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Bread bulletin: Prune babas

Monday, May 9, 2011

BABAS: TALL, SLENDER AND OFTEN SPIRITED (and here, a little burnt...)  
If I didn't know better, I would have given up, chucked the recipe and what looked like a complete mess in the mixing bowl.

But this was a Dan Lepard recipe and I've never had problems with any of them before. So I continued despite the initial unappealing appearance of the dough and was rewarded with some very delicious buns – even if the tops are singed! (The new oven is on the way.)

The recipe for Dan Lepard's prune babas require a good amount of butter. It is added to a yeasted egg dough, and worked in roughly at first. At this stage, all you have is a squishy mixture that oozes between your fingers and you think this is like oil and water – they're never going to come together.

But after just five minutes of gentle kneading, everything miraculously gels together – and once again, there's that joy you feel every time the bread dough starts yielding in your hands.

As I said, this is a delicious bread. And rich too. How could it not be with three egg yolks and about a half cup of butter. Babas are usually made in deep, slender tins. I would like metal ones, but I only found the silicone mould I used and that will come in handy for muffins, jellies and lollies too.

Babas are usually dunked in a syrup which includes some sort of spirit (rum usually, and Dan Lepard's with Armagnac) after they are made. But since I will probably be having them for breakfast, I decided to forgo the alcohol and instead of a simple sugar syrup, I reduced the syrup from a tin of cherries (that I used for something else) to which I added a few tablespoons of pomegranate molasses for another level of flavour.

This post has been submitted to YeastSpotting.

Prune babas with pomegranate syrup
Based on Dan Lepard's Prune and Rye Babas with Armagnac Syrup from The Handmade Loaf
Makes 12 (can also be made into two small loaves)
200g strong white flour
50g rye flour
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
1¼ teaspoon dried yeast
80g rye leaven
100g milk at 20°C (about room temperature)
3 medium egg yolks
60g castor sugar
100 unsalted butter
200g soft prunes, pitted and cut into quarters
  • In a large bowl, combine the white flour, rye flour, salt and yeast. In another bowl, beat together the rye leaven, milk, egg yolks and castor sugar. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until you have a soft, sticky dough. Cover bowl and leave for 10 minutes.
  • Slice the butter into pieces and allow to soften. Spread these on top of the dough and work them roughly into it. Tip the dough on to the work surface and work it gently and evenly for 5 minutes, until the butter is combined and the dough is smooth. *Shape into a ball and return it to the bowl. Cover and leave to rise until doubled in size. (*Dan Lepard's instruction is to place the dough in the refrigerator in a tightly covered large container that allows the dough enough room to rise overnight. I couldn't wait and let the dough rise at room temperature on the kitchen counter.)
  • Lightly flour the work surface and roll out the dough to a 30x50cm rectangle. Lay the prunes evenly over two-thirds of the dough, then fold the dough in by thirds. With a rolling pin, knock the dough flat, then fold in by thirds again. Tap the dough with the rolling pin to seal it, then put back in the bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  • Lightly grease and flour 12 baba moulds (or if using a silicone mould, do nothing to it). Roll out the dough until it is 2cm thick and cut it into 5cm squares. For each piece, pinch the corners of the dough together to seal them, creating a ball of dough and avoiding any air pockets in the centre. Press into the mould, seam side down (if using individual moulds, place them on a baking tray). Cover with a cloth and leave to rise until doubled in height (the dough should rise higher than the rim of the mould).
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C. Bake babas in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180°C and bake for a further 20 minutes, or until the babas are a good brown colour. Leave to settle in their moulds for a minute, then ease them out carefully.
  • Serve warm, split open lengthways with syrup: Bring 250g caster sugar and 500ml water to the boil. Remove from heat and leave to cool.

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