One of the defining aspects of pastry-making in Paris is how much it is influenced by fashion and trends. Pastry maestro Pierre Hermé is catching on to the festive mood of the upcoming first round of the French presidential election to take place this Sunday on April 22, 2012.
What is in the air, is that the traditional Sunday family luncheon is getting turned into an Election Day Luncheon. To fête the occasion, 8 babas au rhum have been created to represent by analogy the 10 presidential candidates in an ephemeral collection called Fetish Baba....
Babas au rhum were few and far between a few years ago but are making a comeback. This is a collection which proposes classical babas as well as modernized ones, with cream cheese for example or rose-scented Mascarpone, or super gustatory ones with a carefully chosen floral vanilla from Madagascar.
The origins of the cake date back to the second half of the 18th century when the ex-King of Poland and Duke of Lorraine, Stanislas Leczinsky judged a brioche to be too dry and in need of a good pouring of rum. The name "baba" is Polish alluding to the shape of the rotund cake, which is compared to the well-wrapped silhouette of an old woman, a baba.
The recipe calls for leavened dough, butter, eggs, a rum syrup, and sometimes raisins and crystallized rinds of bergamot. A topping of fluffy Chantilly is appreciated.
Pierre Hermé stage the pastries in a nature morte in the style of the 17th century. This is to convey the meaning that pastry is Art with a capital A. He says,
"Je considère la pâtisserie comme un Art avec un grand A, en ce sens qu'elle est un véritable mode d'expression de la sensibilité, au même titre que la musique, la peinture, la sculpture. Mon seul guide est le plaisir."
"I consider pastry to be Art with a capital letter, in this sense that it is an authentic means of expression of our sensitivity, on a par with music, painting and sculpture. My sole guide is pleasure."