I was visiting foodnetwork.com and looking for an interesting Tyler Florence recipe for the oh-so-fun online cooking group Tyler Florence Fridays and also looking for a recipe I could make with what I had on hand. I came across Tyler's Cranberry Baba Cakes. Hmmm...cranberry sounds good, cake sounds good, not sure what "baba" means -- but we'll check it out. So I read through the recipe and saw it was for little yeasted cakes, and after reading the directions I was reminded of the Kugelhopf directions that we made last November for Tuesdays with Dorie. That was a challenge indeed and I wanted to give this type of 'cake' (really more of a bread) a try.
I googled "baba cakes" and found out they are related to the Kugelhopf, and also the Babka which is more of a Slavic version baked in a tube or bundt style pan. A yeasted cake with a delicate yet rich dough with butter and egg. I guess "baba" usually refers to a French version, mini cakes with rum and dried fruit, soaked in a simple syrup or brushed with butter and the sugared with with powdered sugar (just like the Kugelhopf). Very ineteresting! I love learning the history of foods :)
Cranberry Baba Cakes
1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1 cup orange liqueur (recommended: Grand Marnier), optional -- I did not use the liqueur
Melted butter, for brushing molds plus 4 tablespoons room temperature, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup warm water
1 package yeast
1 tablespoon sugar, plus 2 cups for syrup
1 egg, room temperature
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon orange flower water
1/2 cup orange marmalade
Whipped cream, for serving
Put the cranberries and orange liqueur (or 1 cup warm water) into a small bowl and set aside.
Brush 12 baba molds, a popover pan, or a muffin tin with melted butter and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the water, yeast, sugar, and egg. Using the paddle attachment, stir in the flour until incorporated. Mix on medium speed for 6 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl once.
Add butter and mix on medium speed until incorporated, about 2 to 3 minutes. Cover and let rise in a warm spot for about 15 to 20 minutes, it just needs to rise a bit not double in volume.
Drain the cranberries (reserve the soaking liquid) and mix into the dough with a spatula or wooden spoon.
Fill the baba molds (or popover pan or muffin tin) half full with batter.
Let rise in a warm spot until the dough fills the molds, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake the babas for 20 to 25 minutes or until the tops are a deep golden brown. Remove from molds, put babas onto a rack set over a sheet pan, and allow them to cool completely.
Bring 2 cups sugar and 4 cups water to a boil. Boil for 1 minute and remove from the heat; stir in the reserved soaking liquid and the orange flower water. Using tongs or a spoon, place the babas, 1 at a time, into the sugar syrup.
Hold them under until the air bubbles stop coming out of the cakes, about 5 to 10 seconds. Drain on the rack; you can recycle the syrup that accumulates in the sheet pan. Warm the marmalade and brush it onto the tops of the babas.
To serve, split open and top with a generous dollop of freshly whipped cream.
Results and Changes:
I knew I wanted to try a couple in the syrup but wanted the rest 'dry' for my kids so they would not get too messy. I'm also not a huge fan of soaked baked goods so was apprehensive. I did not have the orange flower water or orange marmalade and while I'm sure those would have added another level of flavor they are not essential to these, in my opinion.
I used a baby bundt pan and a mini bundt silicone pan, I was curious to compare the two because I had heard silicone bakeware doesn't work well for yeasted doughs and I must say, after making these I completely agree. You can see in the picture below that the bigger babas were more evenly browned. Silicone will get the job done but will not brown as evenly and leave a softer crust -- which for me is perfect for cupcakes, brownies, muffins, but for a yeasted dough you want that crunchy crust.
The recipe was great, everything came together and was relatively easy. I preferred these as a roll type breakfast bun, with a little butter, than as the whole soaked in syrup and served with whipped cream deal -- although that way was good too. I think doing the Kugelhopf style finish, brushing with melted butter and powdered sugar, would be my favorite way to serve these.
My kids absolutely loved these plain, which kind of surprised me because they are not very sweet. All three little ones wanted second baba cakes after finishing their first ones. I think maybe the name helped to win them over because they were saying 'baba cakes' all morning :)