Friday, August 14, 2009

Baking Baba au Rhum with Fellow Bloggers -- My First Foodie Goal

I just fulfilled my first self-imposed Foodie Goal. Neat, 'huh? I was motivated to get these Babas baked because I had two very lovely and talented bloggers baking along with me--Barbara from Dish 'n' That, and Jill from Jill's Blog. Thank you both so much!

When I was in high school French class I read somewhere about the Baba au Rhum dessert. I never really knew what it was, but the name was so charming and exotic that I just had to make it. My parents never had rum in the house, and they refused to buy it for me to make Baba au Rhum, so I sort of forgot about making it until recently. What prompted me to remember? Facebook and the reemergence of many of my old (in more ways than one!) high school friends. It is so great to catch-up with them and remember how much fun we had. Anyway, thinking about high school brought back memories of my thwarted attempt to make Baba au Rhum.

Since I am (way) over 21 and don't need my parents to buy the rum, I added Babas to my Foodie Goals list. I also looked up the recipe to find out just what the heck I was going to be baking. Basically, it's a very rich egg and butter filled dough, (Brioche), baked in special pans or alternatively popover or muffins pans, soaked in a rum syrup, and served with whipped cream, custard or ice cream. It's an unusual dessert by American standards in that the dough itself is not sweet at all--all the sweetness comes from the syrup and the whipped cream or ice cream.

We decided to use a recipe from Sandy D'Amato, a food writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. This specific recipe has some nice flavorings--black tea, orange juice, and lemon juice. Plus, Jill is familiar with Sandy D'Amato and she finds his recipes to be very good.

Making Baba au Rhum is rather a large undertaking. You really need a stand mixer, and plenty of time. There's lots of mixing, proofing, rising, waiting. It's not really a difficult recipe, there are just quite a few steps. Also, the dough is on the sticky side so it's all a bit messy.

Baba au Rhum
(makes 10 servings)

1 packet dry instant yeast
¼ cup warm whole milk
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, and 2 ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons (divided)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
4 eggs, room temperature
2 egg yolks, room temperature
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature plus butter to coat pans (divided)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Rum syrup (see recipe)
Whipped cream or ice cream and additional rum to garnish

Place yeast, milk and the ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons flour in a mixing bowl fitted with a paddle. Mix until combined, cover with plastic and let rest 10 minutes. Add sugar, salt and half of the remaining flour and mix until combined.

Switch from paddle to dough hook. Combine eggs, egg yolks and vanilla and gradually add alternately with remaining flour to form smooth dough.

Once incorporated, continue to mix on medium speed for 5 minutes until shiny and elastic.

Add the 10 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons at a time with mixer running on medium speed, until butter is evenly incorporated. Continue mixing for 5 minutes, or until dough is elastic.

Scrape dough into a large, buttered mixing bowl; turning once so the butter coats all sides of the dough.

Cover dough and set in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Gently punch dough down and divide into 10 equal pieces, about 2 to 3 ounces each. Roll each piece into a loose rough ball and cover and proof for 20 more minutes.

Roll pieces into final balls, place into greased individual brioche molds, popover pans or standard size muffin cups, cover and proof another 20 to 30 minutes until almost doubled in size.

After dough has doubled, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 10 to 15 minutes until an instant read thermometer registers 180 to185 degrees. Remove from molds and cool on rack.

While babas bake, make rum syrup.

To assemble: Once both the syrup and the babas are cooled, soak babas in syrup, flipping every couple of minutes until saturated, but not falling apart. Place on a large wire rack and allow excess liquid to drain. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream with remaining syrup (strained and poured around) and an additional sprinkling of rum at the end.

Rum syrup:
1 cup brewed black tea
2 cups water
1 pound sugar
Juice of half a lemon
Juice of half an orange
½ cup rum (I use Myers's Dark Rum)

Combine all ingredients except rum and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and cool. Add rum and mix.

I served my Baba au Rhum with vanilla bean ice cream, fresh figs, and chocolate mint leaves. Was it worth the wait of all those years? Yes, and no. The actual Baba part was delicious. The rum syrup was very good, but I am not really a rum drinker, so I don't think I appreciated it as much as I should have. Dave, on the other hand loved the Babas with the rum and ice cream.
Since I knew that the rum syrup part could be a bit iffy for me, I only soaked a portion of the Babas in rum, and the rest I froze for later.

The Baba au Rhum adventure turned out to be really fun. I was able to bake with two really neat women, and I enjoyed remembering high school and the great friends I had. I hope completing all my Foodie Goals will be this great.

Here is the link to Barbara's blog:

And here is the link to Jill's blog:
Please check out both of their delicious Baba au Rhum creations.


  1. I don't think I would like this dessert but your photos are just wonderful!

    I love Facebook is such a great tool to stay in touch. Even my 93 year old grandma is on FB now!

  2. I really enjoyed making this, and you're right - it's not a typical American dessert. I like the shape of yours; all I had was a muffin pan to bake mine in.

    Thanks for including me in the fun! This is something I never would have made, but I'm glad that I did.

  3. It was a blast baking with you and Jill, Michele. Thanks again for the invitation!
    Your baba looks beautiful. I love the fresh figs and vanilla bean ice cream addition.
    I'm with you on the rum part - not a big fan. I would make this recipe again, but would substitute lemoncello for the rum. Mint is a nice touch, too.
    Bon appetit!

  4. Now you are a talented baker!

    Its good to have completed one of your goal with other food bloggers. I admire that you are so focused.

  5. I'm so impressed, those look delish and very novel (to me, at least!). I also love the idea of a foodie goals list. I keep a to-do list but it would be neat to have a list of foods that are bigger challenges/goals. Oh, and that fig looks like perfection.

  6. This sounds really yummy, to me!! I recently made a peach and rum cake with rum added to the whipped cream topping. I love rum desserts, this would be so fun to make, thanks for the inspiration!!

  7. I've never heard of them, but they sound delicious.

  8. Thank you so much for all the lovely comments!!