Baba au rhum

Here is a recipe I got from a French site on the web and tried out twice with excellent results the second time. The first time was only ruined because I trusted the recipe I was using for the length of baking time and got busy doing something else. I have adjusted this time here and warn you against baking it too long. The baba au rhum is quite popular in France and I once had some at an Italian restaurant in the United States.

3 eggs, separated
125 g sifted flour
50 g unsalted butter
120 g granulated sugar
6 tbsp milk
2 tsp baking powder
1 pinch salt
a few drops vanilla extract
1 smear of butter to grease the pan
1 recipe rum-flavored syrup (recipe below)

You can make one big baba au rhum or about six small ones, the size of the muffins now sold for breakfast at coffee shops. I use a cake pan that bakes 6 baba-shaped muffins. It works perfectly for this recipe. Generally, any pan that creates a ring-shaped cake will suffice. This recipe is for that method; adapt to whatever pan you use.

1. Set aside the 50 g of butter to reach nearly room temperature. Butter the pan with additional butter. Pre-heat oven to 425°.

2. In a large bowl (at least 3 quarts), beat the yolks with the sugar until they whiten and become onctuous.

3. In another bowl, beat the whites until nearly stiff.

4. To the egg yolk mixture, add the milk well-warmed in the microwave, then the flour and, finally, the softened butter. Add in the vanilla and baking powder stirring just until homogenous.

5. Fold the beaten whites into the batter carefully so as not to break them down too much.

6. Pour into baking pan and put into oven for 10-15 minutes. The cakes should not be over-brown, but only lightly golden. Remove and cut the bottom of the cakes flat. Turn over on bottom in glass dish. For 6 small babas, the Pyrex® 13" rectangular baking dish with a plastic lid works perfectly for the next step.

7. Soak the cakes well with the syrup using the entire amount. Cool completely; the baba is served cold. It can be placed in the refrigerator for several hours, if well covered, even overnight, but making it in the morning for the evening is best.

8. When ready to serve, drizzle from 2 to 4 tablespoons of a vanilla cream such as a crème anglaise over the baba. If you don't want the challenge of the crème anglaise, try a cooked vanilla pudding that has not be completely cooled so that it is still a bit runny. It should be strongly vanilla-flavored, however. Garnish with sweetened whipped cream and serve.

The Rum Syrup

½ quart water
1 tbsp vanilla
1 cup granulated sugar
6 tbsp strongly spiced rum

1. Heat water and sugar just to boiling. Withdraw from heat.

2. Add vanilla and rum.

3. Heating syrup back up to 200° (you could just do this as part of step 1 combining in step 2 at the same time and use a candy thermometer) for 5 minutes will chase away all or most of the alcohol.

This syrup will keep for days in or out of the refrigerator as long as it is covered until ready for use. It is also an essential ingredient of the bûche de noël featured elsewhere on these pages.