Step by step

Gourmet Traveller (Australia) - - Masterclass -

1 Pre­heat oven to 160°C fan-forced (see note). Whisk 12 egg yolks with 160gm caster sugar and ½ tsp vanilla ex­tract in an elec­tric mixer on medium speed un­til very light and creamy. Trans­fer to a large bowl. 2

Clean and dry elec­tric mixer, then whisk 12 egg­whites on medium speed un­til soft peaks form. With the mixer still run­ning, grad­u­ally add 200gm caster sugar un­til in­cor­po­rated. Whisk un­til meringue is glossy and thick with firm peaks (if it’s dull and grainy, it has been over-whipped).

3 Sift 240gm plain flour over the yolk mix­ture in the bowl. Spoon all the meringue on top of the flour, then gen­tly fold in the flour and meringue all at once with a large whisk. Do this care­fully to keep the vol­ume; if you are too ag­gres­sive or the egg­white isn’t stiff enough, the mix­ture will be runny and you’ll end up with a flat sponge; you also won’t be able to pipe sponge fin­gers (see above right).

4 Gen­tly spread the sponge bat­ter evenly to 1cm thick over two 20cm x 30cm bak­ing trays lined with bak­ing pa­per (you may have some bat­ter re­main­ing). Bake the sponges, swap­ping trays half­way through cook­ing, un­til golden brown and they spring back when lightly pressed (16-20 min­utes). 5 Lift the sponges with the bak­ing pa­per from trays, flip over onto an­other sheet of bak­ing pa­per and re­move the top sheet of pa­per. Cool the sponge sheets on a wire rack. 6

Cut the sponges to the de­sired shape and size with a ser­rated knife. If you’re not us­ing the sponge straight away, store it in an air­tight con­tainer for a day or in the freezer wrapped in plas­tic wrap for a month. Thaw at room tem­per­a­ture be­fore use.

Note Fan-forced ovens are good for bak­ing sponges, with the fan help­ing to lift the sponge and giv­ing it more vol­ume; for a con­ven­tional oven, bake at 180°C.

Vari­a­tions This sponge recipe lends it­self well to ad­di­tional flavour­ings. Try warm spices such as cin­na­mon, nut­meg and star anise, or cit­rus zest, such as or­ange, le­mon and man­darin. If you’re mak­ing a layer cake, cut the lay­ers from the sponge sheets and al­ter­nate them with the fill­ing – a but­ter­cream or a gela­tine-based fill­ing for a firm set – in a metal ring or a cake tin lined with plas­tic wrap for easy un­mould­ing. Sponge is true to its name, and soaks up liq­uid eas­ily; a glug of booze is al­most a must in a tri­fle, but try brushing it with tea, Earl Grey per­haps, for some­thing dif­fer­ent.

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