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Sponge cake: the inflated king

Sponge cake is the undisputed sovereign of the bases for pastry: only three ingredients (eggs, sugar and flour) that for centuries have enchanted the palates of all Europe and beyond!

24 February 2020
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ERRE4M friends welcome to this blog about White Art! I am Enrico Gumirato and I have been given the honor of leading this space to discuss with you an Art that increasingly intrigues not only the professional world, but also the world of enthusiasts increasingly interested in enriching their theoretical knowledge and I will share and talk to you about a passion that I have been carrying on with my job as a pastry chef and teacher for more than thirty years. In this very first post we will start talking about the King of the pastry bases, a King who gives himself many arias, so much so that he is somewhat inflated! Ladies and Gentlemen ... His Majesty the Sponge Cake.

Pan di Spagn is the undisputed ruler of the pastry bases: only three ingredients (eggs, sugar and flour) that for centuries have enchanted the palates of all Europe and beyond! Inflated because it is intended, in the sponge cake, to exploit the upright power of the eggs in order to achieve a whisk literally swollen with air for an extraordinarily light, soft cake with a delicate taste.

I purposely wanted to start with Sponge Cake because it is the only base that can be served as a finished dessert. If we think about it, all the other bases: meringue, cream, puffs, puff pastry, shortcrust pastry always need an accompaniment to be "finished". The Inflated King NO! In addition to the three basic ingredients, the dessert can be enriched with various flavors: cocoa, butter, dried fruit, etc ... to obtain real desserts such as Margherita cake and all its variables, Gianduia cake, Savoy cake, Iris cakes and whoever has more has more.

The eggs

As I mentioned at the beginning of our chat, eggs are the main ingredient of Genoise, another name attributed to the sponge cake. The secret to the success of King Sponge Cake is contained in the extremely careful and correct treatment of the eggs. This irreplaceable ingredient (and I assure you it has extraordinary characteristics that I would like to deepen with you in the future) allows, if subjected to flapping, to incorporate a lot of air thanks to the proteins it contains. These egg albumin, when moved by the fast rotating movement of a whisk that heats them, manage to bind together forming a three-dimensional network capable of trapping the air that the kneading organ incorporates. The secret of good whipping is all here: correct speed and correct temperature of the eggs. 

1. Correct speed: the eggs and consequently their proteins, should not be beaten neither too slowly (this would prevent the proteins from binding and incorporating air), nor too quickly (too high speed involves the escape of air from the beat), but at a sustained speed which is equivalent to speed 3 of the electric mixer or speed 5 - 6 of the planetary mixer; 
2. Correct temperature: the eggs must not be cold from the refrigerator, otherwise the proteins would struggle to bind and create a stable mass, therefore        they must be at room temperature or heated to 40-45°C max together with the sugar, to prevent them from cooking.

Sugar

For the preparation of the whipped mass, the eggs must be mixed and worked with the sugar. Sugar has various functions: sweetener, preservative, coloring, but in the sponge cake, as well as in all whipped products, its main function is to stabilize the protein network. Yes, because the sugar dissolves (totally or partially) becomes sticky and "glues" the proteins helping them to better retain the air. 

The whipped egg and sugar will be ready when: 

1. It will have a pale yellow color 
2. It will be quadrupled in volume 
3. Turning the whisk marks the whisk 
4. The whisk takes on a creamy appearance 
5. Stopping the machine and collecting some mass with the whisk does not drip

Flour

Now the last ingredient remains: flour. The flour is used to bind the dough, it must be weak (i.e. it must contain a few 8-9g proteins per 100g of flour) and white. The flour in contact with the water of the eggs produces a very light glutinic mesh which, during the cooking phase, will be able to retain the water vapor and the air present inside the mass, facilitating the leavening of the product. The flour must always be sieved at least twice in this way it incorporates air and blends better with the whipped mass. During the addition phase, always carried out by hand and not in the mixer, mix continuously without turning the dough too much to prevent the mass from disassembling.

Flour
Cooking

Cooking

Let's now see the last phase of the preparation of the sponge cake: baking. The sponge cake is cooked in two stages: 

1. The first consists of evaporating the water from the eggs and dilating the forfeited air bubbles that cause the mass to rise. The leavening is favored by the light glutinic mesh of the flour which prevents steam and air from leaving the product, making it swell. In this phase the alveoli of the sponge cake are created and stabilized and it takes about 15/25 minutes, the time varies according to the size of the mold. At the end of the first cooking phase the sponge cake will have a light hazel color. 
2. The second phase of cooking consists in drying the sponge cake thanks to the opening of the valve, which will allow the water vapor inside the oven to exit and permanently stabilize the structure of the sponge cake making it take on the consistency of a sponge . To understand if the sponge cake is cooked, just lightly crush its surface with your fingers, if after pressing it returns to its shape, it means that it is dry; if on the other hand finger marks remain, drying is not complete. This phase lasts in 10/15 minutes depending on the size of the mold. 

The cooking temperature of the sponge cake can vary from 165 to 185°C: cooking at the first temperature we will have a drier product, with the second more moist and soft.

Cooking

Recipes

Before saying goodbye, I leave you two simple recipes for 18-20 cm mold: 

Genoese white 

150 g fresh eggs 
20 g yolk 
65 g sugar 
65 g white flour 
15 g starch 
Aroma: vanilla or grated lemon zest 10 g cocoa 

Genoese with cocoa 

100 g fresh eggs 
35 g yolk 
70 g sugar 
60 g white flour 
20 g starch 
Aroma: vanilla

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