This recipe is from the Madame Benoit cookbook, which was my mom’s cooking bible. Madame Jehane Benoit is our Canadian version of Julia Child and, though our copy of her Encyclopedia of Canadian Cuisine (the first edition, published in 1963) is very worn, missing its cover, and weighs a ton, it is still my go-to cookbook when I am home and looking for the special recipes my mom used to make. I generally double the syrup recipe to make sure there is enough, and add another spoonful right before serving. — Aube Giroux
Makes about 12 babas, depending on mold size
1 tsp granulated sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1 pkg (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp granulated sugar
2/3 cup butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp dried currants
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup rum
Make the babas: In a small bowl, whisk the 1 teaspoon of sugar into the warm water until it is dissolved. Stir in yeast; set aside for 10 minutes. Into a large bowl, sift the flour; make a well in the middle. Pour in the eggs and the yeast mixture. Using your fingers, gradually work the flour into the liquid ingredients until you have a soft dough. Knead in the bowl for 2 minutes. Cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
Punch down the dough. Add the 1 tablespoon of sugar, the butter and currants. Work until combined well. Knead for 3 to 4 minutes. Fill greased baba molds (I use muffin pans, which is what my mom always did) half full with the dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk. Bake in a 450o F oven for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350o F. Bake until the babas are golden, 20 to 30 minutes, depending on mold size. See “Soak the babas,” below, for instructions to follow when the babas come out of the oven.
Make the rum syrup (while the babas are baking): In a medium saucepan, add the sugar and water. Bring to a boil. Cook until you have a light syrup, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Cool completely. Stir in the rum. Transfer the rum syrup to a large bowl.
Soak the babas: Remove the babas from the pan and immediately immerse them in the cooled rum syrup, as my mom used to do. (Alternately, place the babas in a single layer in a baking dish and pour the rum syrup evenly over them.) Allow the babas to absorb the rum syrup overnight. The syrup should soak right through to the centre of the babas.
Serve with a dollop of freshly whipped cream, which serves to wonderfully soften the intensity of the rum.