Baba , With Love From Naples
It wasn't that I was surprised to see babas in a pastry shop in the village of Minori on the Amalfi coast of Italy. Ever since I stepped off the plane in Naples, babas, small briochelike cakes swimming in a syrup, were omnipresent: on menus at every little cafe, packed in jars lining the shelves of touristy shops along the beaches, even mixed into gelato in ice cream shops. Babas were as ubiquitous in Campanian pastry shops as molten chocolate cakes in New York City restaurants.
It was the syrup the babas were soaking in that intrigued me. Instead of the usual dousing in rum, these babas were saturated in limoncello. Though unusual, it made sense, given the context.
The Amalfi coast is justly famous for its particularly fragrant lemons, which come in several shapes, sizes and colors -- yellow, green, pink. A drive along the sea reveals acres of sloping lemon groves, the trees covered in black nets to filter out the strong sunlight. While most of the lemons are shipped around Italy and beyond, commanding premium prices, many others are made into limoncello, a sugary, greenish-yellow liqueur.