A baba is a small bread-like dessert "cake" that is soaked in a lightly flavoured sugar syrup, and served cold or at room temperature with big spoonful of slightly sweetened cream and a slosh of rum that gives it its name. As desserts go it’s very simple and unfussy, yet for people like myself who love it we class it as one of the classics of French patisserie. Under the hood this is based on my 2006 Guardian recipe but with a few tweaks to make it slightly easier and richer.
Pour the warm milk into a bowl and whisk in the yeast. Then combine this with the flour, egg, yolks, sugar and salt. Mix well then knead until smooth and elastic (a stand mixer makes this easy, takes about 6 minutes). Then add the butter and mix until it’s very smooth again. The dough will be slightly soft and perhaps a little sticky but that’s good.
Remove the dough from the mixer, place in a bowl, then cover and leave to rise at about 24 C for 90 minutes until risen by about half.
Brush melted butter insides of six pockets of a Chicago Metallic Oversized 3 1/4" Muffin Pan, or similar. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces about 70-80g each, and on a lightly floured worktop. Shape into balls and place seam-side down in the tins. Leave to rise for about 90 minutes at 30C (quite warm) until just puffing out of the moulds.
Brush with beaten egg and bake for about 20 minutes at 160C fan until golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. At this point they can be left until cold and frozen.
To serve, first slightly rewarm the baba. To generously soak the baba in syrup, warm together 100g sugar and 80g water (the amount needed for each baba) until dissolved, then cut the baba in half and syrup each warmed half in the warm syrup. Serve with a glug of rum, if you like, and a dollop of slightly sweetened and whipped cream.
Orange syrup variation
Measure about 40g fresh orange juice (blood orange works very well) for each baba, and add sugar to make a thin sweet syrup. You can warm it oner a low heat to help the sugar dissolve but don’t let it overheat or get anywhere near boiling: you want to preserve the fresh orange flavour at all costs, and high heat is its enemy. Then pour this syrup over the already soaked baba, and top with whipped cream and orange segments to serve.