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Bake Along #95 – L’Opera

L’Opera has a history dated past in the last century. However the story behind this dessert is not clear and it will never be. There are 2 sides to how the dessert first came into existence. Read over this link on JoePastry ‘s blog on the theory and I am not going to go deep into that. One thing that sounded very exciting and also alarming was that, anytime any one could rise up and create a combination of layers and if that would touch several other hearts and then that dessert/cake would stand in history. Well, now who is ready to create one ?

Getting back to some debate that I have had to myself few years back. I started Fondbites as just a domain with the idea of sharing recipes and then many triggers took me in different directions and finally I landed at teaching cake decorating. This has been discussed several times over and over. Now during that phase in the beginning, I did start to teach baking. I prepared a curriculum which sounded to be the best, according to the fullest capability of mine. The debate here was, while I continued sharing recipes in my blog ( I so often consider mentioning Fondbites as a blog, and in varied places as my website and sometimes domain ), people started asking me for recipes when I shared some of the class pictures. I took a pause and gave a serious thought about it. I discussed this with few of my friends, lovely mentors did I have for all the thoughtful decisions that I had to take at very critical stage I used to be in.

They said, “If you want to teach, then you cannot share your class recipes in public. If you decide to share your recipes with everyone, then you cannot teach the same in your classes. It is unfair to the students who pay you money and learn from you and you cannot do that”. Well, if that is the market practice, then I just need to stick to it. I was still in the pause stage, trying to figure out, into which bucket do I fall. That is when I just closed that door of my baking classes, shut it down. Moved on with teaching to decorate cakes. Well those are technique based and nothing matters what I shared on it or not. Things started becoming cool and nice.

When again there was that time, I decided to give my share of gratitude to all that the wonderful facebook group, Home Bakers Guild has done to many of us. To do a series on cake decorating. Once I finished the series, some of my students asked me, “Are you not afraid, if you shared your recipes you use in the class, in a public forum, that you might not get students in the future?” Until then I never gave my mind, that thought. But I had to answer. My vague memory tells me that I said, “No I am not scared, what I teach you all here, are not just recipes. These are techniques and I am here to just make you all get it right and get it on your cake”.

I moved on. I told firmly to myself, I am not pricing my knowledge, forever. I am just pricing my physical time and effort that I put on an individual. It’s been years now and I see no reason for me to be scared of anything, for myself.

Recently now, I saw the necessity of going back to baking classes. Several bakers out there, whom I groom technically in the decorating front, I try my best to orally communicate how important it is to keep the flavor of the cake the best, before proceeding to decorate it. If not for a client, for personal understanding and knowledge, good baking skills are lagging behind, while the market of cakes is going far ahead and the basic crux of the whole point is being lost somewhere during the journey. I had to open that door I shut it down few years back. It needed a lot of courage for myself to give it a shot again. But I did stand that test of endurance. There was so much peace in my mind and I was highly elated to send out some bunch of awesome bakers with the entire skill set of all the knowledge I have acquired through rigorous self learning all these years in my cakey world.

So what is the whole story about ? The debate comes back to question. Can I share the recipes that I teach my students in my class ? Is it unfair to the students who have paid me for it ? Now, I don’t have to go back to my mentors. I have come past that phase. I do not have any mentor now. All the decisions and all the ideas that I come up with are solely my own. What my heart says, my brain executes. There was no doubt of question here at this point. I will continue to be who I was and that is who I am. Forever I will be! To not share, is not my forte. After all, I never discover things. Because these are technically not my forte. I only have to find out the right place for the right thing. It is scattered all out there. My job is to find, which one works the best for us.

So what do I have to tell my students who have personally taken the training with me. “I have grown extensively in the past years. And Bake Along has been an integral part of it. If not for it, I might not have come so much in this journey. I still owe so much back to my baby. Said that, I will continue to grow in the coming years. I will learn many new things. So if you trust me that I am teaching the same in my classes and I open up the same thing to the public, it is as much as you can trust me, several years down the line, that I will do the same justice to teaching you online of all the new things that I will come up with and that I will keep learning for myself and for you.”

Does this sound convincing enough ? Shall we move forward to actually making the Opera? Now to me, Opera means, coffee never fails. Coffee and chocolate is Divine in the form of dessert!!

Technically, Opera is layering of Almond Sponge soaked in Cognac, a brandy infused coffee syrup with coffee flavoured buttercream and chocolate ganache. It goes to one level up if there are 6 layers of the Almond sponge in total. Well you can stop that with 4 layers too. I have done it with 4 layers. This is the easiest and the simplest possible way to make Opera for your family. While you have to make it for a party which needs a larger serving, then you might have to increase the recipe, twice or even four times based on the number of servings. I love this method, which will leave you with so much bliss of having made the beast with so much ease and you wouldn’t even realize you have made the beauty until you finally cut through it. Don’t worry you will have a lot of scraps and that is the best part of its making

Components of an Opera –

  1. Almond Joconde
  2. Coffee Italian Meringue Buttercream
  3. Chocolate Ganache
  4. Cognac/Any brandy infused coffee syrup

Layers – A simple pictorial representation of what I thought is easy to understand rather than described verbally

Do not be surprised at how simple the dessert is going to turn out

Mawa cake source: MyDiverseKitchen

Ingredients:-

Almond Joconde –

  • Eggs – 4
  • Almond meal – 100 gms
  • Icing Sugar – 100 gms
  • All-purpose flour – 30 gms
  • Butter – 20 gms, melted
  • Egg whites – 45 gms
  • Salt – 1/4 tsp

Chocolate Ganache –

  • Dark Chocolate – 200 gms
  • Dairy fresh cream – 200 gms

Coffee Italian Meringue Buttercream –

  • Egg whites – 2
  • Granulated white sugar – 140 gms
  • Water – 30 ml
  • Butter 100 gms, Cold & firm
  • Vanilla extract – 1 teaspoon
  • Instant coffee powder – 1 tablespoo

Coffee syrup –,

  • Water – 1 cup
  • Sugar – 3 tablespoons
  • Instant coffee powder – 1 tablespoon
  • Cognac/Any good quality brandy – 1/4 cup

Method:

Coffee Italian Meringue Buttercream –

1. Add the whites in a stainless steel bowl.

2. Before starting to whip up the whites, add sugar and water in a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to boil on stove top on medium heat.

3. As soon as you see the sugar starts to boil, lower the flame and start beating your whites with the salt until it becomes frothy. Once it is stiff and foamy, go check on your sugar syrup.

4. It would be boiling with bigger bubbles. You need to test for soft ball stage. If you do not do this test, then your buttercream will fail.

5. To do the soft ball test, add the sugar syrup in a bowl of room temperature water. If the sugar syrup dissolves in the water, then you need to continue boiling the syrup. Test again, until you are able to roll the sugar syrup dropped into the bowl of the water. Switch off the stove.

6. Pour the sugar syrup immediately in a slow stream into the egg whites, as you continue beating the whites in medium speed.

7. Continue to beat on high speed until the bowl comes to complete room temperature.

8. Add vanilla and beat until it has been combined.

9. Add butter a little cube at a time and beat on medium speed until that cube gets incorporated. Add in all the butter a little at time. Beat until incorporated. Do not over beat.

10. If you would like a vanilla IMBC, stop just here. But now, add the instant coffee powder and beat just until combined.

11. If your butter is not cold, but in room temperature, you will have your Imbc runny at this stage. So butter cold and firm is a must. Transfer buttercream into a bowl and leave at room temperature if you will assemble your cake in few hours. Else refrigerate and thaw to room temperature completely and whisk it using a spatula before using to spread it.

Chocolate Ganache –

This is my short cut and never seen in any pastry arts form. So pardon me, but you will appreciate me instead for this

1. Add chocolate in a microwave safe bowl.

2. Microwave for 50 seconds and leave for 1 minute. Now stir until chocolate is fully melted. If you have lumps, microwave again in bursts of 20 seconds.

3. Add the cream right away into the chocolate while its still warm.

4. Mix well until chocolate and cream are combined well. Close with a lid and set aside.

This method of preparing ganache, won’t let you with a runny stage that requires to be set over night. This can be used right away or with just a 10 minute setting in room temperature. Lazy man’s method!

Coffee syrup

1. Add water and sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring it boil.

2. Once sugar has dissolved and the water starts to boil, add instant coffee powder and let boil for one more minute. Switch off stove. Add brandy/cognac and mix well. Let cool completely and chill it in refrigerator until use.

Almond Joconde –

1. Line up a baking tray with butter paper or a silicon mat. Pre-heat oven to 180 degree C. Add the almond meal and icing sugar in a food processor.

2. Process for a few seconds at a time until bigger lumps of almond meal are gone. Do not process for long. They will get sticky. Set aside.

3. Beat the egg whites in a stainless steel bowl until frothy.

4. Continue beating until foamy and stiff peaks form. Set aside, but not longer.

5. Add the eggs in another stainless steel bowl.

6. Start beating until the eggs are broken completely and combined well.

7. Add the almond meal-icing sugar powder into the beaten eggs.

8. Beat on medium speed until the almond meal-icing sugar has been incorporated well.

9. Increase the speed and continue beating for 3 to 5 minutes until the mixture becomes pale, fluffy and ribbon consistency.

10. Fold in the whipped egg whites and the all-purpose flour into the batter and use a rubber spatula to fold them in very gently. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl.

11. Add the melted butter while the batter is just 80% folded. Do not wait for the batter to be completely smooth to add in the butter.

12. Fold in gently again. But do not be scared. You will not deflate this batter. Make sure the butter is completely incorporated into the batter.

13. Transfer the batter into the prepared baking tray.

14. Use an offset metal spatula or back of a spoon to spread out the batter evenly across the baking tray and also to smooth out the top. Tap it few times and bake in pre-heated oven for 12 to 15 minutes until the top of the sponge is golden brown and is springy back to the touch.

15. Cool on wire rack.

Assembly –

1. Using a scale measure the sponge and cut them into 4 equal pieces.

2. Flip over the sponge upside down with the silicon mat/butter paper on top. By gently holding the sponge with your right hand, peel off the silicon mat/butter paper with your left. Again make sure, the 4 portions are cut properly.

3. Find a sturdy tray or a thick board on which you will assemble the cake. Cut out a butter paper a little bigger than the 1/4th of the sponge that you have just cut. Stick the butter paper to the tray with ganache. Melt some chocolate and spread it on top of the butter paper, which will be the bottom most layer just for the almond sponge to stick to the base.

4. Place the first sponge over the spread chocolate. ( I have spread it way too much outside the sponge, that is not needed, if you did a proper eye balling or some real math).

5. Use a pastry brush and liberally brush over coffee syrup on the sponge. You will be amazed at how the sponge soaks in the syrup and asks for more. So be liberal, brush as much as it takes. Stop when you think, it has soaked enough.

6. Add in half of the butter cream and spread it over completely on top of the soaked sponge using an offset spatula or back of a spoon. Make sure the layer is even.

7. Add in the second layer of the sponge on top of the buttercream.

8. Brush some liberal coffee syrup over this layer of sponge too.

9. Add in half of the ganache.

10. Spread it over evenly using an offset spatula.

11. Add in the 3rd layer of the almond sponge.

12. Soak, soak, soak it up with coffee syrup. Well, trust me, I didnt take a shot of the coffee syrup here!

13. Add all the remaining buttercream and spread it out evenly.

14. Now add in the final layer of the sponge.

15. Soak it with coffee syrup.

16. Add in all of the remaining ganache and spread it out evenly. Set in the freezer for 3 to 4 hours.

17. Heat up some water in a saucepan. Dip in knife into hot water and then cut the sides first to clean up the edges. Well these were the scraps I promised you a while back. Gobble them, feel it and I mean it!

Now continue to dip the knife in hot water, drip off excess water and make the slices with clean cuts.

I then melted some more chocolate and filled a piping bag with it and wrote the name on top of each slice . There I have also practiced a bit on the corner

Chill it back in the fridge. Keep it always refrigerated. Serve chilled. I seriously didnt have the heart to serve the slices. I wanted to admire this and it is sitting quietly in my refrigerator now. It deserves it. But probably not in all homes! So go ahead, call in for a party and let’s celebrate.

Now when it comes to making a bigger version, I said double or even make it 4 times the recipe. That way you will multiple every single ingredient with that multiple. So when you have doubled it. You will bake 2 almond sponges. Cut each sponge into just 2, still you will have 4 layers with 2 sponges. Math clear?

Now if you are going to do it 4 times, you will do 4 sponges, bake it 4 times. Here you don’t have to cut the sponges, but use each sponge as it is to layer them. This is the biggest you can do, unless you go ahead and do your own math.

If you decide to give a 6 layer, continue on top with another layer of buttercream and one more layer of ganache to finish it up. You will need 2 more layers of the almond sponge. If you would like to try with this small recipe, then you could cut that one sponge into 6 pieces rather than a 4. True, I used to like some math while I was in school and I still like maths

But now coming to the best part of the whole thing. Sense of accomplishment!! You deserve this moment!!!

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