Serving: 12 babas
Doused in a sweet-scented syrup flavored with rose flower water, cakey yeast-raised babas (given their cylindrical shape by letting portions of the soft dough rise in individual molds) are softly tender and moist.
While kirschwasser (cherry brandy) or rum represents the spirit frequently used in the syrup or for brushing the warm cakes, it's always interesting to turn the tables and create another beaming flavor enhancement, and so I have chosen distilled rose water and rose petal preserves to refresh the dessert.
The dough for the individual cakes is buttery and eggy, and it, too, is uplifted with rose flower water essence; it bakes into jaunty cakes that crest and balloon at the top. The advantage to the dough is its laid-back nature, as it can be used immediately for forming after the first rise or refrigerated to use the next day; or the fully-baked babas can be frozen for a period of time, defrosted, and revived in a warm oven before spooning over the soaking solution.
These babas taste of spring and summer, and they are gently bright. When small, intense strawberries, with their delicate stems and hulls peeking up in pint baskets, are offered at the market, think of them as a perfect complement to the cakes. Further along throughout the summer, pair the babas with lush blueberries, golden or red raspberries, or quartered ripe figs. When the cakes are warm, a simple syrup thoroughly moistens them, then the tops can be glazed with warm rose petal preserves. This completes the flavor profile. Dollops of whipped cream—never out of place (or out of character)—would finish the plate nicely.
Rose Water Yeast Dough
Ahead: best on baking day: or freeze for 1 month, defrost, bundle in aluminum foil, and reheat in a preheated 300 degrees F oven for 10 minutes before soaking in syrup.
Rose Petal Preserves Glaze (optional)
For the dough, stir together the yeast, the 1/4 teaspoon sugar, and the warm water in a heatproof measuring cup. Allow the mixture to stand until swollen, 6 to 7 minutes.
Whisk the flour and salt in the bowl of a heavy-duty freestanding electric mixer. Whisk the whole eggs, egg yolk, the 3 tablespoons sugar, the rose flower water essence, and vanilla extract in a medium-size mixing bowl. Blend in the yeast mixture. Pour the eggs-yeast mixture over the flour-salt blend and stir to form a craggy mass (the dough will not come together at this point). Add the butter. Set the bowl in place and attach the flat paddle. Beat the dough on low speed until just combined, then increase the speed to moderate and beat for 4 to 5 minutes longer, or until shiny, silky, and very smooth. Stop the machine from time to time to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl and the paddle. Remove the flat paddle and scrape down any dough that clings to it.
Turn the dough into a bowl heavily coated with softened unsalted butter, lightly turn to coat all sides in a him of butter, make several cuts in the dough with a pair of kitchen scissors, cover tightly with a sheet of food-safe plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature for 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until doubled in bulk.
Film the inside of 12 (or 9; see notes) individual baba molds (each mold measuring 2-1/4 inches high and 2-1/2 inches in diameter [measured across the top], with a capacity of 2/3 cup) with softened butter or nonstick oil spray. Have a rimmed sheet pan at hand.
Uncover the dough and discard the plastic wrap. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide it into 12 even-size pieces.
To form the babas, smooth each piece of dough into a plump ball by rolling it briskly on the work surface in the cupped palm of your hand. Place a ball of dough in each of the prepared molds; each mold should be filled about one-third full by the ball of dough. Arrange the molds on the rimmed sheet pan.
Cover the babas with a sheet of food-safe plastic wrap. Let them rise at room temperature for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until just about tripled in bulk.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F in advance of baking.
Remove and discard the sheet of plastic wrap covering the babas.
Bake the babas, still on the rimmed sheet pan, in the preheated oven for 15 to 18 minutes, until set and a golden color on top.
Transfer the baba molds to cooling racks and let stand for 15 minutes. Carefully unmold the babas onto other cooling racks, lifting off the molds. Place the warm rose water syrup in a large heatproof mixing bowl. Add the babas to the syrup, a few at a time, and let them soak up the syrup, turning and rolling them over and about, then remove them to a cooling rack set over a large sheet of waxed paper to catch any drips. If you are using the glaze finish, blend the rose petal preserves with the water in a small saucepan, set over low heat to warm, then brush only the tops of the syrup-soaked babas with the glaze. Set the babas on their sides on a serving dish. Serve the babas with softly whipped cream and fresh berries or a dried fruit compote, if you wish.
Dividing the dough into 12 pieces makes ladylike babas; one afternoon, I divided the same quantity of dough into 9 baba molds, and the result was startling—mushroomed babas with great big dramatic crowns (you can do the same, reducing the baking time by a minute, or until set and golden on top).
Any seasonal collection of berries that accompanies the babas can first be tossed in a little organic rose syrup (available in limited quantities at La Cuisine—The Cook's Resource; see page 501 of the book).
A crystallized violet (must be designated as food-safe) can be set in place on top of each freshly glazed baba, if you wish.
Serving: about 1-3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon
Ahead: 2 weeks; reheat in a saucepan for 5 minutes to warm.
Place the water and sugar in a medium-size saucepan, cover, and place over moderately low heat. Stir the contents of the pan from time to time, using a wooden spoon. When the sugar has dissolved, uncover the pan, raise the heat to high, and boil the sugar water for 6 minutes. Add the rose flower water and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove the syrup from the heat and stir in the rose flower water essence. Turn the syrup into a small nonreactive mixing bowl and cool to warm.
Use the syrup warm for soaking the babas, or chilled for folding through and sweetening seasonal fruits. Store in an airtight container.
The light and gently fragrant rose flower water I use in this syrup is Lebanese, labeled Mymoune Rose Water (Eau de Roses), produced by Mymouné Ain el Kabou, Lebanon, and it can be used in the quantity stated above; if the rose flower water you have on hand is stronger and thus more pungent, reduce the amount to 2 to 3 teaspoons (depending on strength).
Depending on the absorbency of the babas, the entire quantity of syrup may not be used; the remaining syrup, strained of any crumbs or particles, stores beautifully, refrigerated in a tightly covered container for up to 2 weeks (splash spoonfuls on berries or sliced fresh peaches or nectarines: sprinkle on a freshly baked butter cake to moisten and scent; or use to flavor-sweeten hot or iced tea).
The rose flower water essence I use in this syrup and in the baba dough recipe is quite aromatic, and is sold in stoppered bottles at La Cuisine—The Cook's Resource (see page 501 of the book); it is a highly concentrated essence and should be used in a discreet quantity.
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This page created January 2012
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