Savarin (a.k.a. Baba) is a yeasted cake baked in a ring mold, soaked in a sweet syrup and with the centre hole filled with creams and fruit. I went with honey-lemon syrup and pastry cream and strawberries for the filling. Bliss!
The sourdough starter I used to make this was a “sweet” starter, like the one I used in the Tuscan orange cake. The starter takes about 2 days to prepare (see below for directions) then you should allow one full day for the cake.
For the cake
120g “sweet” sourdough starter
30ml lukewarm water
350g Type 0, bread or all-purpose (plain) flour
6 large eggs, room temperature, separated
20g granulated sugar
75g butter, room temperature
zest of 1 lemon
extra butter for greasing the work surface, hands, dough scraper & baking pan
For the syrup
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups honey
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 medium lemons)
For the pastry cream filling
1 cup whole milk
2 tbsp cornstarch
6 tbsp sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
1 punnet strawberries
For the cake
Put the egg whites into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and, working with a wooden spoon or paddle attachment, gradually add enough flour to form a soft, sticky dough, reserving about half a cup of the flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
Mix together the starter and water and add to the mixing bowl and combine. Add the lemon zest while mixing at low speed.
When the dough starts pulling away from the sides of the bowl, add one egg yolk. As soon as the yolk is absorbed, add one tablespoon of flour and combine.
Add the second yolk and the sugar. As soon as the yolk is absorbed, add one tablespoon of flour and combine.
Raise the mixer speed a little and add the third yolk and the salt. As soon as the yolk is absorbed add scant tablespoon of flour and combine.
Keep on adding one yolk at the time and a tablespoon of flour, reserving a tablespoon of flour.
Mix the dough until is elastic and thready.
Add the butter and as soon as the butter is adsorbed, add the remaining flour.
Keep on mixing till the dough passes the “window pane test”.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it proof until it has tripled in volume, about 4 hours.
Grease your dough scraper, your hands and your work surface and put the dough on it and stretch and fold several times. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest 15 minutes on the bench.
Lightly grease a savarin ring mold.
The original instructions said to use the dough scraper to gently form it into a ball, make a hole in the centre and put it in the prepared pan. In practice, my dough wasn’t going to stay in any kind of ball shape or allow itself to have a hole poked in it, so I sort of stretched and wrestled it into the pan.
Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until the dough almost reaches the top of the pan, about 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 175°C.
Bake savarin for about 40 minutes, until the top is golden.
Cool the savarin in the mold for 10 minutes then remove from the mold onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
If left to dry out, the savarin will absorb more syrup, so I returned mine to the mold, covered it and left it overnight, then soaked it the next day.
For the syrup
Bring the water, honey and lemon juice to a boil in a small saucepan, boil for 5 minutes then allow to cool.
Return the cooled savarin to the ring mold and ladle the syrup over it until it reaches the rim.
Allow it to absorb as much of the syrup as it can, topping up as necessary, then carefully move it onto a wire rack positioned over a pan to let the excess syrup drip. Transfer to a serving plate before filling.
For the filling
Dissolve cornstarch in 1⁄4 cup of milk in a bowl.
Combine the remaining 3/4 cup milk with the sugar in a saucepan, bring to boil and remove from heat.
Beat the whole egg and the yolks into the cornstarch mixture.
Pour 1/3 of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.
Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream while continuously whisking.
Continue whisking until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.
Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.
Rinse, hull and halve or quarter the strawberries and pile on top of the pastry cream filling.
For the sweet sourdough starter (takes ~2 days)
First feeding – mix 40g 100% hydration starter with 20g flour. Ferment for 4 hours.
For each subsequent feeding (except the final one), discard all but 30g starter and add 20g flour and 10g water. Ferment for 4 hours. Repeat three times a day for 2 days. Keep the starter well covered at room temperature or in a warm place the whole time.
For the final feeding on the morning of the third day, combine 60g starter, 40g flour, and 20g water. Ferment for 4 hours. You will need 120g starter for this recipe.