This week we covered sponges in the course: we made a Victoria sandwich and two Swiss rolls. Little did I know it would involve more physical effort than pushing an elephant and more determination than doing a triathlon.
It started off innocently enough, creaming soft butter and sugar by hand (literally, the Chef used his hand as a paddle to cream the ingredients together…what technique!), then incorporating eggs bit by bit. The Victoria sponge would be ready for the oven as soon as the flour had been folded into the mixture. This was just the warm-up.
Then came the first whisk insanity challenge: a plain genoise sponge. This time we used a different method, the egg foam method. The only rising agent in this sponge is the eggs, beaten with the sugat over a bain marie until achieving a thick, creamy consistency, much like a sabayon. I thought my arm would break, the urgency of keeping the whisk moving stronger than my wish to stop. I alternated hands, making my clumsy left hand take on some of the workload, moving at a slower pace, but moving nonetheless.
It all paid off though when the sponge came out of the oven. So golden, so…spongy. It was love at first sight. Even more so after I rolled it up while hot to hold its shape and no cracks were to be seen.
Soon after we did the same process, this time for a chocolate genoise. Much more cumbersome…the cocoa powder was heavier and thus much easier to knock out precious air out of the mix. The loss of volume made the mix seem sparse and it wasn’t a surprise when I couldn’t fill out the mold. I didn’t try, because spreading it too thin could leave you with a biscuit rather than a sponge.
I wasn’t hopeful at all, so it was a nice surprise to see that my overworked mix still rose a bit and looked like cake. Rolling it up was alright, too, no cracks again. When I tried the bits I trimmed off, I thought it felt denser than the plain one, which was to be expected.
Another part of the whisk workout included making buttercream, creaming butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy. Thank god the chocolate buttercream for the chocolate Swiss roll was prepared by the Chef beforehand. I don’t think my arm muscles would have spoken to me again if I had put them through that.
All in all, quite a vigorous class. It’ll probably be quite some time before I attempt to make another genoise.