Saturday, May 24, 2014

Baba a l'orange - Or an easy, fancy-seeming French dessert

Last week I was watching a French competition show, "Who will be the next great pastry chef." I *love* it, it's a Top Chef kind of set up, with 15 or so people competing to be a master chef. I forget what the prize is, they don't repeat it ten trillion times. I happen to like the French version better because each episode is 2.5 hours, giving them time to really describe what's going on. They are also much less bitchy and dramatic, which is a nice change. With YouTube's 'watch later' function, I can easily pause when I have to do Real Things and then come back when I have time again.

The classic of this is Baba au rhum, which is a cake that is allowed to sponge up a rum and simple syrup mixture. And I didn't have any rum. I like it well enough, but apparently I am more likely to buy tequila and vodka. Luckily, I also had orange liqueur, purchased to go with that tequila in a delicious margarita. Ah, summer!

This is a good dessert to make because it's simple, yet impressive-sounding. Plus the alcohol is added to a syrup that the cake is soaked in once everything is a bit cool, leaving it very noticeable! You could also use maple syrup if you prefer, I just wouldn't use so much. Oooooh, or coffee! Or coffee with kahlua and Bailey's.... I may need to make this again next week.

It was very simple to make, but at stages it was very surprising, too. The 'dough' at one point looked like Gak - that stretchy putty/clay stuff they sold on Nickelodeon when I was a kid. But it turned out delicious, so do not worry! Check out the original in the book for how to make it in a stand mixer, I used a hand mixer and detail that below.

Baba à l'orange (based on Dorie Greenspan's "Paris Sweets" recipe)
Makes 12 mini cakes     Bake time: 30 minutes      Prep time: 30 minutes    Wait time:  30 minutes
Total time: 90 minutes or less

1/3 cup water, room temperature
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) yeast
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter

- Butter a 12-muffin muffin tin and set it aside. Melt butter and allow to cool while you do the next few steps.
- Stir water, yeast and sugar together in a deep bowl, that is unlikely to let things be 'thrown' by your mixer. (I ended up with dough all over!) Once the yeast is dissolved, add the flour and salt. Use the dough attachments to beat on medium low for two minutes, until the ingredients look like they are holding together more than falling apart. Mine varied in size from peas to tablespoons.
- Switch to the regular beater attachments. Add two eggs and beat on low for 3 minutes. Add the other two eggs and beat on low until they are incorporated, and turn up to medium for as long as you can. The dough was really climbing my beaters at this point, so even with pushing it down it only lasted about 1 1/2 minutes.
- Add the cooled butter and beat for as long as you can stand, up to five minutes. I probably lasted 1 minute here because the dough climbed the beaters almost into the motor!

This is when the dough was gak-like. The picture below is not an action shot, it really held together like that! It was hard to even separate some to put into the tin.

- Divide the gak 'batter' among the muffin tins, which will be 1/3-1/2 full. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 25-30 minutes.
- When almost risen, place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350ºF.
- Uncover the tin, and place in the oven. Prop the oven door open with a then wooden spatula or other heat-proof utensil. Bake for 23-28 minutes, or until golden brown. (Make the booze syrup while they bake!)
- When done, place tin on cooling rack. Let cool in tin for 5 minutes, then turn out to cool completely.

1 1/4 cup water
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup orange liqueur (Make sure you like the way it tastes! I used good stuff) (Of course, you could replace this with a lower amount of any flavoring you like.)

- Bring the water and sugar to a low boil in a saucepan. Pour the syrup into a deep bowl and allow to cool until just before you want to soak the cakes. The deep bowl is important to make soaking the cakes easier.
- Right before soaking, add the liqueur to the syrup and stir well.

To soak:
- Poke each cake 5-10 times with a toothpick, to help it absorb the syrup.
- Put each cake into the syrup and flip a few times, letting soak for about a minute each.
- Repeat with all of the cakes. If there is any syrup left, spoon it over the top of them!

Extra syrup spooned over the top, in a pan to help it all stay in
That's it! You can fill them with whipped cream if you like, but we enjoyed them as-is. Mr. More Calories was surprised at how different they are from things he's had before. I admit that they were time consuming, but very easy!


  1. Packet refers to yeast, right? ;-} So the oven is open slightly for the entire cooking time? Looks intriguing xoxoxox

  2. Thanks, corrected the yeast! Yes, the oven is open a crack the whole time. It is probably better to make it on a cool day! I likely won't try it during a Texas summer.


Try this and want to share how it went? Have questions before you try it? Let me know!