I wrote about the baba au rhum a few years ago for BBC Good Food’s 3rd anniversary issue. The rich yeast cakes or babas are made in individual pudding or dariole moulds where they rise fairly quickly into airy clouds which are then baked. The cooled babas are soaked in a syrup of rum and sugar which the spongy interiors absorb quite nicely. The final dessert, now delicate, soft, and bursting with syrup is served with a quenelle of cream.
A savarin is a baba dough made in a ring mould. Once cooled, it is also soaked in syrup and fresh fruits are piled in the empty centre. The dessert is named after the famous 18th century gastronome, Brillat Savarin. Babas and savarins are the sort of desserts that bring back the simple joys of eating a syrup-soaked sponge with fresh fruit and cream. A no-frills dessert, it is quite simple to make and you could use a ring mould like I have, or bake little babas in a cupcake mould or individual pudding moulds.
The savarin recipe here is a classic, but instead of a rum soak, I’ve infused the soaking syrup with oranges, topped the savarin with a white chocolate whipped cream, and finished with not-too-sweet mango. If you’re prepping these for a dinner party, you can begin whisking everything for the babas once your guests have arrived. Since they’re a breeze to make, you’ll get to spend plenty of time with your friends and magically have dessert on the table when it’s time.
Savarin With White Chocolate Cream and Mangoes
Yield 1 savarin, plus 4 small babas
A yeasty baba dough baked in a ring mould is a savarin. This classic dessert is named after 18th century gastronome Brillat Savarin, perhaps because like the dessert, he too was like a sponge of information. I've soaked the yeast cakes with an orange syrup, topped with some white chocolate cream and finished with mangoes.
Warm water 3/4 cup
Dry Yeast 1 tbsp
Sugar 2 tsp
All-purpose flour 1 1/2 cup
Butter 60g, softened, chopped into cubes
Water 2 cups
Sugar 1 cup
Orange 1 malta variety, zested
The White Chocolate Cream
Cold heavy cream 1 cup, plus 1/2 cup extra
White chocolate 200g, chopped
Mango 1, Totapuri and Badam are a good variety, or just use any less-sweet variety
You want to start on the white chocolate whipped cream first. This part of the recipe is the trickier than the actual cake itself. Combine together the chopped white chocolate and 1/2 cup of the heavy ream in a microwave-safe bowl and subject it to 15 second bursts till both white chocolate and cream have combined together well. Alternately, you can heat the cream till just before the surface starts to bubble. Take this off the heat and stir in the chopped chocolate.
Cling the bowl and leave the mixture at room temperature for about half an hour. Place the heavy cream in a mixing bowl in an ice bath and whip the cold heavy cream to soft peaks, then take about a cup of the soft cream and fold it through the white chocolate mixture. Add this mixture back to the remaining cream that had been whipped to soft peaks and whip to stiff peaks. Do this manually if you’re afraid you might over whisk and it’ll turn to butter. Transfer the cream to the refrigerator, where it will set some more.
Start on the savarin by whisking together the warm water with the yeast and sugar. Add to this the eggs and whisk one more time.
Run a clean whisk through the flour and pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk to combine everything till no strands of flour are visible.
Add a cube of butter at a time and whisk till it is combined before adding in the next cube. Continue this till all the butter has been used up. Clingwrap the mixing bowl and set it aside in a warm humid place to rise for 10-15 minutes.
Butter the moulds. This mixture should make one savarin ring and four babas or one savarin ring, two babas and two smaller rings.
After 15 minutes are up, get the piping bag ready. Place the piping bag nozzle side down in a tall glass and fold down the sides. Scoop in the leavened mixture and fasten the top with a twist of your hand. Snip off the base of the bag. You won’t be putting a nozzle in there. Press down and pipe the moulds till just about 1/2 full. This should rise and fill up till 3/4th of the mould during the second rise. Place the moulds in the same dark humid place for another 30-35 minutes, during which you can preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Don’t let these overproof otherwise it will become too airy.
After the proofing time is over, transfer the moulds to the oven to bake for 15 minutes. You can turn the tray around after 7 minutes for an even browning or as per your oven’s temperament.
To make the sugar syrup, in a saucepan, combine together the sugar, water and orange zest. Bring this mixture up to a boil and take it off the heat.
The babas are done when they’re a light golden brown on top. Let the babas and savarin cool for five minutes in the mould before turning them out and transfer them to a wire rack to let them cool completely. At this stage, you can freeze the babas. When you want to serve it, just bring it to room temperature and soak it. Yes, you can pour a hot syrup over the babas/savarins. Press the cakes a little to tell if they’re soaked well. Spoon the cream into the savarin's ring mould cavity and top with the mango. Alternately, spoon or pipe the whipped cream over the soaked babas.