The Neapolitan Baba. Tradition and recipe

The Neapolitan baba is undoubtedly one of the most popular desserts of traditional pastry-making in Naples. In Naples there is a saying: “O’ babbà è ‘na cosa seria”, the baba is a serious matter, which says a lot about the tradition of this cake with a little bit funny and spongy shape. To be honest, eating the Neapolitan baba is an unique experience.
Imagine a dessert wet with rum, indeed virtually awash in rum, with a spongy texture and which practically does not leave crumbs. That’s what we’re talking about.
The Neapolitan baba is a pastry with a typical mushroom shape, the tradition wants it with a diameter of 5 to 7 cm, although the variations are endless and babas are selled in all sizes.

The history of the Neapolitan baba

neapolitan baba
Pics by Alessandro Bonvini pubblished on Flickr

Despite the Neapolitan baba is a typical dessert of pastry-making of Naples, its origins are very remote. In fact, the baba is an interpretation of a Polish cake made with sourdough, the babka ponczowa. Despite its Polish origins this pastry with rum earned its popularity in France where it was named baba. Only later it arrived to Naples where he took the name of babbà or baba.
The story and the legend tell that the inventor of the baba was the Polish king Stanislaw Leszczyński, father in law of Louis XV of France. Leszczyński loved to cook and try new cakes, and being devoid of teeth, he invented that one we call baba Neapolitan.

The tradition of the Neapolitan baba in Naples

In Naples, the baba is much more than a pastry very common. The baba in Naples is a precious object, an act of love, a flag, a religion. Just think that there are many ways to say related to this dessert. For example, the Neapolitan baba can be a compliment, indeed frequently you could hear people say “si nu babbà”, you are delicious, in laudatory sense.
In Naples there is virtually no bar or pastry which does not put on display the very popular Neapolitan baba in all its forms and derivations. The classic baba, baba with cream, the baba with fruits. In short, there is something for all tastes.
Generally this cake is eaten at breakfast or immediately after the dinner, better if before a nice coffee. A very strong tradition is to bring along a baba tray when you are a guest at the home of relatives or friends.

The recipe of the Neapolitan baba

Okay I admit, trying to describe in a few lines the recipe of the Neapolitan baba, a centuries-old recipe, is just a gamble. But let’s try anyway, it’s really important to know how it made what we eat.
Let’s start with what we need to prepare a nice babbà (ingredients for 20 pastry):

  • 1 kg of flour
  • 80 g of sugar
  • 300 g of butter
  • 50 g of yeast
  • 20 g salt
  • 15 eggs
  • 1 liter of water (to prepare rum)
  • 400 g of sugar (to prepare rum)
  • ½ liter of rum at 70 ° alcohol
  • Baba molds of the desired size

Now that we retrieved the ingredients to make the Neapolitan baba, let’s see how to proceed.
We begin to mix in a tureen flour and yeast, then add the sugar and salt. It’ very simple, now we have to add 15 eggs, of course only their contents, and we begin to mix everything. At this point the mixture of Neapolitan baba should be very smooth and golden, and then we can add the cutting butter. Add butter in small pieces and heating it in your hands before you mix it to the mixture.
If everything is done right, the dough will be elastic, full-bodied and comes away from the edges of the tureen. Now, you have just to butter the molds and insert in each of them the dough. Meanwhile heat oven to 250 degrees and insert our Neapolitan baba inside.
While everything is cooking, you have to prepare the rum for our little Neapolitan baba. Just pour into a saucepan the water, sugar and rum and heat it all without bringing to a boil. When the sugar has melted our preparation is ready.
Meanwhile, our Neapolitan baba will have assumed their classical form, once removed from the oven and let them cool down you have to dive them in our preparation of rum.

And here our Neapolitan baba is ready.

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