Thursday, September 24, 2009

Take Me to the Opéra

Summer is all about being lazy.

With a three-month vacation, I think I pretty much incarnated the saying. That is, until the day I made an Opera cake.

The Opéra was probably first invented by the pâtisserie Dalloyau in celebration of the Garnier Opera House in Paris, a magnificent building which is not only the place to see great ballet or opera, but also to make yummy honey--they have an apiary on the roof. Just like the building, the cake is beautiful and complicated. Sure, it's delicious and that's what ultimately counts, but it is complicated. I say "probably" invented because they all seem to want to be the founders of the Opéra out there. Lenôtre also says it's theirs. I don't really care, as long as it tastes good.

If you like coffee and chocolate, then the Opéra is for you. Oh, and a fondness for butter doesn't hurt either.

I started looking for a recipe and stumbled upon the one written by Dorie Greenspan, which seemed pretty nice to me. The only main difference with a traditional recipe is that this one omits the Grand Marnier syrup, replacing it with a coffee syrup.

The trick to a good Opéra is having all the layers in the perfect proportions. You don't want to be overwhelmed by the coffee buttercream, or have too much cake: the biscuit Joconde, as it's called in French. Now, to get this part down, you have to be meticulous.

And to be meticulous, you have to be in a good mood and ready to concentrate. See, I told you I didn't spend a completely lazy summer! Once the whole thing is assembled:

- cake layer, doused in coffee syrup
- coffee buttercream
- another syrup/cake layer
- chocolate ganache
- yet some more cake and syrup
- buttercream, again
- chocolate glaze,

you'd imagine that these many layers ends up with an American-looking over-the-top cake, and higher than a house, but it's no more than four or five centimeters high.

Once the cake was assembled, I thought I was finally done. That was before trimming it, which brought out my pent-up frustration--the ganache didn't turn out the way I wanted it to, too hard and not nearly spreadable. I guess everyone in the house sensed it, or maybe they heard me huff and puff and sigh, and maman came along to help with the trimming.

Next came the transportation. I honestly would never be able to become a professional caterer; I think my head would burst from all the stress of not dropping anything (did I mention that I'm extremely clumsy?). The beautiful Opéra was all set on its jelly roll pan, on top of some parchment paper, and ready to be brought over to my aunt and uncle's house. Obviously, we forgot one small detail. Parchment paper doesn't exactly stick to anything. Five minutes of screaming in the car every time we had to make a turn ensued, but thank goodness, the cake was sain et sauf.

Finally came the part I was waiting for: I could finally taste it.

The buttercream, ganache, cake and syrup all came together to create this wonderful creamy explosion in my mouth. The only thing is, this baby is all butter. One small piece automatically triggers the need for a sieste digestive in the hammock.

Back to lazy summer days it was.

And since laziness doesn't end with summer, here is a terrific link to the recipe from Splendid Kitchen because it really is long:

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claudia said...

looks really good..and difficult to make, Bravo!