Island Flavor

"Although I have baked hundreds of them, the genoise (pronounced jen-wah), a delicate cake flavored with sweet butter and vanilla, remains my favorite cake to make and eat. Named for Genoa, the region in Italy where it is believed to have originated, the cake was later adopted by French pastry chefs (genoise is French for Genoa). Due to its versatility, the moist sponge cake quickly became a classic in the repertoire of pastry chefs around the world - used as the foundation for petit fours and many other desserts. When baked, a genoise is the color of golden straw. Its delicate flavor can be enhanced with a variety of ingredients ranging from chocolate, coffee or nutmeg, to scented geraniums, rose water or cognac. After baking, the porous cake can be brushed lightly with your favorite liqueur. It can be sliced and layered with buttercream frosting, a fruit mousse, and many other fillings. The soft batter is formed by combining eggs and sugar, then heating the mixture over a double boiler until just warmed. The rich, syrupy mixture is beaten at high speed until the batter becomes thick like whipped cream and triples in volume. Since the air trapped in the batter is the only leavening agent, it is known as a foam cake, being closely related to sponge and angel food cakes in composition. While the eggs are whipping, melt some sweet butter and allow it to cool slightly. Sift a cup of flour and set it aside. Once the eggs have tripled in volume, the sifted flour is gradually, gently, folded into the eggs. Folding can be done with a spatula or whisk, but my favorite tool is my hand. As my fingers glide through the soft foam, I can feel when the flour has been adequately incorporated. Working quickly to retain the air bubbles, I fold in the remaining flour, then the warm butter. The golden foam hisses softly with the addition of the butter and loses some volume. The consistency of the mixture changes from a soft foam to a glossy satin batter. Lastly, I fold in vanilla. The fragrant batter is now ready to be poured in to a lightly buttered and floured pan of almost any shape or size. Baked in a shallow sheet pan, a genoise is perfect for making jellyrolls. It also works great in square or round cake tins, or spring form pans. In the oven the cake will rise gradually, turning a beautiful golden brown. You'll know when it's finished baking, as its buttery sweet scent envelopes your kitchen. My favorite way to serve a genoise is to brush it lightly with Grand Marnier while it is still warm. Sprinkle it lightly with powdered sugar and serve with a bowl of fresh peaches and raspberries. Genoise This recipe fills two 9-inch layer cake tins, one 11 X 16-inch jelly-roll pan, or one 10-inch spring form. 6 large eggs 1 cup sugar 1 cup sifted all purpose, unbleached flour 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly 1 teaspoon vanilla Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter and flour a 10-inch spring form (or other pan of choice). Whisk the eggs and sugar together in the bowl of your electric mixer. Set the bowl over a saucepan containing about two inches of hot water. The water in the pan should not touch the bowls. Heat the mixture over medium-low heat, whisking often, just until the eggs are lukewarm. Heating the eggs helps to increase their volume when whipped. Remove the bowl from the heat and beat at high speed for 10 to 15 minutes, until the batter becomes light and fluffy and triples in bulk. Using a whisk, spatula, or your hand, gradually fold the flour into the egg mixture, adding just a little at a time. Fold in the slightly cooled butter (leaving behind the milky solids at the bottom of the pan), then fold in the vanilla, being careful not to overmix. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Tap the pan firmly on the counter to release any large air pockets. Bake about 25 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and springs back when touched lightly on top. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then unmold and cool on a cake rack. If desired, brush lightly with 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier. Serve warm or at room temperature with fresh raspberries and peaches, or any of your favorite fresh fruit. "

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