Experimental Bakingstry

It is no secret that I like to cook and bake. I have even posted a few recipes here in the past, ranging from Agedashi Tofu to Mango Chutney Pork Chops and Squirrel Melba.

As any sane person would, I blatantly ignore measurement recommendations in recipes. Except when cakes or pastries are involved. Baking is a much different job from regular entree cooking. If entree cooking was engineering: intuitive, reliable and practicable by a trained monkey1, baking would be much more like chemistry: finicky, unpredictable and liable to poison you if something goes wrong.

Baking is tough, and in a continuous effort to make me more marketable on the 40-to-50-year-old Japanese dating scene, I have been striving to improve my skills. Sometimes with helpful professional tips from friends, but most often through trial and error. Which is where the present entry comes in:

Being a scientist with early-onset Alzheimer and lingering ADD, I need to record the results of my culinary experiments lest I endlessly repeat the same mistakes and end up losing my entire roster of lab-test guinea pigs friends, to food poisoning. After toying with a few different solutions for the 21st-century housewife (from short-lived handwritten notes to mind-boggingly annoying “recipe sharing” websites), I settled, as I usually do, for the easy way: piling it on that shapeless clutter of random notes and pointless observations that we call a blog.

All that to say: the notes below are hardly proper recipes, more like experimental reports and notes for future experiments. No details and how-to’s: only list of ingredients, measurement corrections and fatal mistakes to be avoided. You might find them somewhat useful, but they are mostly addressed to future me and his elusive quest for the perfect chocolate mousse. Feel free to peruse, but don’t say you weren’t warned.

Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients:

  • 200g extra-dark chocolate2.
  • 100g butter (no more).
  • Shot-glass worth of strong brewed coffee.
  • 5 egg whites, 3 to 4 egg yolks (can use all 5 egg yolks but will result in runnier, stickier mousse).
  • 60g sugar (not 200g, for chrissake).
  • Rum
  • Few drops of vanilla extract

Notes:

  • Essentially based on Julia Child’s already quite awesome recipe, with a few crucial changes: her recommended sugar dosage will kill all diabetics in a 100km radius, if they haven’t keeled over from the massive butter-induced heart attack.
  • Whisk the crap out of egg yolks+sugar+rum (electric egg-beater for the win): makes the result less runny.
  • Dash of lemon juice (/cream of tartar) to whisk egg whites, pinch of salt at the end to retain consistency. Yay for high school chemistry.
  • Get chocolate as cold as possible (but still liquid and smooth) before mixing to egg whites: ice-cube bain-marie.
  • Special extra-sex food-porn edition: tiny ultra-dark-bitter-chocolate specks or candied orange zest.

Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest cake)

Ingredients:

  • Cake biscuit:
    • 150g dark chocolate.
    • 180g flour (rather less than more, otherwise gets way too dry).
    • 250g sugar.
    • 8 eggs.
    • 30g butter
    • Splash of rum.
    • 2g of baking soda.
    • 1g of baking powder (optional).
  • Spread/Icing:
    • Maraschino cherries or in syrup (black if possible).
    • Kirsch.
    • Cherry jam.
    • 400ml whip cream (2 small cartons) sweetened (about 60g sugar).
    • High-quality cocoa or 50g dark chocolate.

Notes:

  • Replace all syrup from cherries with kirsch and/or rum and let infuse for at least a night (longer = better).
  • Beat yolks with sugar, then butter, then egg whites (whipped up), then flour and everything else.
  • Baking soda in Japanese is タンサン (tansan: lit. “carbonic acid/carbonate”), not 重曹 (juusou), unless you want your local supermarket employee to point you in the direction of the bleach&cleaning product aisle and look at you suspiciously when you announce you plan on making a cake with this (hat tip).
  • Better to bake cake at least couple hours beforehand. Let rest for a while.
  • Slice cake in three and thoroughly douse each layer with kirsch and/or rum (starting with what you infused the cherries with). Don’t skimp: cake way too dry otherwise.
  • Same with chocolated whip cream and cherry jam on each inside layer: be generous.
  • Generous with sugar (/vanilla) in whip cream, don’t over-whip, tiny dash of salt… ⇒ sweet, hard but not buttery3.
  • Use 2/3 of the extra chocolate to mix with 2/3 of whip cream (keep 1/3 whip cream for top layer and 1/3 of chocolate to grate on top).
  • Future experiment #1: replace part/all cherries/cherry jam by raspberry (if can find raspberries in this damn country).
  • Future experiment #2: carbonated cola (and less/no eggs)?
  • Future experiment #3: glyceryl trinitrate.

More when I have time to transcribe older notes…

  1. Just kidding Engineering M.Sc. friends, we still need you. []
  2. In chocolate as in crack-cocaine, never go with less than 70% pure. []
  3. That’s what she said. []

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