Thursday, August 13, 2009

Experiment #1: Summer Fruit Bavarian

*Note about my titles: I have labeled each section of my baking experiments as I did when I was taking chemistry lab; we were required to prepare for the labs ahead of time by writing a pre-lab and procedure so that we would know what to do when we got into lab. After the experiment was done, we would do our calculations, analysis etc., then we would have to reflect on the success of our experiment by writing a results and discussion, and a conclusion. Ask anyone that’s ever taken chemistry and they can tell you that laboratory is very time consuming! But it helped me develop some good lab skills as a chemist and I think it’s a good guide for me to learn/grow as a baker!*


The first task in starting my experiment was to pick a recipe to try; not an easy first task given the many delicious-looking treats in the book. I have the tendency to overwhelm myself with too many recipes at once, so I decided to pick the Summer Fruit Bavarian cake, which incorporates several components to keep me busy, but the end result is only one cake (good; I don’t need more than one cake in my stomach!)

I had never heard of the term Bavarian until I picked up this book but after reading it’s description as a cooked fruit-and cream or an egg-and-cream filling, I realized that I’ve probably had it sometime in my sweet-eating quests, but never knew what it was called. The cake is composed of a cake base, either a Génoise or Chiffon, the first being a French egg-based cake and the second being a lighter American cake made with lots of egg whites. Since the author Elizabeth Prueitt mentioned in her intro that she typically interviews new bakers by asking them to make a génoise and a pastry cream, I thought that I should go with the génoise (hey you never know) and of course the Pastry Cream, which is stabilized with gelatin to make the filling. I’ve never worked with gelatin before (except making Jello, if that counts), and I took it for granted what it was exactly, so I looked it up and found out that it’s a protein related to collagen (I know, that’s bio, not chemistry!)

OK so to prep for this experiment, I read the recipes for the Summer Fruit Bavarian, Génoise and the Pastry Cream. But not just reading, but actually studying and visualizing each step and trying to get myself organized for this endeavor. I looked at what equipment I needed to get, how many pints of heavy cream I would need to buy overall, and which bowls I would need to use (and when I would have to re-wash them during the process since I don’t have the luxury of having a bakery’s worth of equipment). Most importantly, I have to see what steps I need to do first (see Experimental Procedure in the next post). Funny, I do this when I’m setting up real experiments in the lab too; I have to order the right amounts of the chemicals I need and get all my equipment lined up so that they are ready to use at the time I need them. Only difference is that I can’t eat what I make in the lab. :P

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