Baba Napoletani

Neapolitan Babas

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes about

    30 to 36

    very small babas

Appears in

Supposedly created in the eighteenth century by onetime king of Poland Stanislas Leszczynski at his court in exile in Nancy, France, the baba has become totally Neapolitan. A buttery yeast dough baked to a tender lightness is then soaked in a hot rum syrup, making the pastry moist, tender, and flavorful.

Dariole, or timbale, molds used to bake babas are available from specialty stores (see Sources of Equipment and Ingredients). This recipe uses mini-muffin pans, available at hardware and variety stores. The tiny babas are appealingly small and consequently not overly rich or substantial. The recipe may produce more babas than you need for a single occasion, but both the babas and the syrup keep well in the freezer and are wonderful to have on hand as a last-minute dessert.

Ingredients

Sponge

  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast or ounce compressed yeast
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour

    Dough

  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • cups all-purpose flour
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled

    Syrup

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • ½ cup dark rum

    Apricot Glaze

  • 1 cup apricot preserves
  • cup syrup

    Water Icing

  • cups confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ cup water

Method

For the sponge, heat the milk to lukewarm, sprinkle the yeast on the surface, and allow to stand 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth and stir into the flour. Cover the sponge and ferment 20 minutes. For the dough, beat the eggs, salt, sugar, and flour together. Beat in the sponge, then the cooled melted butter.

Pipe the dough into well-buttered miniature muffin pans, filling them half-full (this quantity of dough will make about 30 to 36 babas). Cover the pans with buttered plastic wrap and allow to proof until the dough comes to the top of the cups. Bake the babas at 400 degrees for about 10 to 15 minutes, until golden and baked through. Cool the babas on a rack.

For the syrup, combine the sugar and water in a pan and bring to a boil. Add the rum. Measure cup and reserve for the apricot glaze.

Reheat the remaining syrup if it is not boiling hot and soak the babas in it, 3 or 4 at a time, about 1 minute, until they swell slightly. Remove the babas to a nonaluminum pan to drain. If the syrup is not boiling hot, the babas will not absorb it easily and will remain dry within.

To glaze the babas, combine the apricot preserves and cup syrup and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Strain into another pan, return to a boil, and reduce until thick. Paint the babas with the hot glaze and allow them to cool.

For the water icing, combine the confectioners’ sugar and water in a small saucepan. Stir until smooth and heat gently over low heat until hot but not simmering. Quickly paint the babas with the icing. Cover the babas loosely with plastic wrap and keep at a cool room temperature. Serve the babas on the day they are soaked.

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