Saturday, July 14, 2012

French Baba au Rhum, on July 14th or Bastille Day

A sleek, black and blue vehicle emerges from a platform like a Batmobile prancing across a screen, accompanied by music in a movie. Giant silver bullets with motors and doors lie peacefully, as metallic, prehistorically sized insects prowl nearby. The batmobile is one of 140 Bugatti automobiles from a 600-car collection in Mulhouse, Alsace--a National Automobile Museum. (Take a virtual tour by clicking on this link: It is in this French region Alsace Lorraine, where the baba au rhum dessert, now eaten all over France, originated. Some of Lorraine's attractions include the largest U.S. World War I cemetery outside of the United States, the birthplace of Joan d'Arc, and the Stanislas plaza in Nancy,where the polish king took over the duchy of Lorraine for a period of time.The first baba au rhum I tried was in a French airport. The miniature cylinder was brown in color, didn't have whipped cream, and was liberally soaked in a delectable rum sugar syrup. 

History     The babka, or polish yeast cake was taken to Alsace/Lorraine by the exiled Polish king Stanislas, who was appointed mayor of Nancy in Lorraine by his son-in-law, King Louis XV of France. Some report that he had trouble chewing on dried kugelhopf, and thus requested that alcohol be added to the cake to make it softer. Others say that he brought back a babka from home once; it dried up, and thus his chef added wine, raisins, and cream to soften the cake. The original shape of babas is a cylinder, but after 1835, when the modern rum baba was created, a ring mold called a savarin is also the common shape used. The baba was taken to Naples by French cooks, and is known by that name. The original baba has yeast; on easy french you can find the following recipe that uses baking powder instead:

Recipe from 
3 eggs, separated
1/4 cup butter
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup milk
 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat the yolks and sugar for 2 minutes. Melt butter and add to the mixture. Next, stir in the milk, baking powder, and flour. Whip the egg whites, then fold them into the mixture. Pour into a greased flanera, savarin pan,or 6-cup ring mold. (You can also pour into several small pans for individual babas). Place in oven and bake for 25 minutes.
Rum Syrup
2/3 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup rum
Mix water and sugar in pan and heat until it boils. Remove from heat, cool and stir in rum. 
When the cake is still warm, poke holes in it with a toothpick or fork. Pour the rum syrup on the cake.
Decorate with 1 to 3 cups of whipped cream, to taste, and fruit.

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