It’s been quite awhile since I’ve posted about my baking course so I’ve decided to combine the last three classes into one post.
On the menu for Week 8: Spritz Cookies.
Spritz cookies are a type of piped butter cookie common in many European nations, including Sweden and Germany. The main ingredient in the cookie is always butter. While we did use butter in our cookie dough, we also used vegetable shortening. For those of you have read my past posts on the subject of this baking course, you’ll know that we often use vegetable shortening in place of butter. Whether it be a cost-saving measure on the part of the school or simply a reflection of what’s going on in a lot of commercial bakeries, as far as I’m concerned, it’s wrong. I certainly don’t want to sound puritanical. I sometimes make pastry that calls for part butter and part vegetable shortening and I’m fine with that. But a shortbread cookie is supposed to be made of butter.
The end result was a cookie that was crumbly and lacking in flavour. While I wasn’t thrilled with the taste of the cookies, I’m glad to say all was not lost. Because spritz cookies are traditionally piped, we got to practice our piping skills again. And this time around it was particularly challenging because the dough we worked with was quite stiff. This meant (thank you Sam for the tip) that it was key not to overfill your pastry bag. We piped logs, rosettes and shells and overall, I don’t think I did too badly. But once again I realized that the key to successful piping is practice … practice … practice!
On the menu for Week 9: Black Forest Cake.
Who hasn’t walked into a bakery and seen this cake with the maraschino cherries on top? Black Forest Cake, called SchwarzwÃ¤lder Kirschtorte in German, is a popular cake both in Europe and North America. It is typically made with chocolate cake that has been sliced into layers. Each layer is topped with a cherry filling, cream and, traditionally, kirchwasser or cherry brandy. The cake is believed to have originated in Southern Germany.
Our instructor was very careful to point out that an authentic Black Forest Cake would be one where the layers are soaked in cherry brandy and the filling would be made with sour cherries. While our cakes looked impressive, they didn’t score very high in the authenticity department.
I really love my instructor and am enjoying my time in class immensely, except for one thing: the ingredients we use. Our chocolate sponge was made with vegetable shortening and it showed. The sponge was dry and completely flavourless. We did not use cherry brandy to wet the sponge layers. Instead, we wet the layers with a simple syrup made of sugar and water. We used whipping cream for the filling and for the frosting we used whipping cream with the addition of a stabilizer so that the cream would hold up to piping.
While my disappointment with some of the ingredients we use continues, I cannot deny that the class has been tremendous in terms of learning and practicing techniques. Once again I got to practice my piping and masking and I find that the more I do it, the more I enjoy it and the more comfortable I become with a piping bag.
Also, we got our first glimpse of the technique of tempering chocolate, a process which involves melting and then cooling chocolate so that it becomes glossy and stable enough to work with either in melted form or in a cooled form. In our case, our instructor melted chocolate and then repeatedly spread it across a large marble slab. As he continuously moved and spread the chocolate, its temperature decreased until it began to solidify. At that point we were able to shave the chocolate, right on the marble slab, using the tip of a large knife. This produced lovely curls which we used to decorate our cake. Later on in the course we will have a lesson dedicated to tempering chocolate and I’m really looking forward to it.
As for the Black Forest Cake, it looked nice but it lacked flavour. If I try it at home, I’ll be doing the Germans proud and making it the old-fashioned way with homemade filling, real cream and lots of that cherry brandy!
On the menu for Week 10: Swiss Roll.
Next to the class on choux pastry, this was by far my favourite one. We began by preparing a batter that for a simple sponge cake that proves the glory that is an egg. Because we bake in large quantities, our recipe called for 16 eggs … sugar … flour … vanilla and lemon. That’s it! Five simple ingredients that yielded a sponge that was light, airy and flavourful.
We baked our sponge in sheet pans so that we would eventually be able to make Swiss Rolls, which are essentially sponge filled with whatever pleases your fancy and then rolled into logs. The logs are then masked and out come the piping bags to make whatever designs you like. We finished our Swiss Rolls off with sliced blanched almonds and chocolate.
While we had the choice of filling one Swiss Roll with lemon curd and cream and the other with raspberry jam, I chose to fill both of my Swiss Rolls with lemon curd and cream. It being summer I just thought the lemon filling was the right way to go.
The Swiss Rolls were fantastic. I can’t get over how moist the sponge was and how easily it rolled. And the lemon curd and cream were the perfect combination. Our instructor offered different suggestions for decorating the outside of the Swiss Rolls, but I was more than happy with the almonds. They gave a nice crunch to the dessert and contrasted well with the sourness of the filling.
Without a doubt, I will be making this one again!
That’s it for now, folks. There will be no baking class next week as it is a holiday weekend in Canada. Stay tuned for Week 11 in two weeks.