they’re breads rather than cakes.

Baba au rhum

Rum babas, which are effectively small, syrup soaked kugelhopf, are a total pain in the bum to make by hand. I used Paul Hollywood’s recipe which is incredibly wet and soft, and impossible to work with unless you have a dough scraper. Look at it: 220g flour to effectively 160g liquid (which is a 11:8 – ciabatta, the wettest dough I know of is about this ratio), which is incredibly wet, and if you accidentally use large eggs because they’re all you’ve got in the house (erm…) it’s even wetter. Then it gets worse, as once you’ve kneaded it (ho ho – the closest I got to kneading was swirling it around on the worktop until it became stretchy, then picking it up with the dough scraper and bashing it about a bit) you have to work in 100g of soft butter, which makes it nearly impossible to handle without it going everywhere. Understand this: you will be covered in dough by the time you’ve finished. This is why there are no photographs of this stage.

After proving it’s a bit easier to handle; you can at least get it in a piping bag. Because I only have two savarin moulds I put the rest of the mix into two darioles. Buttering and sugaring (use caster sugar, not granulated) is absolutely crucial here. As is the second proving. The recipe says don’t overfill or overprove as you’ll get a muffin top – really, don’t worry about that. The muffin top is actually quite nice and you won’t see it anyway. Or even care.

Baba au rhum

After baking you soak in rum syrup – I expect that warmer babas soak up more syrup than cold ones. I used cheap rum. I think you could use pretty much any alcohol at this stage – calvados, cointreau, amaretto would all be perfectly acceptable and probably tastier – and then they’re safe to be left. Water activity is pretty low when the syrup is in there, so they’re probably safe for a couple of days. Remember to turn them over every now & then when doing the initial soaking.

Right, if there’s one thing that annoys me about creme chantilly it is this: nearly everybody overwhips the cream. It is supposed to be soft, fluffy and smooth. Whenever I see it on a menu my heart sinks, because it is never made to order and so will be hard and granular, and more like sweet butter. When whipping the cream get it to soft peaks, and then stop. Do it by hand, use a balloon whisk. Don’t overdo it. I filled ours with the creme chantilly and a splodge of rhubarb & cardamom jam I’d made back in April.

Baba au rhum

Conclusions: interesting. Like a dense cake, or the sort of baked doughnut you get from highstreet bakeries, rich as Croesus and very, very sweet. Not necessarily something I’d make again, but as an exercise it was fun (and a bit of a workout during the kneading stage, wet dough being much, much harder to work with). Done properly I can imagine the cakes being more fragile than these were. The babas that went in the darioles are lovely, but enormous; they need to be split and then filled with lemon curd, marmalade or fresh fruit, something to cut the richness. Two will be a happy dessert for four people.

GBBO Technical Challenges completed: 1 of 10.
Next challenge: Treacle Tart.

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2 Responses to Technical baking, part 1.2: rum babas – making

  1. Pingback: Forward Planning « Paradise enow

  2. Pingback: Home baking is killing Ainsleys. (Tech Bake pt 2.1) | Backwards Lion

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