One thing that I tend not to like about those big, professional pastry manuals is how formulaic they are. To make product 1, combine components A and B. To make product 2, combine components B and C. To make product 3, combine components A, B and C…and so on. It’s not that the people who write them aren’t creative, they’re simply being expedient. The vast majority of people who make desserts for a living don’t work in boutique bake shops. They work in production kitchens or hotels and simply need to produce. If you can make a reasonable tiramsu by combining components that you already have on hand, that’s going to be good enough for most people. An operation that has to retool its processes for every item it produces won’t be in business for very long, because streamlined operations are the key to profitability. That’s true for even the very best restaurants.
Still, some things are worth putting in the extra time and trouble. I don’t think it’s possible to make a good Sacher torte by using either conventional components or employing conventional mixing techniques. True, it’s easier to make a Sacher torte if you do what a lot of bakers do, simply make a standard génoise sponge cake using 25% cocoa powder, but that to me seems like a cop out (it also makes a dryer-than-average torte that requires quite a bit of cake syrup). The best Sacher torte recipes I know are strikingly unconventional from a mixing standpoint, almost inexplicable. Yet their peculiar alchemy usually yields a glittering result.
Look over the recipe below and you won’t find even a vestige of the “Big Five” mixing methods. What you’ll find instead is a strange combination of three base components: sifted flour, meringue and another concoction that can best be described as a chocolate mayonnaise. I prefer the muscle of a stand mixer when it comes to preparing the second two items on that list. However the last crucial step — the careful folding of the three of them together — requires the ginger touch of the hand. For those of you who aren’t totally sure what folding is all about, I have a tutorial on the subject under the Techniques menu to the right. Have a look-see and prepare thyself for a mixing adventure!