Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Opera Cake, Financiers, Macarons

Sorry I haven't posted in so long. It's been a long few weeks.

Anyway, pictured are some more petit fours. On the lower left are financiers, to their right are macarons, and on top is the opera cake. Typically the opera cake is cut into bite-sized pieces, but I decided to do it a little differently today.

The opera cake is built upside down in a sheet pan. First you line the sheet pan with a sheet of acetate so that you can unmold it later (remember this, because I'll be coming back to this point in a minute.) On top of the acetate, you spread a thin layer of chocolate glaze, which will ultimately be the top of the cake. Then comes a layer of coffee buttercream, followed by a very thin layer of joconde cake (essentially an almond flour and egg white based cake), which is then soaked with espresso syrup. And I do mean soaked. Then comes a layer of coffee flavored ganache, more buttercream, more espresso soaked joconde, and on... You freeze the cake in the sheet pan overnight so it is solid. The next morning, you warm the sides of the sheet pan with a torch to release the cake, then flip it over to unmold.

Even after using the torch, we had problems getting the cake out. So I started trying to pry it out with a knife, which didn't do much. So then we went over the whole bottom of the cake with the torch, and still no luck. That the point when I remembered washing dishes the day before and finding a sheet of acetate at the bottom of the sink... Yes, I used the wrong sheet pan and therefore did not build my cake on top of the acetate! So, we eventually dug the rest of the cake out, which left all of the chocolate glaze and a lot of the buttercream on the bottom of the pan. Needless to say, I was not too happy with myself, but Tara came to the rescue and used some leftover buttercream to patch it up, then we used some leftover chocolate mirror glaze to glaze the top. And it turned out fantastic, as the mirror glaze gave a nice shiny look that the original glaze did not. We actually got several compliments from other classmates.

The financiers are essentially little almond cakes, which are very moist and quite tasty. Very nice.

I was pretty excited to learn how to make macarons, and was very pleased with the results. Macarons are small cookies made with meringue and almond flour, which you pipe onto a sheet ban and bake. Once baked, you pipe a layer of filling onto one base and cap it with another. Today we used raspberry ganache, but you could use any ganache, buttercream, jam, etc. There are a few keys to good macarons, but most important for the look is to get consistently shaped circles when piping. Although I'm not the most talented person with a piping bag, I'm definitely improving, and my macarons turned out great, as you can see. Tara had a little more trouble with hers, which didn't have the nice smooth surface that you see on mine in the picture. Rather, her's were smaller and had little points on top, which when baked looked remarkably like little nipples. She was disappointed, but I told her she could just sell them for an extra $1 as nipple macarons for bachelor parties, etc... She was only slightly amused. :-)

By the way, if you've never had a macaron, get down to your nearest pastry shop right now and get one. They're awesome. Looking at the picture above, the look like hard little cookes, but that's far from the truth. They're actually kind of chewy and moist, and can be flavored with anything from raspberry to chocolate to pistachio to coconut, etc. Seriously, go get yourself a macaron. I'm going to go have one myself...


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