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Jelly roll with fig jam & oranges with mint

(post, Robert Reynolds)


I used to love to watch Josephine make genoise at the restaurant. She was certified at the Cordon Bleu as a Chef patissiere as well as Chef de Cuisine, a singular achievement in the 1920's. She would beat the eggs and sugar for her cake in a large bowl over hot water to get them to swell. Then she would fold in the flour carefully. It would go into the oven and bake light and flavorful. When I asked her about beating the eggs in the Kitchenaid, she explained that the movement of the whip in the machine made a small uniform bubble. When she beat the eggs and sugar by hand she had long irregular bubbles. When each was then baked, the results were different. The hand beaten one, with larger bubble, rose differently, and had a different, lighter, less dense, texture. She described the experience of the hand beaten one as 'plus agreable.' It made me understand that the agreeability, the final effect, is something sought, something attainable, within the control f the cook. It was a good lesson - look, aim high, keep control, be disciplined, go for your best.

Whenever I bake I remind myself through the ritual or preparing the ingredients that baking is a different science than cooking. Cooking is more forgiving. Baking is like dance. You cross the stage, leap in the air. You can't be in the air, say you forgot something, and go back. So you need to be prepared to see baking as one continuous act, like a dancer's leap. Have everything ready, so you don't have to go back. The mis en place is ready, the pans are readied, buttered and papered; the oven is at temperature. When everything is in place, you can proceed.

The genoise is a type of cake know as biscuit - 'cuit' or cooked, 'bis' times, two times. So the cakes in this category are twice cooked. The first cooking happened when you beat eggs and sugar. It is done over hot water so that the eggs swell to two and a half times their original volume. The flour is worked in and then the second cooking takes place when the cake is put in the oven.

The eggs and sugar can be beaten to two and a half times their volume using the Kitchenaid; it takes about 7-10 minutes. It counts technically as the first cooking because across that time there is enough friction generated, and friction is heat. Then proceed with folding in flour and baking. The result is very good; the cake can be knocked out in minutes, do the cake enough times that it becomes second nature.

You have to look at the nature of the ingredients you're working with and try to understand what they need to do in order to work. The eggs in this instance are fat, they need to accept a dry ingredient, flour. It is not easy. If you do it properly you will lose 30% of the volume of the eggs you've beaten so carefully. Since the egg is the only active agent, the leavening, you need to be mindful of how much of it gets lost. It will make a difference in how high the cake climbs.
The flour is twice sifted so that it is easier for the fat to absorb it. It gets added, not all at once, but a third at a time. It's easier for the flour to accept less flour; once it has accepted some, it can accept more.

The folding matters. The technique is specific. It has to be accomplished with the greatest efficiency. If we are not efficient we lose additional volume with each stroke.  Look in the bowl and figure out what has to happen. The volume of beaten eggs sits in a bowl. Flour is scattered over the surface. Heavy things sink; the bowl is sloped; so you can figure out that as the flour sinks, it works its way to the center. That's where you work to fold; not at the edges.

Folding is a gentle technique where the weight of one ingredient falling on top of another allows them to mix. Before we worked with spatulas, we worked with our hands. See the movement. You cut into the egg at the center. Your hand goes to the bottom, you scoop, lift from the bottom. As you hand leaves the surface of the eggs, you turn it and let the volume of eggs in your hand fall on top of the surface of the eggs in the bowl. Dip, scoop, lift, turn. As you turn you move your hand toward the outside edge and empty the contents of your hand over the center, so that there is actually a fold. The weight of what has been lifted is set on top and it is the weight of the thing folded over that created the action of mixing.

Now, in modern times, instead of that hand, we slip a spatula in. The action remains the same. Cut in the center, descend to the bottom, lift the mass, turn your wrist so that the volume on the spatula falls on top of the beaten eggs in the bowl. Turn the bowl each time one third, so that you don't work the same spot. Be efficient. When the first addition of flour has almost been incorporated, dust the surface with the second third of the flour. Continue to work in the same manner. Then add the final third of the flour. Turn until you turn 4-5 times and you don't see any loose flour in the batter. Stop. Don't over fold.

The batter is put into a sheet pan. Tilt the pan to get the batter to fill the pan. One kind of effect is achieved by flattening with a spatula. You get a cake that is dense and thin. I like the cake to be lighter and higher, so don't work the batter with a spatula. Don't slam the pan to get the air mass to collapse; not this time.

The cake is put on the rack set in the middle of the oven. The oven is set at 350oF. The cake will bake in 20-30 minutes. You know it's done when you touch your finger to the top of the batter, press lightly, then remove your finger. If the mark of your finger stays, it does so because the cake is uncooked, and wet in the center. When the cake is cooked through, it is dry, and springy. When you touch the top, then pull your finger away, the cake springs back. The cake should have a pale golden color. When it is done, you will also see that it starts to pull away from the sides of the pan; it shrinks.

Remove the cake from the oven. Slip a knife along the side edges. Lift the paper away, Holding the pan with one hand, the paper with the other; pull the pan away, so the cake is slipped onto a second piece of waxed, or parchment paper. Peel away the paper used to line the cake pan. Set the cake on a rack and let it cool.		

6 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour, sifted two times
butter for the pan

Butter baking sheet, line with parchment
Ribbon eggs and sugar
Fold in 1/3 of the flour
Fold in remaining 2/3rds
Bake at 340oF 18 minutes.

When you touch the center the cake should spring back, and not leave the impression of your finger. Remove from pan, peel paper, and cool on a rack till ready to use.

Slice and serve with
Segmented oranges
Macerated in syrup of
½ cup sugar
½ cup warm water
flavored with
vanilla bean, or excellent quality liquid vanilla, 
or Orange brandy, 
or dark rum with a few drops of lemon juice
and finish with threads of mint
Enjoy while you wait for local berries in season