Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Delicious Failure

I'll be the first to admit that "failure" and "delicious" are not common pairs.  This is especially true in the culinary world, where the former conjures (at least for me) visions of soggy souffles and over-mayonaised tuna salad.  In this case, however, I am glad to report that a disappointing cake experience was rescued -with delectable results.

It all started with my desire to experience a little German culinary tradition before heading abroad.  I selected a famous, showy, and rather complex treat -the Black Forest Cake (or Schwarzwaelder Kirschtorte as it is known in Deutschland).  For those of you who aren't familiar with this majestic beauty, it is a multi-layered chocolate cake filled and frosted with a mountain of whipped cream, and cherries in thick syrup.  It is also liberally flavored with Kirsch -a cherry flavored liqueur.  My grand dreams were perhaps a little too grand -create a large and mighty dessert for three people and hope that the whipped cream doesn't melt -but I shouldered the challenge with a good deal of excitement.

The recipe was authentic -from an American-German cookbook from Frankfurt -and called for very little sugar and a large quantity of eggs.  Hallmarks, I'm told, of German baking.  So after whipping, beating, stirring, toasting, grinding, folding, and sprinkling, I had two full cake pans ready to go into the oven.  It really was a pretty labor-intensive and delicate process.  The cakes didn't look as dark and rich as I was expecting.  I learned, however, that that is another hallmark of German baking -desserts are far less rich and far far far less sweet than American ones.

So far so good.

I let the cakes cool for the specified time, and then tried to remove them.  Disaster.  No amount of wheedling, cajoling, coaxing, or bullying would make the cakes come out of their pans.  Finally in one abrupt, angry gesture, the one I was working on broke into crumbly angel-food-like pieces.

Well, when a cook's dream falls apart, there are two options.  Dissolve into a puddle of tears and scrap the whole thing or IMPROVISE.  By the title, you can probably guess which route I chose.

May I present: Black Forest Crumble:

It was pretty fantastic, if I do say so myself.  As my first-grade art teacher, Mrs. Stein always said "turn a whoops into a wahoo!"  I hope I've made her proud.

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