For those of you who follow my blog, you know that my friend’s baby is in the hospital. They are still there, but H has made some improvements: babbling, moving around, breastfeeding. It’s been a rollercoaster the last few days, but with lots of positive news. Please continue to send kind words to H and his family, and I will keep you updated!
I picked up David Lebovitz’s cookbook, My Paris Kitchen, when I was in Miami for a food blogger conference last spring. I had just heard Mr. Lebovitz do his keynote interview, which was extremely interesting and funny, though I was straining to listen to it from the back corner of the room while sitting on the floor near the only available outlet to charge my phone. After his interview, Mr. Lebovitz signed books, so I bought mine and stood in line.
I always find it awkward to ask people to sign things for me. My first experience with celebrity signings was in 2002, when I had Imogen Heap and Guy Sigsworth sign my FrouFrou album at a Barnes & Noble. As I waited my turn, I felt an enormous pressure to think of something incredibly witty or profound to say to the musician whose song had been on repeat in my CD player for the past several weeks. Of course, I was 14, so nothing witty or profound came to me. I mumbled my name, shook hands with Guy, and shuffled off, bemused.
Since then, I have avoided getting things signed, hoping to avoid the emptiness I inevitably feel after such encounters. But there are certain circumstances where I think I will kick myself if I don’t do it. Such was the case with David Lebovitz. So there I stood, hoping, once again, that I had anything interesting to say. But all I could think of was how excruciatingly awkward it would be, not only for me, but for him. I put myself in his shoes and thought about how weird it must feel to have strangers place value on something as mundane as your signature. To have those strangers want to impress you or, worse, make a connection with you (business or emotional). So when I did finally reach the table and handed Mr. Lebovitz my fresh copy of My Paris Kitchen, I blurted out, “Does this ever get any less awkward?” He said quietly, “No.” A woman took an incredibly stiff photograph of me next to him, and that was that.
I’ve had the book sitting on my bedside table for several months, and have been reading it in bits in pieces before I fall asleep, but I hadn’t made a recipe out of it until this week. I couldn’t decide between the merveilleux and these babas (neither of which I had ever heard of), so I did a “double feature” this week. There wasn’t an accompanying photo of babas in the book (at least not immediately adjacent), so I did an image search to see what I was up against. It’s a good thing the recipe sounded delicious, because some of the babas I saw looked somewhat… phallic. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to photographing rum-soaked cake dicks.
As it turns out, these babas are not R-rated. Well, except the fact that they are drenched in alcohol. I’m pretty sure I had a Baba Buzz after eating one of them. But they are so good! Yeasted cake? I didn’t know that existed, but man am I grateful to David Lebovitz for introducing me to it. Phillip was a huge fan, not least because they are smothered with whipped cream. To the credit of the babas, when I asked him if he just wanted to eat the whipped cream off the plates, he opted to eat another baba along with it.
So after two successful and delicious recipes from My Paris Kitchen, I can definitely recommend that you check it out. In addition to the recipes, there are tons of the extremely well-written, funny stories that David Lebovitz is known for. Hopefully none of which are about how much he hates signing books.
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons warm water (about 110°F)
- ¼ cup (60 mL) whole milk
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 vanilla bean
- 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- ½ cup (115 grams) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature, plus more for greasing pan
- ¼ cup (40 grams) golden raisins
- 1 large pineapple, peeled, cored, and cubed
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon kirsch
- 2 cups (500 mL) water
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (125 mL) kirsch
- 1 cup (250mL) cold heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together (by hand) yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar, and warm water. Let sit for 10 minutes and foam up while you warm the milk.
- In a small saucepan, combine milk, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, and kosher salt. Heat over low heat until milk is warm and sugar has dissolved, 1-2 minutes. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds out into the milk with a paring knife. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
- After 10 minutes, the yeast should be foamy in the bottom of the mixing bowl. Stir in about ½ cup of the flour by hand, then place the bowl on your stand mixer, fitted with the dough hook. Turn the mixer to medium speed, then slowly pour in the milk, then the remaining flour. Add eggs one at a time, until all the eggs are fully incorporated.
- Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, turn the mixer speed to medium-high, and let the dough hook knead for 5 minutes. Remove the bowl from the mixer and sprinkle butter cubes over the top of the dough. Place a kitchen towel over the bowl (or cover with plastic wrap) and place in a warm area to rise for 1 hour.
- After dough has risen, return the bowl to the mixer with the dough hook for 4 minutes, until dough is smooth. Add raisins and beat for another minute.
- Grease 10 muffin tin cups with butter. Fill each cup halfway with dough using a disher or spoons. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let rise until the dough reaches the top of the muffin tin, 1 to 1½ hours. About 15 minutes before the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Bake the babas for 15-20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. While in the oven, sautee the pineapple (instructions below). Remove from oven and place on a wire rack while you make the rest of the components.
- Combine the pineapple and brown sugar in a large skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until pineapple is softened, translucent, and has released some juices, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in kirsch.
- Heat water and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, stir in kirsch.
- In the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat cream until it just begins to hold its shape. Add the sugar and vanilla extract and continue beating until soft peaks form.
- While the babas are still warm, remove them from the muffin tin, and poke each one all over with a toothpick. Dunk each baba in the syrup, squeezing them slightly so they absorb the syrup. Place each baba on a rimmed dish and let them rest a few minutes. Dunk them again and put them back on their dishes.
- Serve the babas with the sauteed pineapple and whipped cream.