It’s been a couple of months since I’ve last done a Daring Bakers’ Challenge. For those not in the know, the Daring Bakers’ Challenge is a group of bakers around the world that is challenged to make the same dessert or baked good and post it on the 27th of the month simultaneously. I missed the last couple of months because it’s a fast moving train from the month of October to the New Year in my household and I just didn’t have any time to do anything but the holiday obligatory activities. However I told myself that I would pull myself together for January and do it no matter what! And then I read the challenge for this month, and it fit perfectly into a personal project of mine that I’ve been thinking about forever, but just haven’t had a chance to do yet. 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. My version, was a simple Ribbon Sponge (I really really REALLY need to use up egg whites, I have about 75 egg whites in the freezer, and a Ribbon Sponge is made of all egg whites) wrapped around a sweet cherry mousse and topped with a simple chocolate ganache.
The challenge itself was fun – and less complicated than the recipe looked, though I totally (as usual) made it last minute…yesterday in fact, right after my friend Catherine’s birthday happy hour, and I just hoped it would come out okay. That said this Daring Bakers’ Challenge neatly dovetailed with a personal project that I’ve been wanting to start for awhile: to work my way through the book Professional Baking 5th Edition by Wayne Gisslen. Working on this blog has made me realize, more than ever, that there is so much to learn about baking. Let’s face it, it’s a never ending education. And though I do fancy myself a decent home baker, maybe above average (you, dear readers, can decide for yourself what you think of my baking skills), I know that there are glaring holes in my baking skill set.Michael Ruhlman giving a demonstration at California Culinary Academy
I’ve contemplated going to culinary school. Truth be told, it sounds awesome. The chance to bake nonstop for a year or two, within a huge kitchen space (instead of my tiny apartment one), teachers that will answer every question that you have about why your dessert flopped, as well as being surrounded by fellow classmates that have the same passion as you, sounds amazing. But the reality is, I’m not made of money, and I don’t have two years or even six months that I can dedicate to going to school for something I know that I don’t want to do for a living.
And there’s the fact that I’m too old to be working in a commercial kitchen or a restaurant kitchen. I’m not a pastry chef and I don’t think I ever want to be – at least not in the traditional sense of the making a living in a workplace that is so physically demanding (but I have MAD respect for you people in the hospitality industry). But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to learn more and push myself more. Which is what makes the Daring Bakers such a great community. Each month challenges me to make something that I normally wouldn’t make or think of making.
I can’t really afford to go to Culinary school. But I CAN afford to buy the textbook, Professional Baking 5th Edition by Wayne Gisslen. Especially when I found the textbook used up in Powell’s Books when I went to visit my friend Sue there ($29.95 versus $23,000 in tuition?). So slowly, and surely, I’m going to work my way through that book. I’m going to figure out what the glaring holes are in my education, what I need to learn, and I’m going to teach myself.
I’m thinking of it as my own Alinea at Home project, but less ambitious (no molecular gastronomy for me). I’m not going to work my way through ALL the recipes. The book is a very dense 750 pages; I’m hoping more for an education, not an endurance test. But I’ll be reading all the chapters and cherry picking the recipes that will give me the building blocks to be better in the kitchen.
And it’s already working. The recipe I pulled from the book was flawless, and better yet, was given to me in baking percentages. I’ve always been scared of using baking percentages ever since I bought a remainder copy of CIA’s professional cookbook back in college on a whim, but it’s a simple formula that professional bakers use, to scale the recipe up or down to whatever size they need. The flour is usually what is set at 100%. Everything else is a percentage of that. The specific Ribbon Sponge recipe called for Flour 100%, Confectioners’ Sugar 100%, Egg Whites 100%, Cake flour 110%. And that’s it. Which means if you use 200g of flour, you need 200 grams of sugar, 200 grams of egg whites, and 220g of cake flour! Want 33% more batter for a larger pan? Just whip out the calculator. See how easy that is?
Of course, this means you need a kitchen scale, but really if you are serious about baking, you need to invest in one. You can get a cheap one for $20 and they are SO worth it. But I understand that not everyone is going to have one. So the recipe listed below is has volume measurements as well.
I can’t wait to start my adventure of working my way through this book. Don’t worry, not every post on here will be about the book – in fact it will be slow going and there will be plenty other posts about my usual hectic life. The Pro Baking posts will hopefully be interspersed throughout this here shiny new blog incarnation, Eat the Love 2.0. In the meanwhile, all I can say is that I’m super thankful that I got to participate in the Daring Baker’s Challenge for January. It’s been too long. I missed it!
Adapted from Professional Baking 5th Ed. By Wayne Gisslen
The original challenge called for a Biscuit Joconde which is similar to the Ribbon Sponge that I used. The difference is that the Biscuit Joconde uses almond flour or hazelnut flour and whole eggs along with egg whites. I’ve got a HUGE surplus of egg whites in my freeze, just waiting to be used, so I went with the Ribbon Sponge cake which only uses egg whites.
You do need a few specialty items to make this dessert. A 6” pastry ring or 6” spring form pan, an offset spatula, a baking sheet fitted with a silicon baking mat.
And just to warn you, this recipe is WAY long and looks labor intensive. I tried to break it down, but in the end, it’s sounds more difficult than it was making it. There are just three components, a ribbon sponge cake, a fruit mousse and a chocolate ganache.
14 Tbsp (200g) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup plus 1Tbsp (200 g) confectioners’ sugar
7 egg whites (200 g)|
1 1/4 plus 2 Tbsp (220g) cake flour
liquid gel food coloring
1. Cut the butter into 1/2” cubes and then put it in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Turn the mixer to medium high and cream the butter until it softens and looks smooth.
2. Sift the confectioners’ sugar into the bowl and mix to incorporate it into the butter.
3. Scrape down the side of the bowl with a large spatula. Turn the mixer on to medium and slowly pour the egg whites into the butter, trying not to splash too much. Beat the butter and eggs until the butter starts to break up into small bits. You may need to periodically stop the bowl to scrape down the sides.
4. Beat the butter and eggs on high until the butter chunks get as small as you can see it. The batter will look grainy and the butter chunks will be visible, but you want to get them as small as possible before you incorporate the flour. Don’t worry if you can still see the chunks though. The batter will smooth out when you add the flour.
5. Sift the cake flour into the bowl and then turn the mixer on and beat, until the batter is smooth.
6. Take about a 1/4 cup of the batter and put into a small bowl and drop a single drop of food coloring of your choice into it and mix until it is evenly incorporated. Do the same with a second bowl of and another 1/4 cup of batter with a contrasting color (I used pink and yellow obviously).
7. Using a fork, smear some of the colored batter onto the silicon baking mat, alternating the color as you do it.
8. Using the offset spatula, spread them thin onto the silicon matt, smearing the colors together.
9. Stick the pan into the freezer for 15 minutes and cover the leftover uncolored batter with plastic wrap to keep from drying out.
10. In the meanwhile turn the oven on to 475˚ to preheat and start making the bing cherry mousse.
Bing Cherry Mousse
Since Bing cherries aren’t in season right now, I used a can of Oregon Fruit Products Pitted Dark Sweet Cherries in heavy syrup. Full disclosure, I met a representative for the Oregon Fruit Products at BlogHer Food back in October and she sent me some samples to play with in my baking. I’ve found that they work surprisingly well when making fillings for cakes and such. I like the fact that their product has no preservatives and is just fruit, water and sugar.
1 1/4 cup (275g) canned cherries (a 15oz can of of cherries drained – reserve juice)
2 Tbsp of drained cherry juice
1/4 oz (1 envelope) of unflavored gelatin
1 cup of heavy cream
1/4 to 3/4 cup of confectioners’ sugar (more of less to taste)
1. Puree the canned cherries in a food processor or blender until smooth.
2. Place the 2 Tbsp of drained cherry juice into a small pot and heat up until it starts to boil (watch it carefully, since it’s such a small amount, it’ll boil fast).
3. Pour the cherry juice into a medium metal mixing bowl. Add the gelatin and stir until it dissolves.
4. Add the cherry puree into the gelatin and place the bowl over a larger bowl full of ice and water. Stir until the puree starts to thicken a little.
5. Place the cream in a standing mixer bowl fitted with the wire whisk. Beat the cream until soft peaks start to form (be care that you don’t over beat it). Gently fold in the cherry puree.
6. Sift 1/4 cup of confectioners’ sugar on top of the mousse and fold it in. Taste and decide if you like it sweeter. Add another 1/4 cup of confectioners’ sugar if you’d like, up to 3/4 cup depending on how sweet you like your dessert.
7. Place the mousse into the fridge as you bake the sponge.
Bake the Sponge
1. Take the pan out of the freezer and, using a spatula, pour the uncolored batter onto the pan.
2. Spread the uncolored batter evenly with the offset spatula until the batter is a uniform 1/4 “ thick over the entire silpat.
3. Bake the sponge between 12-15 minutes, or until the cake bounces back when lightly touched in the middle.
4. Let it cool on a wire rack until it is slightly warmer than room temperature.
5. Dust a cutting board with powdered sugar and lift up the entire silpat off the baking sheet and flip the sponge over onto the cutting board. The colored decorative side will be facing up. Peel the silpat off the cake.
Assembling the cake
1. Make sure the sponge if in orientated in a horizontal manner (landscape) and use the baking ring to cut two circles, next to each other on the top of the sponge. You’ll be using these circles on the inside of the assembled cake. Leave enough room on the bottom of the sponge to cut a strip of cake to line the baking ring.
2. Cut a strip of the cake slightly shorter than the height of the baking ring. I used a 2” high baking ring, so I cut about a 1 3/4” high strip of cake. You want it shorter than the ring, because you’ll be filling the cake with mousse and you want the mouse to peak out at the top so people can see it (that purple strip at the top of the cake? It’s the mousse)
4. Place the cake (with the decorative side facing “out”) around the inside of the ring. If the cake strip isn’t long enough to go all the way around, cut another piece of the cake so that it snugly fits all the way around.
3. Take one of the sponge rounds that you cut out, and trim about a 1/4” around the edge to make the circle 5 1/2″ in diameter. Then fit it into snugly into the bottom of the cake. Brush the sponge with some reserved cherry juice.
4. Spread a thin layer of cherry mousse into the cake over the bottom sponge layer. Now trim the second sponge round like the first one, and fit it snugly into the cake, over the mousse. Spread another layer of cherry mousse on top of the sponge round, this time going almost all the way to the top of the ring, leaving about a 1/8” to 1/4″ edge from the top of the ring. Place in the freezer while you make the ganache.
Making the ganache and finishing the cake
3 1/2 oz of bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup of heavy cream/
Gold luster dust and gold leaf (optional)
1. Chop the chocolate into small pieces (1/4” pieces if you can) and place it in a heat proof bowl.
2. Place the heavy cream in a small pot and heat until bubbles form on the side of the pan. Make sure to swirl the cream around a little bit to evenly distribute the heat. It should heat up pretty fast, since it is only 1/2 cup. Be careful not to boil the cream though. You want it hot but not boiling.
3. Pour the hot cream on top of the chocolate and using a heatproof spatula stir until completely melted
4. Take the cake out of the freezer and quickly pour the ganache onto the top of the cake. Be sure to bring the ganache to the top of the ring, but not to spill over. If you spill over, quickly wipe up the ganache before it sets.
5. Place the cake back in the freezer to set up, for at least two hours or overnight. Carefully unmold it by placing one hand underneath, supporting the cake, and the other hand carefully pulling the baking ring down. Or, if you were smarter than me, you would have lined the baking ring with a food grade acetate or a long strip of parchment paper. But I wasn’t that clever (nor do I have any food grade acetate just lying around the house).
6. Decorate with gold leaf and luster dust if using.