In the 1987
Gabriel Axel film Babette's Feast, our protagonist Babette wins the lottery, and
proceeds to spend her entire winnings on one lavish French meal for her austere
Calvinist employers. I'd do that. Wouldn't you?
Christmas Eve, and I am planning our "half feast" for tomorrow. And,
by "half feast," I mean half of Babette's Feast. We are skipping the
blini with caviar and the turtle soup, and heading straight for the main course
brother, David, and his wife, Becky, are here for the Christmas holiday and we
want to have some fun in the kitchen together. This entails Mark and brother
David reminiscing (mostly about all the dreadful pranks they played as kids),
and Becky and I gabbing while cooking and having fun.
When we saw
David and Becky at a June family reunion, and planned this Christmas visit,
they had just re-seen Babette's Feast. I told them Mark and I had once joined
with friends in New Hampshire to recreate her entire feast. My part of the meal
had been to make the main course - Cailles en Sarcophages. For David and Becky,
that offering sealed the deal for our main course for this Christmas. (The
recipe for the quail in sarcophagi in my Cocoa & Lavender post: Dinner and a Movie.)
I did a
little research on the wine Babette served with the quail, and found it was a
Pinot noir. For my wine & food pairing article for the Provence WineZine
this week, I found a Provençal Pinot to serve with ours. You can see the review HERE.
Following the quail, I decided to serve a Baba au Rhum, just as Babette did.
perused the ingredient list for our half of Babette's meal, I realized that I,
too, would most likely be spending my imaginary lottery winnings on the meal.
black truffle. Madeira. Foie gras. All-butter puff pastry. A new 6-cup baba
mold (a.k.a. Kugelhopf or bundt pan). Glacé fruits for decoration.
I now know
why Babette spent all her winnings on that one meal. It was the one way she
knew how to say "thank you" to those who had both employed and cared
for her. In her mind, you cannot put a price on gratitude or kindness.
for others is one of my favorite ways of letting people know how important they
are in my life. We were so glad that David and Becky were able to join us for
Christmas, and making this meal for them was a real treat for me.
turned out beautifully, and will be a dessert I will make often. It is - even
with the whipped cream - a light dessert. The recipe below is based on one from
Florence Fabricant (don't you love her name?), with my usual changes, and using
Year, dear friends! I look forward to sharing another year of culinary
Baba au Rhum
1/3 cup milk,
heated to 105-110°F
1 package dry
1 3/4 cups
sifted flour, divided
softened unsalted butter
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
4 eggs at
zest of 1
orange, in strips
1 cup dark rum
1 cup apricot jam
1 cup heavy
tablespoons confectioner's sugar
(I used red and green cherries for Christmas)
In a large
stainless steel bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk. Stir in 1/4 cup flour.
Cover, and set aside in a warm place to rise until spongy - about 20 minutes.
Coat a 6-cup Kugelhopf
pan with baking spray.
electric mixer, cream the butter. Add in 2 tablespoons granulated
sugar and 2 tablespoons flour. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time.
and egg mixture into the yeast sponge. Beat in remaining flour to make a thick
dough-like batter. Spoon batter evenly into the prepared mold. Set aside in a
draft-free place to rise until dough reaches the top of the mold - about 45 minutes.
to 350°F. While the baba rises, combine remaining cup of sugar with 2 cups
water in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Add orange zest and
allow to cool to room temperature. Stir in 1/2 cup rum.
about 40 minutes, until nicely browned on top. Remove from oven and unmold.
Place cake in a pie plate and pour
syrup over it. Using a pastry brush, brush the top and sides of the cake
with the syrup that has accumulated in the pie plate. Not all the syrup will be
absorbed. Transfer cake to a wire rack placed over the pie plate to catch
through a mesh sieve into a small
saucepan; heat until quite warm. Brush the jam onto the cooled baba.
confectioner's sugar, and vanilla extract; whip until very stiff, then chill. Just
before serving, fill the center of the baba with whipped cream; I piped it in
from a pastry bag, but dolloping it on top is just fine. Decorate around base
with glacé fruit.
slice the cake and drizzle with some of the remaining rum as each portion is plated.