Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Little Bit of Flair

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Much belated, but happy new year to everyone nonetheless! I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday, filled with lots of yummy treats! I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated, and I apologize for that. This year’s holiday baking marathon really took a lot out of me. Baking for two week straight, and producing over 500 cookies made me suffer from a serious case of baking burnout by the end of it that I could barely muster up the energy to get into the kitchen much after that. Add in the fact that my sleeping schedule was absolutely atrocious, I figured that this rather sleep-deprived cook was safer out of the kitchen than in it.

I did treat the family to a New Year’s Eve meal of veal shanks and risotto, since my brother never got a chance to try the osso bucco I made over a year ago. I thought it would be fun to start off the year with a bit of flare, and after flipping through numerous books, I settled on making an OpĂ©ra cake.

If anyone has seen an Opera cake, it looks extraordinarily elegant, with its multi-layers of almond sponge, coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache. Its elegance makes it the star of any show, hence its name, as it was inspired by the grand elegance and theatricality of the opera.

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There are five key elements that make up an Opera cake: the almond sponge, the syrup that is used to soak the sponge, the coffee buttercream, the chocolate ganache, and the chocolate glaze. While it does seem daunting to even attempt this cake after reading the recipe and seeing how beautiful they look in professional French bakeries, it’s actually less complicated than it sounds. Granted, there are a lot of steps, since they are a lot of layers to the cake, but once you’ve prepared everything, assembling the cake doesn’t actually take a lot of time.

I used the recipe from Le Cordon Bleu, and it was fantastic. The almond sponge was incredibly light and moist. The only real complaint I had was that my buttercream curdled a bit, which didn’t give me a fluffy, smooth texture I was looking for, and I found the glaze to be a bit too much on the runny side, despite having already reduced some of the cream it asked for. For my first attempt though, I don’t think it turned out terribly bad, and like any French dessert, it was just the right sweetness. Be sure to serve your guests small slices of the cake though, because it is quite rich and heavy. And on a fun note, I bought some gold flakes before the holidays and finally found an occasion to whip them out and sprinkle them over the cake. What better way to usher in the new year with a bit of flair and good fortune, right?


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