Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Food Experiment - 40-second sponge cake

Friends who came to my place for dinner knew I love doing food experiments with them being the guinea pigs - some of them got the better of those experiments, though most are not so lucky. But the one I did last weekend turned out to be quite decent - more decent than I expected.

I got this recipe idea from a book I flipped through which talked about molecular gastronomy. While most of the recipes inside required use of obscure ingredients or funky equipment, this one caught my eye because it sounded easy to make and no special equipment needed other than a cream siphon, which I considered as a piece of ordinary kitchen equipment - in fact I got 2 at home. Anyway it's called 40-second sponge cake, as it only took 40 second of cooking time, in a microwave. It actually came from a recipe from the El Bulli menu a few years ago - how cool is that. Now let me show you how I did it.

Mis en place - 21g of flour, 80g of sugar, 2 tablespoon of cocoa powder, 4 eggs. (yes, it sounds like everything's out of proportion and there's no rising agent but it's correct - don't ask me why you need 21g of flour and not 20 or 22 grams though - I don't think that would have mattered) That would yield around 10 small portion of cakes.

I didn't take a picture of the next step but basically it's just put everything together in a mixing bowl and whip them up. Being a lazy ass I used an electric mixer but I am sure a hand whip would do. After everything is blended together, use a strainer to get rid of any lumps remaining and pour the mixture into the siphon. You should only fill up to half of it. Then put 2 NO2 charger cartridges in and shake the siphon rigorously - just as you were making whipped cream in the siphon.

Next, get a few disposable paper or plastic cups (make sure it's microwavable, of course) Poke a few holes at the bottom of the cup to vent the air, and release the "batter" from the siphon into the cup. It should look like a hot chocolate foam. The original recipe called for filling the cup up to 1/3 only but I tried fill it up to half and actually worked better.

Then put the cup into microwave and heat it uncovered in high setting for 40 seconds. Afterwards, pull the cup out, slide a knife around the cake inside the cup and turn the cup upside down - the cake should come right out easily.

Here it is the final product. It has the texture of a really fluffy sponge cake and tasted just like one. The downside of this is the cake didn't really take any shape and every one looks a bit different - but in case anyone questioned that, just tell them Ferran Adria called this "an organic shape" - whatever that means. I used cocoa powder to make it a chocolate sponge cake, but I suppose it works without or with other combinations, as long as you manage a smooth batter because you can't allow any lumps or solids in the siphon.

This could be a dessert on its own, but I did something a little more. Since we were having hairy crabs at home and traditionally we drank ginger tea as digestif after the crabs, I decided to make a ginger ice-cream. Then along the tropical theme of using ginger, I did a caramelized banana and almond tuile. To go with the chocolate sponge cake, I need something with stronger taste, so I threw in a salted caramel icecream as well. So here you are - a quintet dessert platter. Enjoy!

In case you want to know how the pros did it, here's a video clip from Anthony Bourdain's food show with Albert Adria (brother of Ferran) doing the demo.

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