Baba are usually soaked in a rum syrup, and traditionally served at Christmastime, but let's break with tradition and make a summery version substituting Limoncello for the rum.
These small booze-soaked sponge cakes are leavened with yeast, they are very light and airy, similar to Savarin. The bright citrus flavour of the Limoncello is fantastic paired with fresh raspberries and whipped cream.
This was my first time making Baba, and I found the dough a lot softer and much easier to work with than Savarin. I actually mixed it by hand without any difficulty. I used this recipe (with a couple of minor adjustments) and followed this instructional video, and yes, it was as easy as it looks.
For the limoncello syrup you'll need:
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- juice of one lemon
- 1 cup limoncello
In a small saucepan over high heat, bring the water, sugar, and lemon juice to the boil. Cook, stirring constantly until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the Limoncello, and set the syrup aside to cool.
For six small Baba you will need:
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon honey
- pinch of salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried yeast
- 1 cup flour (sifted)
- 1/3 cup melted butter (at room temperature)
Mix together the eggs, honey, and salt in a large bowl. Add the yeast, and stir to incorporate. Next, add the flour, stir it in a little bit at a time to ensure a smooth dough. Stir in the melted butter, and beat by hand until silky and perfectly smooth (no lumps). Use a piping bag (or plastic baggie with it's corner snipped) to divide the dough between six individual greased cake pans. The pans should be about halfway full before rising. I'm using mini ring molds, about 4 inches in diameter, but any small cake pan would work (even muffin tins could be used). Cover the cakes loosely with a floured tea towel, and let rise for an hour (or until doubled in size). Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 10-12 minutes, until golden and firm to the touch. Remove the Baba from the oven and invert the cake pans onto a wire cooling rack. Let the cakes cool for about 10 minutes before soaking with the limoncello syrup. You can either dunk the Baba into the Limoncello syrup, or pour the syrup over the Baba to soak the little cakes. I find it easiest to place my cooling rack over a shallow pan to catch the drips, and gradually pour the syrup over the cakes, letting them soak it up slowly. The Baba will absorb a shocking amount of the liquid, and swell up with Limoncello yumminess.
To serve, simply add a few fresh berries and pass the whipped cream.