Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Au Natural

Baking soda and baking powder are awesome.  From a chemists perspective.  Their ability to react in measured, timed increments with other baking ingredients all coming together to make a fluffy cloud of a cake is really pretty incredible.  And then talk to someone who grew up eating things without chemicals or preservatives.  All of sudden it isn't so cool.  So I took it on as a challenge to bake a cake without chemical rising agents.  Baking bread without chemical rising agents is easy.  Yeast.  Souffles rise without chemicals, but you also can't pack them in a cooler and eat them at a picnic.  So, after hours of research...... yes, I'm that sort of nerd, I spent hours online and in baking books researching frontier-era cake making...... I found that there are 2 standard non-chemical cakes.  Pound cake and G√©noise.  


Ok, so one cake is a normal American butter cake and the other is a complicated Italian cake.  Which did I choose?  Yup, you guessed it, the Italian one that takes precise heating of sugar and eggs, while whipping them silly and then gently folding in a little bit of flour and baking for precisely 8 minutes and 23 seconds.  Then removing from the oven and immediately rolling into a jelly roll.  Of course to go inside the roll you have to have something creamy.  Hmmmmm.......  buttercream?  Too sweet.  Custard?  Doesn't stand up as well.  Jelly?  Sure, but still need something creamy.  (insert wild frantic search through fridge because I hadn't bothered to think about this until the day of, which of course was a Sunday and nothing was open.......  perhaps something with coconut milk and maple syrup, I have that......)  Big sigh of relief, I found some creme fraiche and mascarpone.  So, a slightly sweet-sour cream with bourbon vanilla resulted.  Combined with the jelly and sponge cake it wasn't too bad.


But it was missing something.  There was a lack of depth.  I think it needed to be brushed in some sort of alcohol.  That would have made it a little less dry.  Of course since this was the day after the fest, the last thing I wanted to smell was more alcohol.  By the way, who thought it was a good idea to open the rum last night?  Come on, fess up!  Anyway, next time I'll brush it with alcohol (but not rum), reduce the jelly, and add more creme fraiche to the icing.  But overall, it was a good cake.  Good ending to the easter brunch.


Here is an actual recipe for G√©noise:
http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Plain-Genoise-353190 


Oh, and don't forget to whip the eggs like < insert inappropriate analogy of choice >