Plum Rum Baba with Cream Chantilly
Anyone reading this blog will know that we are fans of a television contest that features amateur bakers competing to be Britain’s top in the world of cake, pudding and all things sugary and saccharine. Set in a white marquee tent dressed with Union Jack buntings and paisley-hued furniture, the Great British Bake Off has got us salivating and craving for sweets all the time. After four seasons, it never fails to make us tremble with fear each time a soggy bottom is mentioned.
Sure, there are plenty of baking shows on TV. Such as Cupcake Sisters, which we will never, in our whole lives, understand its popularity. Food, like fashion and music, comes and goes with different trends. Ask the person on the street, dessert now comes in petite-sized portions with eclectic colours and detailed decorations. Peer into a cake shop and you’ll find stylish crowds nibbling into tiny cupcakes, macarons, fondant birthday cakes, eclairs and the latest, cronuts and duffins. We have nothing against these pretty items, and we do find them awfully lovely to look at. But taste is another matter altogether.
Yet, GBBO manages to stand out despite its lack of human drama or excessive glamour and plastic surgery. You might say “it’s just baking!!”, and you are right about that. But that’s why it’s so popular, it was baking at its truest. For once, a reality show without sob stories and crazy antics! Talent and the product was very much the focus in GBBO. And one thing we love about it was how it not only featured popular classics and innovative creations, it revived forgotten bakes back into our kitchens.
The rum baba is one of those forgotten desserts that not many have heard of at this age. Few serve rum babas, and even lesser know how to make it. For us, it is something new and unusual. The moment it graced the screen, we knew we have to try it one day. Like Mary Berry, we just love anything with alcohol in it and the thought of a rum-soaked cake was just too tempting to ignore. And we could finally make use of our savarin moulds that we bought when in Salisbury (yes, pretty random).
A rum baba is a hybrid between bread and cake, and has a pretty interesting past. Classic bakes are usually invented in royal courts or for the aristocracy. Despite its humble moniker, the rum baba has seen a colourful history from Poland to Versailles. Now, it graces the tables of Michelin-starred chef Alain Duscasse. Our rum babas may not be blue-blooded, but for first timers, they tasted almost heavenly.
Being quite versatile, one can use different types of fruit or rum syrup (Raymond Blanc uses raspberry eau de vie once), making it the perfect dessert to feature seasonal produce (hence the plums). We remained true to the dessert and used dark rum (there are many grades of rum from dark to light) for the syrup. Because the batter is rather unusual from a typical cake, it takes some courage and instinct to decide the readiness. If you want to be as authentic as possible, use dariole moulds instead of savarins, but we found ring babas held the cream better. And we were very very very generous with our drink.
Like the clafoutis, the rum baba found itself new fans in this household and we’ll definitely be serving them again for dinner parties or sunday afternoon teas. No, we were not drunk, but we must admit: those babas were really that brilliant.
Plum Rum Babas with Cream Chantilly
Adapted from Paul Hollywood
You will need four 11cm/4½in baba tins (savarin moulds). Alternatively you can use small dariole moulds.
220g strong flour
1 x 7g sachet fast action yeast or 4g instant yeast
½ tsp salt
50g sugar, plus extra for lining tins
2 medium eggs
70ml/4½ tbsp milk
100g butter, softened
For the Rum syrup
250g caster sugar
3-4 tbsp dark rum
For the Chantilly cream
250ml double cream
100g icing sugar
1 vanilla pod, seeds only
Plums of any variety, seed removed and chopped to cube sizes
Place the flour in a large bowl. Place the yeast on one side of the bowl and the salt on the other side. (Make sure the salt is not placed on top of the yeast, as it can kill it, making it inactive). Add the sugar and stir everything together with a spoon until evenly mixed.
Mix together the milk and eggs until well combined. Add three-quarters of the combined eggs and milk to the flour and stir to combine. Mix in the rest of the liquid and knead the dough on a worktop until it’s smooth and glossy, this will take approximately 10 minutes. Add in the softened butter and work it through the dough thoroughly until it’s silky and stretchy. This should take approximately six minutes.
Place the dough back into a bowl and cover with cling film. Set the dough aside to rise for at least an hour, until doubled in size.
Grease and sugar the four 11cm/4½in fluted rum baba tins (savarin moulds). (Adding the sugar will help the fragile sponges come out of the moulds).
Turn the dough out of the bowl, and knock it back by kneading it a few times. Place the dough into a piping bag with a large plain nozzle. Pipe the dough into the four moulds. Try and get them all as equal as possible.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
Allow to prove for a second time until the dough has expanded almost to the top. Be careful not to over-prove at this stage, or you will get a muffin top around the edges.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes.
Meanwhile for the syrup, put the sugar and rum in a small saucepan with water and bring to a rolling boil.
When the babas are cooked, take them out of the oven and allow to cool a little before carefully removing the cakes from their tins. They will be very fragile. Place the babas onto a dish and pour over half the syrup. Allow them to soak up all of the liquid; then turn them over and repeat with the rest of the liquid. Transfer to the fridge to chill.
Meanwhile for the Chantilly cream, whip the cream with the icing sugar and vanilla seeds. The cream must be firm enough to pipe and hold its shape on top of the babas. Transfer the cream to a piping bag and keep in the fridge until needed.
To serve, pipe the Chantilly cream, using a star nozzle, into the middle of the babas. Garnish with the plums.