For the vodka infusion
- 750ml bottle good quality vodka
- 2 whole vanilla pods
- 50g lovage leaves and stalks
For the quick poolish
- 70g plain flour
- 7g sachet dried active yeast
- 70ml lukewarm water
For the dough
- 130ml milk, warmed
- 350g plain flour, plus extra to dust
- 85g unsalted butter, melted
- 100g caster sugar
- Vegetable oil to grease
For the syrup
- 150g caster sugar
- 3 tbsp vodka infusion
You’ll also need...
- 2 litre non-stick bundt tin
- For the vodka infusion, open the vodka bottle and add the vanilla pods and the lovage leaves and stalks. Screw the lid back on, then shake the bottle and set aside in a cool dark place to infuse for a week. (If you’re short of time, you can infuse the syrup with the vanilla and lovage)
- For the poolish, combine the flour and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the water, then cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
- For the dough, add the warm milk and flour to the poolish and stir to combine well. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until the dough looks smooth (or knead in a stand mixer using a dough hook) for 3-5 minutes.
- Mix together the butter and sugar in a small bowl, then, in batches, knead the butter mixture into the dough on a floured surface for about 10 minutes until combined. (If using a stand mixer, switch to the paddle attachment.) The dough will be sticky but will come back together.
- Put the dough in a clean, lightly oiled large mixing bowl. Cover with cling film and set aside in a warm place for 2 hours to rise, kneading the dough once more after 1 hour of rising. The dough is ready when it looks smooth and has doubled in size. Oil the bundt tin, then put in the dough and cover with cling film. Set aside for 1 hour to prove.
- While the dough proves, make the syrup. Put the sugar and 60ml water in a small pan over a medium-high heat and slowly bring to the boil, letting the sugar dissolve. If children will be eating the baba, add 2-3 tbsp infused vodka (or enough to taste) to the syrup while boiling. If you like a bit of an alcohol kick, add the vodka to the syrup when it’s cool. Set aside.
- Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4. Bake the baba for 40-50 minutes, checking it after 40 minutes, until it’s risen, golden and sounds hollow when gently tapped. Drizzle the syrup over, then let it cool for 20 minutes in the tin. Turn out and serve warm.
- Olia’s recipe makes a lot of vodka, which you can use for cocktails. If you prefer not to use alcohol, infuse the syrup with vanilla and lovage (step 1) and omit the vodka. Lovage is an easy herb to grow but it’s fine to leave it out if you can’t get hold of any.
- The vodka is best infused a week ahead. Make the bread up to 48 hours ahead and keep in an airtight container. Make an extra half batch of syrup and soak the bread again after 2 days to keep it moist and help it to keep longer.
- This baba is made using a kind of pre-ferment or starter called a poolish. It will give the bread a good rise and sourdough-like flavour, without you having to make a sourdough starter.