Italian gastronomy. Baba

In this weekly column, I will bring you original and historical recipes, thus reconciling the two aspects of my personality, historian and bistro owner. They will be easy to complete, but above all they will be connected with the history of the territory or great people. Traditional gastronomy tells about the land, traditions, therefore it is part of the idea of ​​fighting for identity, emphasizing the differences we hold dear from one region to another, ecological, working with local and seasonal products, and ethical, minimizing waste. and against the standardized fast food model.

The history of the rum baba

Thousands of culinary flavors spread through the streets of Naples, the capital of Mezzogiorno is undoubtedly the place in Italy where culinary takes the greatest place in the life of its inhabitants. Neapolitans spend their time eating or talking about it, long before their time they were the inventors of “street food” with their saltimbocca (stuffed sandwiches, not to be confused with the Roman homonym), their mozzarella in carozza (fried mozzarella), masardona (pizza with stuffing), pizza a portfolio (daisy pizza folded in four), cuoppi di mare (fried fish, clams and clams served in a paper cone), and for dessert sfogliatelle (puff pastry stuffed with ricotta) and especially rum baba … The list can be continue, but let’s focus on such a familiar dessert as Baba.

According to the Neapolitans, the rum baba is clearly one of the pillars of their gastronomic tradition. If it is true that it cannot be avoided, then its origin must be sought further north, because it was in Lorraine that it was invented and would not arrive in the Parthenopean capital until the end of the 18th century. In 1725, the young King Louis XV, who was then 15 years old, married the beautiful Maria Leszczynska, who was 7 years older than him. The daughter of the deposed king of Poland, exiled to Lorraine, her marriage to the most powerful of European sovereigns is unexpected. Indeed, in childhood, the king was promised marriage to the Infanta of Spain, who was still a very young girl, but the urgency of the Bourbons to have an heir to the throne will push, after a thousand intrigues, to abandon the marriage. Spaniards, which incidentally led to a rupture of diplomatic relations between the two kingdoms. Then it is necessary to find a future Catholic wife of royal blood and, above all, of childbearing age. So one day King Stanislaus will receive a marriage proposal for his daughter Mary, who in ten years will give the King of France at least ten children. You will later say what is the connection with Naples and its woman.

Legend has it that King Stanislaus, exiled to Lorraine where he was duke, did not appreciate one of the local delicacies, kugelhopf, which he considered too dry. He reportedly first asked to be dipped in wine, which was soon replaced by his personal confectioner, Nicolas Storer, with rum. However, doubt remains about the origin of the name. Some argue that it comes from the Polish Babka, which means “grandmother”, others argue that Stanislav would have named it after Ali Baba, the character Thousand and One Nights whose crazy adventures fascinated him. However, Stanislas and his daughter, the Queen of France, landed at court with this dessert, and its inventor, Nicolas Strorer, gradually modified the recipe to give it its current balloon or savarine shape. The pastry chef was placed in the service of the king and queen, and later opened his own shop at 51 Rue Montorgueil, where it still exists today. Created in 1730, this pastry boasts being the oldest in the capital.

Can you tell Naples about all this? Baba continued to entertain the court throughout the reign of Louis XV. Then came Louis XVI and his young Austrian wife, Marie Antoinette. His sister Maria Carolina of Austria was the wife of Ferdinand IV of Bourbon, King of Naples. That is why Marie-Caroline, fascinated by this dessert, famous thanks to her sister, will bring it to the Mezzogiorno capital. The dessert would spread first at court and then among the bourgeoisie, before becoming one of the symbols of street food eaten while walking along the streets of the “Spanish Quarters”. In 1863, we find the recipe in Vincenzo Agnoletti’s cookbook, indicating its spread and especially its acceptance as a traditional Neapolitan recipe.

Neapolitan baba recipe

Recipe … babas in the shape of a savarin or 10 small babas

For a woman: 400 g flour, 8 eggs, 70 g butter, 2 teaspoons dry brewer’s yeast or 12 g fresh brewer’s yeast, 30 g sugar, 10 g salt, vanillin

For syrup: 500 ml water, 250 ml rum, 250 g sugar, lemon zest (optional)

For decoration (optional): whipped cream or dried fruit

Tools : planetary mixer or…. Lubricant for the elbow

Put flour, sugar and yeast diluted in a spoonful of warm water into a mixer bowl. Stir and add previously beaten eggs three times. Wait until the eggs are completely consumed between each step. The mixture will be quite sticky, which is normal, keep stirring it for a few minutes, then add the melted butter and finally the salt. After a few more minutes, the mixture will become elastic. Transfer to a salad bowl, cover and let rise for four hours at room temperature. The volume should quadruple. Then transfer it to the oiled Savarin mold or separate molds, being careful to fill them only halfway. Let the yeast work again at room temperature, your mixture should rise until it fills the moulds. Bake at 200 degrees for 10 minutes, then 7 minutes at 180 degrees. Let them cool for two hours.

While your babas are cooking, prepare the syrup. Bring water with sugar to a boil, stir well to dissolve the sugar. Then add rum over the fire and let cool.

Once your babas and syrup are cool, dip them in the syrup, feel free to crush them a little, like a sponge that swells in water. They must be soaked to the core.

Enjoy them as is or with whipped cream, red fruit or candied fruits.

pierre d’er

Here you will find all the recipes of Pierre d’Her.

Photo Credit: DR
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