We are now smack bang in the middle of winter and I can feel it. As I sit on the couch, in my warmest winter woollies, thick socks, scarf and if I didn’t have to type I would probably have a pair of gloves on too. Sydney homes weren’t really made for frosty conditions; they were built more to withstand those harsh Australian summers most people know about. But it appears that the construction industry seems to forget that we have winters down here too, and it gets pretty darn cold.
You will hear me every winter, every year, complain about the cold, and I realise that what I mean by “cold” is quite feeble compared to what other people go through in say, Canada and Upper Siberia. It’s not even cold enough to garner any snow here, but no matter how you look at it, to me cold is cold. It’s cold when you can feel it in your bones, and feel it in my bones I do.
So when on the hunt for recipes, all I was looking for was something to warm me up. Now after having a pumpkin stew for dinner, I needed something to finish off on the same note-something hearty without being heavy, and something warm and soothing without being to cloying- perhaps something equivalent to a big warm hug from your grandmother.
I decided that the only thing for dessert were these warm babas that I spotted in a Donna Hay Magazine. The recipe was initially for orange flavoured babas, but I had no oranges at home, only a bag of clementines in the fridge. Clementines are more like mandarins, than oranges, but nonetheless these were a great substitute. I also found some spare wattleseed lying around in the pantry and since I learned that wattleseeds go extremely well with citrus flavours, there was no going back, the babas’ fate was sealed.
These babas are somewhat akin to a Baba Au Rhum or a savarin but minus the rum. It might not sound as fun without the rum, but let me assure you, it tasted a treat. Whoever it was that told me that wattleseeds go well with citrus wasn’t wrong. The wattleseeds’ nuttiness was highlighted even more by the clementines sweetness and the vanilla bean speckled syrup adds another dimension of flavour.
The syrup is what brings these babas to life, without it, I guess they wouldn’t even be babas to begin with. They would simply be lifeless mounds of dough, almost flavourless, but with the drenching in syrup, these little cakes are just the thing to bring a spring in your step on a cold winter’s night.
Inside the babas, you will find a soft billowing dough that, if you are lucky enough to have them straight from the oven will be steaming wafts of citrus scented perfume.
Warm Wattleseed and Clementine Babas with Vanilla Bean Syrup
from Donna Hay Magazine (issue 8)
FOR THE BABAS
1 package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ cup lukewarm milk
1 cup plain all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground wattleseed
2 tbsp clementine zest
1 tbsp sugar, extra
90g unsalted butter, softened, diced
FOR THE VANILLA SYRUP
1 cup sugar
¾ cup water
½ cup clementine juice
2 tbsp shredded clementine zest
2 vanilla beans, split and seeds scraped
Place the yeast, sugar and milk in a small bowl. Set aside in a warm place for 5 minutes or until bubbles start to appear on the surface.
Place the flour, wattleseed, clementine zest and extra sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, or a food processor.
While the motor is running, add the yeast mixture and egg then the butter, a little at a time.
Beat for 4 minutes.
Transfer to a bowl and cover with a clean, damp tea towel.
Set aside in a warm place for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
Grease 6 x ½ cup capacity ovenproof moulds or ramekins and line with parchment paper.
Punch down the dough then divide into 6 and place in the moulds, smoothing the tops.
Set aside in a warm place for 20 minutes or until the dough almost fills the tins.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Allow the babas to stand in the tins for 5 minutes.
While the babas are baking, make the syrup.
Place the sugar, water, clementine juice, zest and vanilla beans and seeds in a saucepan over medium heat.
Stir until the sugar is dissolved then boil for 5-6 minutes.
Remove the babas from the tins, discard the parchment paper and pour over the syrup.