These pretty little rum bakas are all the rage in Poland around Easter. Called babka (diminutive from baba…or old lady ) , these small cakes are baked for this occasion in every home and bakery. It’s the IT pastry on every table for Easter .
The story behind rum babkas
I was curious on the history of rum babkas (as any culinary nerd ) and if it’s origins are genuinely Polish. After a bit of research it seems that baba or baba au rhum do actually originate from Poland. In fact it’s a well know dessert in Eastern Europe. Even found a little story on it’s first appearance, with small variations as with any tale from the past. According to the stories, Stanisław Leszczyński , the exiled king of Poland (also father in law of King Louis XV of France) , did not fancy this yeast cake those day Apparently it used to be too dry for his liking. So he decided to soak the cake in rum. Others say that in fact it was one of his pâtissiers , Nicolas Stohrer, who soaked the cake in wine to please the king.
No matter where it originates from, it’s nowadays a lovely cake to make . Actually I was amazed by how much flavor the rum syrup can bring to such a simple mix of ingredients. The peach syrup will elevate it even more. Or if you prefer, you can also pair it with a big dulop of vanilla ice cream, whipped-cream or favorite curd. But not all at once or you will have a sugar rush .
You can make tiny ones like I did or use a large mold to make a regular big babka. The wee rum babkas are easier to share with people, I think, and baking is all about sharing the yummy sweets with those around you. It warms my heart when I can make people happy for a few moments with my treats and desserts. Or cooking in general.
Have a Happy Easter !
1 cup (245) grams sugar, divided
2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
1/3 (80 ml) cup milk, lukewarm (not hot)
140 grams butter (plus a bit more for greasing the molds or grease with vegetable oil)
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract
pinch of salt
2 cups (300 grams) flour
1 cup (240 ml) water, divided
1/2 cup (50 grams) granulated brown sugar (regular sugar works also)
1/4 (60 ml) rum
Peach Glaze (optional, but awesome)
4 tablespoons peach jam
1/4 cup (60 ml) water
Yields 14 rum babkas (type of molds to use)
- In a large bowl add 1 tablespoon of sugar, the yeast and the warm milk (not hot cause it will kill the yeast. You should be able to keep your finger in the milk, that would be appropriate temperature). Let it sit for a few minutes until it becomes bubbly and foamy. If that doesn’t happen, the yeast is not active and you have to start again.
- Add the rest of the ingredients, combine everything well and cover the bowl with a plastic wrap. The dough will be much runnier compared to a yeast dough for bread. Leave the dough to rise in warm free of draft place for about 1 hour. (I usually warm up my oven, just a little bit, until I feel a bit of warmth on my hand, then I turn it off and put the bowl inside)
- Grease the molds with butter (or a bit of vegetable oil) then using a teaspoon carefully spoon the dough covering 3/4 of the molds, without covering the thingy in the middle (no idea how to call that…stick/poll ???). Once all molds are filled, allow to rise for a second time, in a warm place free of draft, for 30 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
- When the 30 minutes are up, put the molds in the over, lower the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and bake the molds for about 15 minutes until they are set. Insert a toothpick inside, if it comes out clean they should be ready. They should also fill firm to the touch. Let them cool down for a few minutes before carefully taking them out of the molds. Set aside on a cooling rack or plate to cool completely.
- In a small sauce pan, on medium heat, boil 1/2 cup of water. Once it starts boiling, add the sugar and stir continuously until the sugar melts completely. Take off the heat and add the other 1/2 cup of water and the rum. Stir for a few second and let it cool.
- On medium heat, in a small sauce pan, add the peach jam and the water and warm it up, stirring all the time to avoid sticking. It doesn’t have to be really hot, just until the jam has a thinner consistency.
- Soak each babka in the syrup, covering all sides, for a few seconds, then place on a rack or plate (preferably not a deep dish). Repeat. Serve as is or covered with 2 teaspoons of peach glaze.
Inspiration: “Art of Cooking” by Danuta Rudnicki, recipe by Renate Grossman, Sydney, Australia
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