Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Feelin’ Groovy

If I were to personify the cake they call Passionata, she’d probably be a Twiggy or an Edie – looking groovy in a mod skirt of Joconde, filled with colorful layers of raspberry and passion fruit mousses and finished with a layer of glossy raspberry glaze. Admiring the finished cake, I was instantly reminded of colorful miniskirts, vinyl platform boots and those massive, candy-colored sunglasses they wore in the 60’s.

Whatever name I could give her, Passionata was a fun and visually impressive cake to make. Clearly, the most exciting part was going to be making the Joconde, since this would require finger painting with tinted cigarette batter. (As you might have started to notice, any chance for me to unite my two creative worlds – design and patisserie – always fills my heart with joy. Or in this case, passion! Hee hee…)

Cigarette batter has nothing to do with smoking or nicotine, but refers to the shape of the cookies that come from this batter (and quite possibly for the fact the cookies are equally addictive). If you don’t recognize the name, I’m sure you’ve seen these cookies on a platter for high tea. These are thin, crisp, cylindrically-shaped cookies - sort of like a brandy snap, but less caramelized and with a texture closer to shortbread. They are made by shaping the baked rounds of batter around the handle of a wooden spoon whilst the cookies are still hot from the oven. Sometimes the finished cookies are filled with whipped cream or ganache…mmm, too good!

So making the cigarette batter was a bit like mixing paint. Eggs, melted butter, sugar and flour were combined to make a thick, smooth paste; this was divided into two portions and each portion was tinted red or yellow. Then these tinted batters were applied to the parchment-lined baking sheet in decorative strokes to create a colorful underlay for the Joconde sponge, which is spread atop the cigarette layer. As the Joconde bakes, it absorbs the tinted batter underneath to create the slightly psychedelic patterns in the finished cake. The colorful sponge is then cut into a strip to line a ring shaped mold, and the mold is filled with the fruit mousses.

The real trick was not to overthink the application of the cigarette batter. A few well-intentioned classmates got a bit too creative in trying to create complex patterns, or just overworked the two colors. This resulted either in odd, blotchy effects for some and for others a truly weird orange color that looked less tie-dyed and more like Thousand Island dressing….eeew!

Chef Hottie was attending the practical for my group. When we entered the lab, he greeted us with a smile over the roar of a food processor. And quel surprise…there were to be a few modifications to the recipe we’d been shown in the demo. It seems someone had forgotten to order the frozen raspberry puree, so we’d be substituting fresh strawberries instead. February isn’t the season for strawberries, so the color of the puree looked quite pale and would probably need a dye-job – at least for the amount going into the fruit glaze on top. After all, a fashionista cake like this would need color coordination – bien sur!

In previous tales from practical land, I’ve mentioned the peril of using the school’s food coloring. They put these colorings into those big, squeezy plastic condiment bottles. Those who aren’t aware that only a slight tipping of the bottle, versus a full squeeze, are in for a big surprise. A gushing fluvial of intense red color emerges, destroying all hopes for a petal pink buttercream and possibly leaving a botched-surgery type signature on your uniform. Worse yet, the crusty dried particles from someone else’s dyeing effort can tumble from the sides or rim of the bottle and further complicate the process. The safest bet is to dispense color into a separate bowl, then take what is needed from there – sans particules and sans stress!

Whilst there were a few overly intense red glazes, for the most part everyone’s Passionata went more or less according to plan. The fantastic four were working together again – and with excellent results. Aurore and Alberto mastered the joconde; meanwhile David and I measured the ingredients and whipped the cream for the whole group. The pairing up amongst the four of us across the different tasks really helped speed the process along – which wasn’t overly complicated but composed of many small steps and quite temperature sensitive regarding the mousse fillings.

In the end I had great results with my glaze – the color and the application earned positive comments from the chef. With a few powdered sugar raspberries and a sprinkle of chopped pistachios, I was pleased to take this one back to share with my Geneva mod squad.

No comments: