Posted in baking, custard, foam

Daring Baker Challenge: Entremet with Joconde

the outside
Now you know what the margins of my notebooks look like.

The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.

It’s my first Daring Bakerversary!  I’ve been a Daring Baker for a whole year now.  Yay.

Normally I just post the pdf of the recipe and leave it at that, but this recipe needs some tweaks, I think.

It says to make the sponge cake batter first and then the decorating paste that goes under the sponge cake as it bakes, even though the batter runs the risk of deflation and the paste needs to be frozen for 15 minutes before baking.  That’s just silly.

So first, make the decorating paste.  But unless you’re planning to forget the whole joconde thing and make 3 dozen cookies out of it, for goodness sake don’t make as much as they say.  I halved it and had way too much.  Here’s half of the cocoa version (ie, what I made):

  • 7 tablespoons/100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 100g Confectioners’ (icing) sugar
  • 100g egg whites (I used the kind in a carton so I didn’t have to worry about fractions of eggs)
  • 85g cake flour
  • 30 g cocoa powder (sifting this with the cake flour is not actually necessary)
  1. Cream butter and sugar.
  2. Add eggs.
  3. Add dry ingredients.
  4. Pipe or otherwise make a design on a Silpat on a jellyroll pan.  I bought a Silpat especially for this, because parchment paper usually gets warpy in situations like this.  They say to put the jellyroll pan upside down; that’s fine, but it’s also ok to do it right-side up if you have an offset spatula.
  5. Freeze for 15 minutes, till hard.

Meanwhile, make the cake batter.

  • ¾ cup/ 180 ml/ 3oz/ 85g almond flour/meal
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons/ 150 ml/ 2⅔ oz/ 75g confectioners’ (icing) sugar
  • ¼ cup/ 60 ml/ 1 oz/ 25g cake flour
  • 3 large eggs – about 5⅓ oz/ 150g
  • 2 tablespoons/ 30 ml/ 1oz / 30g unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 large egg whites – about 3 oz/ 90g
  • 2½ teaspoons/ 12½ ml/ ⅓ oz/ 10g white granulated sugar or superfine (caster) sugar
  1. Whisk dries together (not granulated sugar).
  2. Add whole eggs.
  3. Add melted butter. (Another place where I disagree with the recipe.  I did it this way, nothing exploded.)
  4. Separately, beat egg whites.  When frothy, add granulated sugar.  Beat to stiff peaks.
  5. Fold egg whites into batter.
  6. Take the frozen paste out of the freezer.
  7. Pour cake batter onto jellyroll pan.  Spread into an even layer (using offset spatula if you have one).  Remember cake decorating technique: pour it all in the middle and then spread from the middle.
  8. Bake at 475F for 7 minutes.  They said 15 minutes; clearly that was too long for my crazy oven, but I think that’s too long for anyone.  We’re talking about less than a half-inch of sponge cake here.
  9. Cool for a couple of minutes, then flip onto parchment paper.
  10. Cut into strips with the same width as the height of your mold (or the height that you want your joconde to be, if not the full height of the mold).
the inside
An unintentionally dramatic photo, with a flower pot from my Catalan friend in the background.

The fillings were up to us.  I made what was supposed to be a brownie, with my very own recipe! I looked at several other brownie recipes to get a general idea of how much chocolate should go into them, and then brownie-fied Smitten Kitchen’s Blondie recipe using MATH.  Here’s the Blondie recipe:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 egg

Here’s the rationale behind my browniefication thereof:

  • 1 cup flour minus 1/3 cup, to be replaced by cocoa powder
  • 1 stick butter minus 1 Tbsp, to be replaced by the fat in the chocolate I use
  • 1 cup sugar minus 2 Tbsp, to be replaced by corn syrup, which is more hygroscopic (will keep it moist)
  • 1 egg

And my final brownie recipe:

  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 7 Tbsp butter
  • 30g dark chocolate
  • 7/8 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp corn syrup
  • 1 egg
  1. Melt butter and chocolate.
  2. Add sugar, corn syrup, egg, and cocoa powder.
  3. Add flour.
  4. Bake at 325F for 30 minutes.

It turned out denser than I expected, but definitely not dry and definitely very chocolatey.  I never thought I’d do this, but I might add a little baking powder next time.

I also made champagne mousse using this Epicurious recipe.  I added a little extra champagne and that wasn’t the greatest idea, because it didn’t thicken much until I gave up and let it cool.  But it worked.  It was very sweet, probably due to the sweet pink champagne I used.  It doesn’t make very much.

I put a layer of my joconde sponge cake on the bottom (so the bottom of your slice is pretty!), then some strawberry jam, then the brownie, then a layer of the chocolate decorating paste (since I had so much extra), then the champagne mousse, and there was still room.  So I made some whipped cream with very little sugar, as a nice light finish to a very rich and sweet dessert.

Posted in baking, candy

Petits fours

For being so dainty, petits fours can really ravage a cook.  They’re French for little ovens, which I guess was supposed to mean little baked goods.  The way I made them, they have three components: genoise cake, a jam filling, and fondant icing.

Sadly, when I wrote the draft for this entry I forgot to link to the recipe I used for the cake, and now I don’t know what it was.  I’ll edit if I find it.  Genoise is French for “from Genoa”, which is a place in Italy.  Go figure.  (Actually, I think we use English versions of French versions of Italian place names quite often.) Because I’m a linguist and linguists are into typology, here’s the basic typology of cakes:

  1. I. Creamed cakes – leavened by creaming sugar into fat.  Thus, fat is necessary.
    • Example: pound cake
  2. Foam cakes – leavened with foam.  This means they don’t need fat, although they can have it.
    • Angelfood cake – leavened with egg white foam; contains no fat at all.  People who conflate low-fat diets with morality are responsible for the name.
    • Sponge cake – leavened with egg white foam and egg yolk foam; contains only fat from egg yolks.
    • Chiffon cake – leavened with egg white foam and egg yolk foam; also contains oil.
    • Genoise cake – leavened with whole egg foam, lightly heated; may also contain butter.

So now you know where Genoise fits in.  I had never made one before and I was skeptical that whole eggs would create enough foam, but man was that a foamy cake.  Eating the batter felt like eating bubble wrap, and the cake snapped, crackled, and popped when I took it out of the oven.

I baked the cake in a 13×9 in. pan and cut it into 32 pieces.  Then I cut each piece if half and filled them with apricot jam, because that’s the kind I had.  (I have an obsession with apricot products, but I always find the fresh ones disappointing.  I’m told this is because good ones aren’t readily available.)

Finally, I had to make the fondant.  The cool thing about this dessert was that I didn’t have to buy any ingredients to make it, even though it seems sort of special occasion-y.  I had everything on hand already.  Fondant is just sugar, water, and some kind of interferent – in this case, corn syrup – and a flavoring – I used the classic vanilla extract.  You cook these (without the flavoring, which would lose its flavor in the high heat) to the soft ball stage, then cool to 140F, and then…well, the recipe I used said to put it in a food processor, which I don’t have, so I stirred it until it went from a clear syrup to a thick white mass.  Then I heated it until it was pourable and started coating the petits fours in it.  I had to keep heating it every so often, and when I heated it I stirred it to distribute the heat.  The heat made water evaporate and the stirring made the crystals get bigger and bigger, so it got to the point where it stayed hard even when it was hot enough to burn me.  Finally I realized what was going on and added some water.  That did the trick, but one time I added too much water and ended up with a thin glaze.  But after a few pours of that, it started thickening again and came full circle to about how it started out (except a little grainier for the wear).

Petits Fours
Far left: poured fondant as it should be. Middle left: Starting to get too thick. Middle Right: Overcorrected. Far Right: Almost back to normal.

They were not the prettiest dessert at our social event, but I did get some rave reviews (even from people who didn’t know I made them, which is key).  I think each component was great, but that perhaps the fondant overwhelmed the rest.  I’ll have to give that cake a try in an application where I can appreciate it a little more.  Since they come out a little dry, it’s recommended to soak them in something.  I’m not so much for rum, but I bet some sort of fortified wine would be great.

Edit: I have no idea how I missed this in my previous searches for information on poured fondant (it comes up right away now), but Joe Pastry has a great post on poured fondant that explains how to avoid my problem: let the fondant cool and harden, and then mix it with half a cup of a 2:1 sugar to water syrup (I’m guessing that’s by volume?) over low heat (keep the mix below 110F to avoid messing up the crystal structure, which is, after all, the only thing that makes fondant different from syrup), and then pour!