Sunday, December 17, 2017

A Baba For Christmas

Days seem to pass so swiftly in December. Hard to believe that there is only a week until the tree will be lit and decorated, with brightly wrapped packages under it and stockings hung by the fireplace.

The Bread Baking Babes were invited by our Kitchen of the Month Lien of Notitie van Lien to bake an elegant festive dessert, a Champagne Baba. Yes, it does have yeast. No, you don't knead it or even shape it because the dough is like a batter. Yes, it goes together fairly quickly and easily compared to some of our past December breads, like this Snowflake Bread, the Lardy Cake made with real lard (fresh rendered pork fat...not easy to find), or a tray bake Kuchen with apricots, or a traditional German Stollen, or the snackable but time consuming Taralli Pugliesi to name a few. 

Yes, this Baba does rise both in the pan and in the oven. Yes, you do need to cover the top with foil if it seems to be browning quickly as mine did. Yes, it is delicious. Yes, I encourage you to make it for Christmas...or even before...and be a Buddy by emailing Lien with a photo and a short bit on how it was making it and a URL if you blogged about December 29th, so you have time after Christmas to actually do the email.

So, as usual, I did make a few changes. Because of my dairy allergy, I used melted margarine. Because I was tired after a full day of baking things like Christmas cookies, as well as this delightful dessert, I didn't top it with anything other than the syrup. It didn't really need anything else, being like a nice combination of a pound cake and bread with some moisture from the syrup and a faint champagne flavor.

In case you have been following the Babes all these years, you would know that Lien has baked every single bread. That's 12 months times 10 years (minus January the first year since our anniversary is the month of February)...a lot of bread and a lot of dedication. Not sure that anyone else can make that claim.  She has certainly been a guiding light for our group and she creates those gorgeous badges each month, too (except for this month). The sad news is that she will be going on hiatus now and will join a wonderful group of women who have been active Babes and are now busy with other things in their lives, but still Bread Baking Babes in our Hall of Fame! When you send that Buddy email, consider thanking her for all that she has done to make our group a shining one.

Don't forget to visit the other Babes to see how they handled this challenge. I think you'll be inspired!

Happy Holidays dear reader. I know some of you are in the background, but I also know how loyal you are and it gives me great pleasure and joy to know that you sometimes find a recipe to try while keeping up with my enthusiasms. There will be a few more posts in 2017, but those of you who know what a year I have had will join me in being anxious for 2018 to start. It has to be an improvement on this year!

Champagne Baba
Makes on large or 12 small babas

100 g water
1 tsp instant dry yeast
1 TBsp sugar
100 g bread flour

180 g bread flour
½ tsp fine salt
¼ tsp instant dry yeast
1,5 tsp vanilla sugar
3 large eggs
90 g melted butter (I used margarine, melted and cooled)

soaking syrup:
150 g sugar
150 g water
120 g champagne (or Asti Spumante or fruitjuice)

200 g apricot jam (or use a sugar glaze) (I skipped this step)

Mix all the ingredients for the sponge together in a large bowl (the one you’ll be kneading the dough in). Now sprinkle 180 g bread flour over the sponge, so it is covered and leave to rest for about 1 hour.

Now add the salt, ¼ tsp dry yeast, vanilla sugar and eggs. Start to mix this. If using a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment. When it comes together after a few minutes, add the melted (and slightly cooled) butter and keep working it. The dough is a bit batterlike, but be sure to get some gluten developed.

For one large Baba:
Place it in the moulds. You can use a loaf tin or a round baking form (Lien used a paper Panettone mould  - and I used a 6-inch diameter springform pan), filled about half way up. Cover with plastic and leave to rise until 2-3 cm under the rim of the mould.

In the meantime don’t forget to preheat the oven to 180ºC (350-360ºF).

Bake for about 45-55 minutes, until golden brown on top. If the bread gets too dark too soon, protect the top with a sheet of tin foil. Check the temperature in the bread with a thermometer, it should be about 93ºC (200 degrees F).

Take out of the oven and the tin and place on a deep dish. Poke the bread with a long wooden skewer from top to bottom. Brush the syrup all over it, and get as much as possible inside the bread, so take your time. Collect the syrup from the plate and keep pouring and brushing it, until all in absorbed in the bread.

For 12 small baba’s:
Grease a tray with 12 little moulds (containing about 75 ml each) and divide the dough in them. The dough shouldn’t be filling more than half of the shapes. Cover with plastic and let rise until almost to the rim.
In the meantime don’t forget to preheat the oven to 180ºC (350-360ºF).

Place in the oven and bake for about 18 minutes, The Baba’s should be golden on top. Check the temperature in the bread with a thermometer, it should be about 93ºC. Take them out of the oven and out of the mould. Place them in a wide shallow dish in one layer. Pour the champagne syrup over the baba’s. Now keep turning the baba’s one by one on all sides, including top and bottom, until all the syrup is absorbed.

Topping and serving:
Now heat the apricot jam in a small pan and let it boil, add a little water if it is too thick. Brush or pour it over the top. You can also opt for a simple sugar glaze. This topping keeps the moisture in. If you eat the baba’s on the baking day, you can also skip the topping
For an extra festive feel, serve with whipped cream and fresh fruit or jam.
The baba is best eaten on the day that it’s baked. But if not, keep in the fridge.

For the syrup
In a small pot combine the water, sugar, and champagne. Bring to a simmer and simmer until syrup thickens a bit, about 5 minutes. Let cool before brushing on the baba.

(inspired by a Beth Hensperger recipe)


  1. After a full day of Christmas baking this looks like the perfect reward - feet up, fork in hand. Lovely!

  2. You got such gorgeous color on your baba!

  3. Yours looks fabulous! Here's to a good 2018.

  4. I love the shine on your baba, it looks really light and airy too.
    Yes I meant to pick an fairly easy recipe, as we are all busy enough in this month. Kudos for you, after these last weeks that were rough for you, that you still managed to bake this!

  5. Marian8:45 AM

    The baba looks wonderful, but what I like best is how good you are at expressing your appreciation for what other people have accomplished. I'm sure Lien was encouraged by your compliments for all the work she has put into this endeavor over 10 years! An amazing accomplishment for her! Thanks for pointing it out.

  6. The crumb is gorgeous, Elle! And I love the colour on the outside. Perfection!

    (I confess that I didn't even look at the crumb on ours. It was slathered with too much cream.)

  7. Your baba looks fabulous. The crumb is perfect and inviting. May your new year be bright and filled with blessings!