Baba alla napolitana with chocolate and cherry mousse
For once, a recipe which isn't from Cresci! Though the baba dough is from another Italian pastry chef, Leonardo Di Carlo (a world champion pasticcere). He's got a massive new book out -Tradizione in Evoluzione: L'Arte e Scienza in Pasticceria - which is definitely on my "to buy" list when I think I can justify it.
The best baba in the world are found, in my opinion, in Naples. They are usually huge (the Neapolitans are, unsurprisingly, the fattest people in Italy) and they only cost a euro - paradise! They soak up so much syrup that it's a wonder they don't fall to pieces while sitting, all lovely and shiny, on display.
I found a 26cm savarin mould which cost only 5 euro in a local shop so I thought I'd have a go at a large baba. I wasn't sure how much dough to put into it, so I did what I usually do in these circumstances: I filled the mould with water and then divided the weight of water by 3 (thinking that a baba dough should easily triple its volume during proofing). To be on the safe side I added 10% extra to the dough weight. This gave me a target of about 825g of dough.
Weight (in grams)
Strong white flour (w320)
Soft butter (at 16C)
Seeds from half a pod
Mix the first 5 ingredients together until you have a well-developed dough. This actually takes quite a bit of time - the dough is quite resistant to forming good, elastic gluten, probably because of all the fat from the eggs. Don't add the butter before the gluten is developed! I started adding mine a little too early so the final dough was slightly softer than it should have been (as a result it slightly split on one side after soaking in the syrup). Add the salt and vanilla and then the butter, slowly, until you have a smooth, soft, and silky dough. Leave it to rise for an hour at 26C and then put it into a buttered mould. Leave this to rise until it comes almost to the top (I think this took about 2 to 3 hours for me at 27C). Then in the oven at 180C. I left it in for 35 minutes, which was a bit if a guess. The crust seemed a little thick so I think a little less time would have been better.
The syrup, or bagna in Italian, is in many ways the most important thing for the flavour. In Naples it tends to be a simple affair, with a clean taste of rum and sometimes a hint of citrus zest. I followed Di Carlo again and also included a stick of cinnamon.
I used 1 large stick
Zest of 1 large orange
A quarter of a lemon
Make a syrup with all the ingredients (except the rum) by bringing it to the boiling point. When the mix is tepid, drain out the zest and cinnamon and add the rum. Simple.
It's easiest to soak the baba when it is cold, so I did it the next morning. You need to heat the syrup until it is rather warm (it absorbs more easily like this apparently) and have a large container handy. My baba drank virtually all of the syrup. I think I had a dribble left, and it felt almost grotesquely swollen. I very, very carefully moved it onto a plate and then glazed it with warm apricot jam.
To finish it off I decided to make a chocolate mousse with little chunks of cherry inside. The mousse was simplicity itself.
Cream (35% fat)
Chocolate 66% cacao solids
Cream (35% fat) lightly whipped
Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie while heating the first lot of cream together with the honey to about 75C. There's no need to bring it to the boil because we aren't looking for a very long preservation. Let the cream cool to about 60C and then pour onto the chocolate, allow the temperatures to stabilise and then emulsify to make a ganache. Incorporate the butter and allow to cool. When the ganache is at room temp, fold in the lightly whipped cream. And there you have it, a simple chocolate mousse. This will set in the fridge, and should hold together at room temp. I had a few problems when transporting the cake because it was really hot that day and the mousse melted slightly.
I filled the hole in the middle with cherries and mousse and then put some decoration on the top. I don't have a piping bag or nozzles here with me in Perugia so I had to improvise with cardboard, sticky tape, scissors and baking parchment. With limited success, as you can doubtless see. The white stuff is mascarpone, which I lightened with whipped cream and a little vanilla.
No crumb shot for this I'm afraid as it was a gift, but I can say that the baba was dripping with rummy goodness and the mousse was light and fruity! I'll have to make another one just for me and hopefully get a photo of the inside then.