I can't actually remember the first time my mom made Baba au rhum. But somewhere in my teenage years, it became a yearly tradition and she wowed family and friends (and got them tipsy too!) with this recipe. A Baba - you may be wondering - is a yeasted brioche bun that is soaked in rum syrup. My mom would make this dessert only once a year at Christmas, so it was a cherished and much-anticipated holiday treat. At this time of year, I miss my mom so much. She would get giddy and mischievous about Christmas, like a little kid. And this recipe is a perfect expression of her exuberance and Christmas cheer. She would usually put a fair bit more rum than the recipe calls for so her Baba au rhum really packed a good punch, and I'm pleased to say I am proudly carrying this tradition forward.
Along with making Babas for our family, the week before Christmas, my mom would make them for her knitting circle: a group of warm, witty, creative, and zany women who meet once a week at Gaspereau Valley Fibres, the gorgeous wool store down the road where she worked for many years. She loved those knitting afternoons with a passion! She would always come home with rosy cheeks and a sparkle in her eye. When I was home visiting, I would sometimes drop in on the group with her but always as an onlooker, never as a knitter. But recently, after years of resisting it, I finally started knitting, thanks to the patient instruction of my roommate's mom. So this year, I decided to make the Babas and bring them and my wonky half-finished mittens to my mom's knitting comrades. It's easy to see why she loved these women so much. I also understand where that twinkle in her eye came from, because holy moley (!), the conversations over there can get pretty naughty!! Which makes it all the more understandable that my mom drove around with this bumper sticker on her car.
From the snowy Gaspereau Valley in Nova Scotia, here is wishing you all a very wonderful Christmas eve, and a joyful Christmas day. May there be magic in the air and delicious goodies in your belly!
Baba au rhum
This recipe is from the Madame Benoit cookbook, which was my mom's cooking bible. Madame Benoit is kind of the Canadian version of Julia Child and though our copy of The Encyclopedia of Canadian Cuisine is very worn, missing its cover, and weighs a ton, it is still my go-to cookbook when I am home and I love reading my mom's handwritten notes on her favourite recipes.
1 pkg active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup warm water
2 cups flour (I used light spelt)
4 eggs lightly beaten
1 tbsp sugar
2/3 cup soft butter
2 tbsp currants
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup water
1 cup rum
Stir 1 tsp. sugar in warm water. Add yeast, let stand 10 min. Sift flour in the middle of a large bowl, and make a well in the middle. Pour in the eggs and yeast mixture. Work with fingers until you have a soft dough. Knead in the bowl for 2 min. Cover and let rise in a warm place, until double in bulk (about 2 hours). Punch down. Add the 1 Tbsp sugar, soft butter and currants and work until well blended. Knead 3 - 4 min. Fill greased baba molds (or muffin pans) to half full with the dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in bulk. Bake in 450F oven for 10 min, then reduce heat to 350F and bake 20 - 30 min depending on mold size. For the syrup: boil sugar and water 5 minutes until you have a light syrup. Remove from heat. Cool completely before adding the rum. Generously pour the rum syrup all over the babas or as my mom used to do, put the babas right in a large bowl filled with the syrup and let them sit in the syrup so that they absorb as much of it as they possibly can. The rum syrup should soak right through to the centre of the baba. (I generally double the syrup recipe to make sure there is enough). Whipped cream goes wonderfully with these as it softens the intensity of the rum.
I was hoping to get this post up in ample time before Christmas and I'm a little late... but these also make a perfect New Year's Day dessert so I hope some of you out there will try these!