25 April, 2011

"L'Opera" or basic pastry skills

i like opera torte.
what is it? also known as gateau Clichy, Alternating layers of coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache separate thin layers of rum-soaked almond sponge cake. it originated in the early 1900's in paris, the layers are said to represent the acts in an opera. it's delicious. i was ready to give you the recipes i use for the 3 components, but i think i'm going to hotlink the recipes and you can search them at your leisure. i understand that this post would be enhanced by photos but, i don't have any, i'm going give you the spoken word performance(only it's written).

before you can build the thing, i think we need to speak to the ingredients and the architecture of the piece. buttercream is whipped egg whites mixed with sugar and then whole butter is added to form a fluffy delicious emulsion. almond sponge cake
is the layer that gets soaked with coffee flavored rum. chocolate ganache consists of chocolate and cream, it can be infused with many flavors and is most familiar as the basis for chocolate truffles. traditionally these ingredients are built layer by layer with out the support of a form; two thin half sheet cakes are divided to produce three layers and this then just stacked with butter-cream in between as the glue. this is then topped with chocolate ganache and the edges are trimmed to present a good looking cake with a clear view of the layers and nicely decorated top. it tastes good and it looks good. that's the traditional view, my presentation deconstructs this as individual servings made with the support of a form and hopefully doesn't loose any of the sublime beauty of the classic.

you are going to want to have the components ready before you attempt to complete the procedure. so look over the recipes and decide if this is what you want to do; it's elegant, but it requires some preparation and skill. i choose to make the components one day and build the dessert the next day. it's not as hard it looks, but i will say that most of the opera tortes consumed are produced commercially. i'll get to l`opera part two tomorrow.

14 April, 2011

from sedars past

beef brisket is a nice cut of meat, but i like a little fat in the deckel. the toughness of the cut defines the cooking method and i choose to braise my brisket. i brown it on both sides and then cover it in a seasoned beef or chicken stock. the braising liquid should be a little salty to taste or the meat will be bland. you can either braise on the stovetop covered or in a slow oven and it works well in a crockpot. the recipe i have chosen worked well for meal i prepared a while ago, i can't remember if it was served with roasted root vegetables or not, but i did have a nice sauce in the pan when i finished cooking after 3-4 hours.

Moroccan seasoned brisket
3 to 4 lb full brisket (not trimmed of fat)
dried apricots
proprietorial blend of north african spices
  • cumin
  • coriander
  • cinnamon
  • cloves
  • nutmeg
  • cardamon
  • sumac
  • thyme
  • red pepper
  • turmeric
  • paprika
rub spice blend into brisket and add salt/pepper, let rest 1 hour or up to overnight in a refrigerator covered, if left in fridge, allow to come up to room temperature before browning

heat a suitable cooking vessel to very high temp and add a little oil and brown the brisket on both sides, when colored and fragrant add
  • enough braising liquid to cover (1 to 2 quarts)
  • Salt and pepper. Braising liquid should be salted or brisket will taste 'washed out' and bland.
  • 1/2 cup of the dried apricots and raisins along with
  • mirepoix( diced carrots, celery and onions)
  • a few cloves of garlic
  • a 2 piece of fresh ginger
cook on low heat for 2-3 hours until tender, not enough till it stringy, but enough so a fork pierces it easily