Why heat the eggs for a génoise batter?

Reader Carly wants to know why génoise batter calls for gently warmed eggs. Is it a food safety thing? Actually no, Carly, the reason we warm the eggs before whipping is to ensure that they whip up as high as they reasonably can. Cold egg albumen (white) is thicker than warm egg albumen. As such it’s more resistant to the effects of a whip. Bubbles are a factor of the amount of shear force that can be applied to the white and/or yolk. With a thinner liquid you simply get more of them. Consider which a whisk will cut through…

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Filed under:  Pastry | 2 Comments

Chocolate Génoise Recipe

OK, I decided.

Chocolate génoise is the foundation upon which a great Black Forest cake is built, and is good for a number of other things besides. Like a classic génoise it’s rather dry, but then it’s whole reason for being is to be soaked liberally with syrup.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3.5 ounces (3/4 cup) cake flour
0.75 ounces (1/4 cup) Dutch-process cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 eggs, room temperature
5.25 ounces (3/4 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


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Filed under:  Classic Chocolate Génoise, Pastry | 8 Comments

Biscuit or Génoise, Génoise or Biscuit?

These are the sorts of questions that keep me up at night. Both are sponge cakes that are perfectly suitable for a Black Forest cake, the only real difference between the two is that biscuit (say it the French way with me: bis-KWEE) has no fat in it. That makes it rise a bit higher, but it also means it’s drier and you need more syrup to moisten it. Being averse to cake syrup as a general rule that makes me a bit uneasy. Still, lot of very capable Black Forest cake makers use it, however. Decisions, decisions…

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Compote, Coulis, Sauce, Jam

Reader Melody wants to know what a compote is and that’s a darn good question. “Compote” is a term you find used in many of your finer food and cooking magazines, usually without any explanation. Basically a compote is a sort of chunky fruit sauce. The fruits that are in it — for indeed you can have more than one in a compote — have been cooked for at least a short period of time in a light sugar syrup. A fruit cocktail, if it’s been cooked, is a compote.


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So…how to build this beast?

Look around the world and you’ll find innumerable versions of the Black Forest cake. However in Germany there’s a legal definition (a PDO or something along those lines) for the confection, which goes by the name schwarzwälder kirschtorte in their language. No surprise there, everything from pork pies to pizzas to strawberries carry those sorts of designations these days. And very handy things they are too as they provide rough blueprints for my pirated American recipes. …

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Filed under:  Pastry | 21 Comments

Where does Black Forest cake come from?

It’s not the Black Forest if that’s what you were thinking you goof. Whatever gave you that dumb idea? The birthplace of Black Forest cake was a small university town called Tübingen, which truth be told is only a stone’s throw from the real Black Forest in the extreme southwestern corner of Germany, right along the border with France and Austria. No doubt the forest did influence the thinking of the pastry chef who invented it, a fellow by the name of Erwin Hildebrand. He was the one who first conceived the magnificent combination of chocolate spongecake, sour cherries, whipped cream and kirsch — in 1930. …

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And going and going and going…

Reader Nico has an interesting question on the subject of enzymes: do they ever quit? Which is to say, do they stop working at some point just naturally, run out of go-juice or something along those lines? Nico, I’m not an organic chemist but when’t the last time I let that stop me? I believe the answer is no. Enzymes are not living organisms, so as far as I know they don’t run out of energy or anything like that. They are organic molecules (proteins) that living organisms use to perform very specific chemical jobs, converting x molecule — but only x molecule — into molecules y and z if that makes sense.


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Next Up: Black Forest Cake

I still have some sour cherries left from The Great Sour Cherry Windfall of 2014. Just enough for a cake filling by my reckoning. Let’s see…what famous cake that I haven’t made yet on the blog that calls for a filling of sour cherries? Don’t tell me now…don’t tell me…

Filed under:  Pastry | 9 Comments

How to Mess Up Enzymes

Reader Hermes asks, since I mentioned that heat treating is only the “most popular” way to denature (wreck) browning enzymes in fruit, what other methods are there? A great question I’d be happy to answer, Hermes.

Acids do a great job of stopping browning enzymes from going to work on phenols. Depending on how strong they are they can slow down the the functioning of an enzyme, stop it from functioning altogether, or denature (gank) it. Ascorbic acid (lemon juice) and acetic acid (vinegar) are popular for this purpose.


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Making Caged Pears (Poires en Cage)

Pears are too dangerous to be allowed to roam freely, hence this ingenious preparation which safely confines them behind bars of buttery pastry. For goodness’ sake don’t go sticking your fingers in there. What goes in that cage may not come out. Still if you’re the kind of baker who craves adventure and doesn’t mind working around savage fruit, then these might be for you. …

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Filed under:  Pastry, Pear in a Cage | 18 Comments