Almost all food historians agree on the origin of rum baba. It goes back to the former king of Poland Stanislav Leszcynski, who was in exile in France thanks to his son in law, Louis XV, who installed him at Lunéville. The former monarch used to love a Germanic origin cake – kugelhopf, but one day he found it too dry for his aging teeth and ordered Malaga wine and poured it over a brioche-like dough, which in contact with the alcohol opened like a flower. This is how baba was born. The name itself, has two version of existence. First is linked to polish word the babka –grandmother or old woman. This could be explained by the shape of the cake once unmolded, which resembles a babka’s wide skirt, while second version is linked to the ‘Thousand and one night stories’, which the Polish king used to love, so he named the cake after ‘Ali Baba’.
How this cake reached Barbados in the Caribbean, I was not able to deduce, but given that is very inexpensive to make, apart from rum, explaines how it could come to existence on the island, where most inhabitants lived very modestly. Bajan rum is worldwide known, so it is only natural that it found its way to the savory and pastry dishes.
This is my version. I have combined recipes from two great chefs to achieve a perfect balance, Lea linster for the dough and Pierre Hermes for the syrup. After tasting it, it took me back to the moment when I’ve tasted this distinctive flavoured pastry.
200g sifted plain flour • 7g fleur de sel • 8g fresh yeast • 1 tbsp raw honey • 70g melted butter + extra for greasing • 5 eggs • Molds for rumbaba or small cupcake form
500g still mineral water • 250g superfine granulated sugar • 1 tsp grated zest of unwaxed lemon • 1 Tbsp grated zest of unwaxed orange • 1 vanilla pod • 2 Tbsp pineapple puree • 3 Tbsp aged dark rum
1 cup heavy cream • Aged rum to taste
The dough should be prepared 3-5 days in advance. The longer it dries, the better it absorbs the syrup.
In a bowl combine flour, salt, crumbled yeast, honey, melted butter and one egg.
Continue whisking for 3-5 min.
Add the eggs one by one letting mixer run in between for 5 minutes.
Butter some baking molds or cupcake moulds and using plastic pastry bag fill 1/3 of the mold with the dough.
Let it sit for one hour on a warm place or until it rises up to the edge of the mold.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and bake them for 20 minutes.
Unmold until still warm and let it dry uncovered for 3 days at least.
Bring water and sugar to a boil together with zest of lemon and orange.
Split a vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds and add them to the pot.
Boil it for a few minutes, remove it from the fire and add the pineapple puree and rum.
Let it cool to room temperature.
Strain it into shallow dish and let the babas soak in it for 5 minutes ad than rotate them and let them soak for another 5 minutes.
Let them drain a bit and serve sprinkled with extra rum.
Serve with some whipped cream and mango ice cream.