Man, guys, I have been slacking. I took a week off from posting for Christmas, and I baked this particular entry half a month ago. I think I over-baked myself for the holidays, and this recipe (as well as the next one) were dodgy at best. They turned out delicious, but the baking process was enough for me to say "Screw it, just rise when you're going to rise. I'm not going to knead you anymore, and if you turn out terribly, at least Paul Hollywood isn't actually here."
With that, I'll warn you that this cake week was a bread week disguised as a cake week, and next week is real bread week--but two bread dishes in a row is more than my little heart can handle. Throw into the mix that my body hasn't been digesting yeast very well lately, and you have a very frustrated baker.
That said, welcome to season 3! And cake week. But probably the worst cake week ever, because yeast. Don't get me wrong, yeast is a wonderful thing. It's why bread is so chewy, with such a distinct and malleable crumb. I love yeast and yeasted things (hello, donuts; hello beignets), but dealing with a yeasted thing that is also supposed to be sweet and delicate means that thing in progress is going to be sticky.
So sticky, in fact, that the act of kneading really becomes more of a sloshing around on your surface. There was no stretching, no pulling, no folding over of this dough, because it would spread out and stick to literally everything it touched. If I were doing this for myself, I would definitely have pulled out the stand mixer--far easier to knead sticky doughs mechanically. But, I'm doing this for Paul Hollywood and for this challenge, and I know he doesn't quite approve of stand mixers for kneading. But god I wish I could get my hands on the actual video of the bakers in the tent making this, because I have no idea how they managed. I ended up just smushing the dough around my work surface for a minute before sighing and moving on.
The next step make things marginally easier, because a healthy amount of grease keeps things from sticking. But it makes things slippery, so you have a whole other mess of issues. Kneading the butter in is fun (when is working with butter not fun?), but I was so tired from trying to get a smooth ball that I ended up half-heartedly combining the ingredients. I did the bare minimum and went to the couch for an hour wondering where I went wrong and if I just wasted butter (a crime in these parts).
Things were looking up after letting the yeast do what it does, and when I came back an hour or so later, the dough had definitely doubled, and I thought that maybe it wasn't a total loss. But this was for sure not how it was supposed to be. While I was second-guessing this project on the couch, feeling a failure, I looked up videos on YouTube about how to make rum babas--something I normally do before embarking on the recipe--and they all had a more liquidy dough that wouldn't stick as much, but would freely drip from a spatula, which is what was used to mix (not knead) the batter (not dough).
The videos all also easily piped out their batter (again, not dough) into their ramekins, where as I had to force mine out of a piping bag and then smooth it with my fingers, creating another mess and forcing me to clean my surfaces for probably the 20th time to allow me to take somewhat decent pictures.
When they came out of the oven, I was relieved. They had risen, they had browned, they were smelling good, and I saw they were pulling away from the sides of the dishes, meaning they had cooked enough and had not gotten stuck to the sides. I let them rest a few minutes, and then hurried to tip them out (too soon - I had some fallout) to see what the rest of the baba looked like. I was anxious to finish these.
Enter the rum. Neither my husband nor I are rum drinkers. We lean more toward vodka and bourbon, and the occassional (nightly?) Aperol spritz. However, we happened to come into a handle of possibly some of the worst rum on the planet a few months back, as a wedding leftover for some pre-gamers who attended. My associations with Bacardi begin and end with a fateful night as a sophomore in college and a night that started with Mike's Hard Lemonade, proceeded to Goldschlager, and ended with Bacardi 151 in a Gatorade bottle. Ah, to be 19 again.
I wasn't about to go buy an entire bottle of rum for the 4 tablespoons I needed, and I didn't think to run to BevMo and get single serve airplane bottles, so I said "This recipe is fucked anyway, I might as well go whole hog" and whipped out this bottle for my soaking syrup. I heated, poured, and let the cakes hang out covered in the fridge for a day, and I'll say one thing for this recipe: you can make it in advance and store it in the fridge and it only gets better--the rum soaks deeper into the cake and gives you a deeper flavor. I would make this at least one and probably up to three days ahead of when you'll be serving them.
How did they taste? Like alcohol, what did you expect? As I said earlier, my body has been having problems digesting yeast lately, so I only had a few bites, but I brought these to my family's Hanukkah dinner (I told you I'm belated in posting this), and they were a hit. It's actually very cool to see a dessert made with yeast, as normally yeast is saved for savory bread or deep-fried donuts. This was a cake with a texture unlike any other--spongey, but also chewy, though tender because of the moistness brought on by the sauce. But that sauce, with its Bacardi lace, was a bit too strong, a bit too "spirit-forward" for all of us--except my Mom. She's self-proclaimed "not a drinker," but she could not stop talking about how good this dessert was. "Especially the sauce" she made sure to emphasize, alongside with "...and I don't like alcohol!" Yeah, right... lush.
makes four individual rum babas
220 grams (8 ounces) ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR
7 grams INSTANT YEAST
1/2 teaspoon SALT
50 grams (2 ounces) GRANULATED SUGAR (plus extra for lining ramekins)
2 large EGGS
4 1/2 tablespoons (70 milliliters) MILK
100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) (7 tablespoons) BUTTER, softened
250 grams (9 ounces) GRANULATED SUGAR
4 tablespoons DARK RUM
7 fluid ounces (200 milliliters) WATER
WHIPPED CREAM, optional
FRESH FRUIT, optional
1. Place the FLOUR in a large bowl, then the YEAST on one side of the bowl and the SALT on the other side (salt kills yeast, so you can't pile them on one another), then add the SUGAR and stir everything together
2. In a separate bowl, whisk the EGGS and MILK until well combined
3. Add 3/4 of the egg mixture to the flower and combine into a shaggy mess
4. Mix in the rest of the egg mixture and knead the dough until it has come together and is fully incorporated
5. Add in the softened BUTTER and work through the dough until it is completely incorporated and the dough is silky, smooth, and stretchy -- it will still be very sticky
6. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn to coat dough in oil, then cover in plastic wrap and set aside to rise until doubled in size, at least an hour
7. Grease and coat in sugar the inside of the four ramekins
8. Turn the dough out of the bowl and knead the air out of it, then place the dough in a piping bag
9. Cut a large opening out of the end of the piping bag and pipe the dough equally into the four ramekins
10. Preheat your oven to 350F
11. Proof dough a second time until the dough has almost expanded to the top, between 45 minutes and an hour
12. Once proofed, bake for 20-25 minutes
13. Take babas out of the oven and allow to cook while you make the syrup.
13. Place the SUGAR, WATER, and DARK RUM in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melting the sugar and warming the liquid -- keep warm
14. While babas are still warm, place them on a rimmed baking sheet and pour over half the syrup, then flip the babas and pour the remainder of the syrup over top
15. Transfer to the fridge to chill, covered in aluminum foil
16. To serve, optionally add a dollop of whipped cream and/or fresh berries
A personal challenge to conquer every technical challenge, and select signature bakes, from The Great British Bake Off
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