Rum baba, aka baba au rhum, is a sticky-sweet dessert made from a yeast-based cake soaked in, you guessed it, rum – after first being soused in a simple sugar syrup.
We first tried rum baba in Montreal at a restaurant called L’Express when we were Crash Testing our way across Canada. After that we tracked it down in a few other restaurants in different parts of the world, but none of them were quite the same as that first baba, so we decided that one day we’d have to try making it ourselves.
I loved the fez-like shape of the L’Express baba, made in what’s called a dariole mould. They’re also sometimes baked in a savarin mould, either individually or as one big baba to be cut up and shared.
We made plain babas but you can add about 100g raisins to the mixture after the butter. You soak these first in the rum, which you then pour off to use later for drizzling over your babas.
2 tablespoons milk, room temperature
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons dried yeast
generous pinch of salt
250g (9oz) plain flour
100g (3.5oz) butter, cubed and softened
500g (1lb) white sugar
cup or more of golden rum, good quality
Fully combine eggs, milk, sugar, yeast and salt with a whisk – no need to beat vigorously. Separately, add flour to a mixing bowl. With an electric mixer or wooden spoon, mix the liquids into the flour until smoothly combined.
Add the butter and mix it thoroughly through.
Grease dariole, savarin or other suitable moulds with butter. Divide mixture equally among moulds, with no individual mould more than half full. Cover moulds in cling wrap and allow them to stand in a warm place for about an hour. The mixture should roughly double in size, give or take.
Remove cling film and bake babas in a preheated oven at 200 degrees C / 390 degrees F for 15-20 minutes. Remove when golden brown on top, turn out on to a rack and allow to cool. They can be kept a few days before proceeding with the next step.
Pour a litre of hot water into a saucepan and dissolve the sugar. Bring to a simmer and fully immerse one baba at a time, turning to make sure all sides are soaked. It will expand to about half again its original size. You’ll know it’s saturated when it stops letting out tiny bubbles.
Transfer the babas to a serving dish and pour rum equally over each one. As it dribbles into the tray, spoon the rum back over the babas until they are liberally soaked through.
Serve to your tastes with quality vanilla ice-cream, and/or chantilly cream, berries, fruit and what-not.