Babas are made from a yeasted dough that's somewhere between cake and bread. Once soaked with syrup, pillowy soft babas literally melt in your mouth, creating a memorable finish to an evening. Although the babas need to be baked and soaked just before serving, both the marinated fruit and the syrup can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Don't limit the syrup to just bourbon — any of your favorite liquors will work.
To marinate the fruit: Combine the fruit, sugar, vanilla, mint, and cinnamon in a bowl and mix well. Let the fruit marinate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours.
To prepare the syrup: In a saucepan over high heat, combine the sugar, water, and bourbon, and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 to 3 minutes, remove the pan from the heat, and set aside, or refrigerate for up to 1 week.
To prepare the babas: In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, combing the water, yeast, and sugar and mix just to combine. Let it sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg, flour, orange zest, and butter and mix until elastic but very soft. Let the dough rise in a warm place until it doubles in volume, 15 to 20 minutes. Punch the dough down. Spoon the dough into greased muffin tins, filling them one-third to one-half full. Let the dough rise again until doubled in volume, 20 to 30 minutes.
While the babas are rising, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the babas until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and place on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet. Prick the tops of the babas with a skewer or fork. Warm the syrup over medium heat. Ladle all of the warm syrup over the babas, letting it soak in.
To serve: Place the babas on individual plates. Distribute the fruit among the babas, and top with whipped cream. Serve warm.
Reprinted with permission from Caprial Cooks for Friends by Caprial Pence. Copyright 2000. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley CA.