Whether it was due to the French presence in Lebanon or other factors, the fact remains that the Lebanese remain strongly influenced by French culture, including (especially) French food and French pastries. Every neighborhood boasts at least one pastry shop offering croissants, éclairs, mille-feuilles, babas, petits-fours and sablés.
A baba au rhum seems like a fitting cake for the holiday season.
Rum can be substituted for another liqueur, such as Kirsch or Grand-Marnier.
The cake can be baked and frozen and will keep in the fridge for well over a week.
This recipe is adapted from Emeril Lagasse and Gaston Lenôtre.
FOR THE CAKE:
- 1/2 cup of milk
- 4 tsp of active dry yeast
- 2 cups of bread flour
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tsp of sugar
- pinch of salt
- 4 oz (1 stick) of unsalted butter, melted and lukewarm
- 1/2 cup of apricot jam (heat in the microwave for one minute and strain)
- candied apricots to garnish (optional) or fresh berries
FOR THE RUM SAUCE:
- 3 3/4 cups of water
- 2 1/2 cups of sugar
- 10 tbsp of dark rum
- 1 tbsp of vanilla extract
- 2 tsp of orange blossom water
FOR THE CHANTILLY CREAM:
- 2 cups of whipping cream
- 2 tbsp of powdered sugar
- 1 tsp of vanilla extract
- Scald the milk and cool it to lukewarm (110F). Combine the milk, yeast, and 1/2 cup of flour. Set it aside until foamy. Stir to form a sponge and let rise until doubled in bulk. Add the eggs, the rest of the flour, sugar and salt. As soon as a dough forms, add the butter and mix until the dough is smooth. Set it aside for 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375F. Butter and grease a 9-inch bundt cake pan. Place the dough in the pan, cover it in plastic and let it rise in a warm place. When the dough reaches the top of the mold, place it in a large baking sheet in the middle of the oven and bake it for 30 minutes. The cake should be golden-brown. Cool it on a rack for 10 minutes then poke holes all over the top. Pour the warm syrup over the cake and let the liquid absorb. Turn it out, brush the apricot jam over it and serve with whipping cream. Garnish with glazed apricots if desired.
For the rum syrup: Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Take away from the heat and add the rum.
For the whipping cream: Place the cream and sugar and vanilla in a mixer bowl; beat until the cream thickens, about 5 minutes. Keep chilled.
NOTE: You may wish to add some orange rind to the syrup; cut a sliver of orange peel and place in the saucepan, discarding after the syrup has boiled.