“It’s been my policy to view the Internet not as an ‘information highway,’ but as an electronic asylum filled with babbling loonies.”
– Mike Royko, American Journalist
Buenos Aires – I share a birthday with Mike Royko. Also with Twiggy. Different years. My best friend when I was about five years old, Tina, and I, shared a birthday. Same year. An ex-boyfriend, Claudio, who’s also a chef, and I shared one. Different years. Quite a few other folks. Holidays like Japan’s “Respect for the Aged”, which I expect will apply one of these years. George Washington made his farewell address on my day. Butch and Sundance committed their first robbery. Walt Disney released Steamboat Willie. Ötzi the Iceman was discovered. And for some god-awful reason, a new (1995) holiday is making the rounds – Talk Like a Pirate Day.
Aargh. Happy Birthday to me. Four dozen years (regular, not baker’s). Dinner somewhere special tonight. I have a really cool old… old bottle of wine I wanted to open with some close friends on this birthday, purely because that bottle turned… 100 years old this year. Unfortunately, several of my better friends here are out of the country, so we’ll save the bottle until next week and have a celebration with it then. It’s probably completely shot, but how often do I (or anyone else) get a chance to open a bottle of 1906 Château Margaux? Maybe we’ll get lucky.
And, as promised a couple of days ago, we’re going to bake a cake. Probably my favorite type of cake to make, it’s called a génoise, or sometimes a genoese sponge. It’s sort of like sponge cake, but you don’t separate the eggs, and the texture comes out a bit different. It’s also often then soaked with some sort of sweet syrup and/or liqueur, so perfect for the other day’s honey liqueur cake.
I have this little pocket reference guide for how to make basic things in the kitchen. I put it together when I was in cooking school, as I knew there was no way in the world I’d remember in detail all the stuff we were learning. It’s short descriptions (e.g., “Fines Herbes: parsley, chervil, chives, tarragon”) and condensed recipes. Conversions of weights and measures (“1# cocoa = 4c”). I use it all the time when I need to remind myself of something basic.
“Genoise: paper, butter, & flour pan; beat 1 pt eggs w/salt, add 8 oz. sugar slowly, whip over warm water till lukewarm then whip till cold and stiff, sift in 6 oz. cake flour & 2 oz.cornstarch in thirds, bake @ 350° for 25′ (2-10″ or 3-8″ or 1 sheetpan).”
Cut rounds of parchment/baking paper to fit the bottom of the pan, then smear it and the sides with a thin coat of butter, then put a small scoop of flour in and shake it all around to coat, then dump out the excess four
Beat a pint of eggs – roughly 8 extra large – and a large pinch of salt, gradually adding the sugar to it. Use a metal bowl, and set it over a pot of fairly warm water – this will warm up the bowl and the egg mixture and help it beat well.
Once the egg mixture is lukewarm to the touch, remove from above the heat and continue to whip it (high speed, by the way, note my lovely old electic handheld mixture that I picked up years ago for $5 at a garage sale) until the mixture is cold and stiff – it’ll be about the consistency of soft whipped cream.
You should have a sifted mixture of the flour and cornstarch. Turn the mixture to low speed, or you can even mix this in by hand – adding the flour/cornstarch roughly a third at a time and making sure it’s well incorporated – don’t beat it fast, you’ll deflate the eggs.
Pour it in the pan, that’s implicit, note that it has lots of large bubbles – pick it up a couple of inches above the countertop and then slam it down hard with a fast, sharp movement
Note that all the big bubbles disappear, it’s ready to stick in the oven
Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes, until nicely browned, and, like most cakes, a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean.
Implicit again, remove from the oven and put on a cake rack to cool.
When partially cooled, and it will shrink a bit, remove from pan, peel off the paper, and gradually spoon over a mix of simple syrup (equal parts by volume of sugar and water), mixed with an equal volume of the liqueur you want to use. Note that I’ve stuck the cake and cake rack into a pan to catch the drips.
Keep putting more syrup until it simply drips out the bottom – it’s alot – I find that about half the liquid will get absorbed immediately, then you can let it sit and add a few spoonfuls at a time over the next half hour or so. You can also, if you like, flip it over and spoon some liquid from the bottom. For 2 ten inch cakes I used nearly a quart of liquid.
Served up with a drizzled spiral of honey (I was using honey liqueur), and some whipped cream; or, you could frost it with a nice buttercream, or a glaze…