Rum baba

Serves 8

As we peered into the vats of fermenting sugar-cane molasses used for the rum, I suddenly thought it would be brilliant to make that old-fashioned dessert-trolley classic, rum baba, using the natural rum ferment instead of yeast. But getting the natural rum ferment out of the country proved a bit tricky as you can imagine, so I ended up using my sourdough-bread starter mixed with molasses which gave the babas a nice dark rich colour. At home you may not have either, so I've given you the dried yeast option here.

2tsp dried yeast
3tbsp warm water
225g plain flour
tsp salt
3 medium free-range eggs, beaten
1tbsp caster sugar
100g butter, softened, plus a little extra for greasing the moulds

For the syrup

500g granulated sugar
800ml water
200ml good-quality rum, plus some extra

Mix the dried yeast and water together until dissolved. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and make a well in the centre.

Add the yeast mixture, eggs and sugar, then mix everything together with your hands to form a smooth dough and knead the dough for a couple of minutes in the bowl until you have a smooth, elastic dough.

Cover the dough with small pieces of the butter, then cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place such as an airing cupboard or near a warm radiator for about an hour, until the mixture has doubled in volume.

Knead the butter into the dough for a minute or so until it becomes smooth and glossy.

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Meanwhile, butter 8 dariole or similar moulds and chill them in the freezer for 10-15 minutes; then repeat with another layer of butter.

Spoon the mixture into the moulds so they are two-thirds full. Then place the moulds on a tray, cover with a damp tea towel. Leave the dough to prove again in a warm place for about 20 minutes, until the mixture has risen to the tops of the moulds.

Bake the babas for about 15-20 minutes or until they are golden, then carefully turn them out, using a small knife if you need to, and transfer to a cooling tray.

Meanwhile, make the syrup: dissolve the sugar in the water in a large saucepan and boil rapidly for a few minutes to make a clear syrup.

Stir in the rum, then add the babas, leaving them to soak for about 5-10 minutes and turning them with a spoon every so often so they absorb as much of the liquid as possible; then transfer to a serving dish.

Serve with a jug of extra rum and thick cream or sweetened whipped cream.

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