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A reminiscence of the Black Forest Gateau

A Dish Reminiscent of Black Forest Gateaux (Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte)
Incorporating an isomalt dome with a crisp and crunchy texture and honeycomb providing a crunchy and crackling texture.

By Ruth Kelly
Studying for an MSc Culinary Innovation and Food Product Development (DIT, Ireland)

Lecturers : Dr. Roisin Burke and Pauline Danaher

Note-by-note cooking was first proposed in the 1990’s by Hervé This. In an article in Scientific American (1994) he laid out the fundamental principles of Note by Note cooking. This initial article wrote about adding chemical compounds to food to improve the quality, such as adding vanilla extract (chemical compound vanillin) to cheap whiskey to add a more rounded and aged flavour. Later in 1994 continuing on from this initial idea This asked the question “Why not make foods out of compounds ?”, creating the concept of note-by-note cooking (This, 2014).
In 2009 Pierre Gagnaire became the first chef to produce an entirely note-by-note dish, known as “Note-by-Note No.1”. This was the result of This persuading Gagnaire in 2006 to pursue the idea. This assisted and advised Gagnaire prior to the dishes eventual execution, as the main obstacle with note-by-note cooking for classically trained chefs is the prospect of having to learn note-by-note cooking. The ingredient list for a note-by-note dish being more familiar to a chemist than a chef. Chefs must become familiar with chemical compounds and their numerous applications in the context of cooking.
The idea of note-by-note cooking is met with a degree of scepticism by some. A review of This’s book “Note-by-Note Cooking” by Los Angles Review of Books (2015) stated that note-by-note cooking is “a chem-lab trick that produces marvels rather than meals”. Along with this today’s trend of “clean labelling”, where by food contains natural and familiar ingredients appears to be the polar opposite of note-by-note cooking. A note-by-note dish may use ingredients such as beta carotene and tartaric acid, to those not familiar with food chemical composition these would appear as unfamiliar and perhaps harmful ingredients. The reality being that both are naturally present in numerous plants and all food is comprised of chemical compounds.
Chemophobia (the fear of chemicals) is very much present in today’s society. The rise of the internet has allowed consumers to become significantly more informed. Today anyone can publish an article online claiming the dangers of chemical ingredients in food and make misleading associations. Paracelsus a Swiss alchemist, physician and astrologer stated in his Third Defence in 1538 that “All things are poison, and nothing is without poison, the dosage alone makes it so a thing is not a poison” (Deichmann et al., 1986). This quote puts the fear of chemicals and their danger into perspective, that if you were to drink a large enough quantity of water it too can be a fatal poison !
The brief for this assignment is to create a note-by-note dish with crispiness, crunchiness, crackling taking inspiration from the quote “But the crackling is superb”. This quote is in relation to a roast loin of pork made by Nicolas Kurt (the co-founder of molecular gastronomy along with Hervé This) for a televised dinner on the BBC, where pineapple juice was used to tenderise the meat. Chef Michel Roux commented on how the tenderising worked almost too well “but the crackling is superb”. This anecdote is documented at the start of the book “But The Crackling Is Superb – An Anthology on Food and Drink by Fellows and Foreign Members of The Royal Society” (1988). Cracking in this context relates to the crispy fatty skin of roast pork. By roasting a pork joint with the skin on, the layer of fat present directly under the layer of skin remains intact. On roasting this fat will start to render causing the skin to crisp up, creating crackling. However, cracking along with crispiness and crunchiness in the literal sense can be any food that provides auditory and textural satisfaction in relation to these characteristics. This (2011) describes how research had led to the hypothesis that the physical state of crunchy materials is due to the propagation of microscopic cracks. Meaning the brief can include any dish once these features are incorporated. The final dish need not be a reimagination of literal pork crackling.
The inspiration for the note-by-note dish being prepared for this assignment is the Black Forest Gateaux. Black Forest Gateaux or Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte originates from Germany and gained immense popularity in Britain during the 1970’s (Blumenthal, 2010). Its name is not directly due to the Black Forest in Germany but more so because of Kirsch, a specialty liquor which is produced in the region. Black Forest Gateaux is comprised of layers of chocolate cake, cherries, whipped cream and Kirsch.
Chef Heston Blumenthal served Black Forest Gateaux at his restaurant “The Fat Duck”. Blumenthal then proceeded to reimagine the Black Forest Gateaux as a new dessert and featured it as part of a “Seventies Feast” (2010). It was chosen as a homage to his 70’s childhood and his love of the work of author Roald Dahl. The desert was called “The BFG and Golden Ticket” in reference to Dahl’s books “The BFG” (Big Friendly Giant) and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. BFG coincidentally sharing the same acronym as Dahl’s book. Inspired by Blumenthal’s explorations of Black Forest Gateaux it was decided to continue this exploration into a note-by-note take on Black Forest Gateaux.

Overall Aim

To create a dish reminiscent of Black Forest Gateaux using only pure compounds which incorporates elements of crispness, crunchiness and crackling.

Final Material and Methods

Isomalt Dome

(Brand- if applicable)
(Louis Francois)
Isomalt (E 953)
300 g

Sunflower Oil
Sunflower oil
15 ml
(needed for oiling of materials)

Disposable gloves
Medium sized pot
Large paper cup with a 1 cm hole in the top
Silicone baking mat
Silicone spatula
Sugar thermometer
Paring knife

Using the sunflower oil, oil the rim and outside of the paper cup.
Add isomalt to the pot.
Heat over medium heat until isomalt is completely melted (170°C on sugar thermometer), stirring occasionally with the spatula to help the process.
Pour onto silicone baking mat on a heat proof surface (a metal surface was used).
Allow to cool for 1 minute before kneading the isomalt using the mat.
Continue to knead until the isomalt is an even temperature and no longer sticks to the mat.
Wearing gloves (as the isomalt will still be hot) shape the isomalt into a flat circle with a diameter approximately 2 cm larger than the top of the paper cup and with a thickness of approximately 0.5 cm.
Use an oiled scissors to cut off any excess isomalt.
Place the oiled cup top side down onto the centre of the shaped isomalt.
Smooth the excess isomalt evenly up onto the sides of the cup.
Lift the cup with the attached isomalt up and while holding the isomalt on the sides of the cup blow through the hole on the top of the cup to create a dome shape.
When the shape is formed stop blowing and allow the isomalt to fully cool and set.
When set, heat the blade of the paring knife on a flame (the flame on a gas hob was used) and very carefully run the blade through the isomalt along the rim of the cup.
Continue heating the blade and cutting until the isomalt dome is off the top of the cup.
Store in an airtight container until plating.

Cherry Foam

Materials (brand if applicable)
Disposable piping bag
Fine paintbrush
Rubber band
Silicone spatula
Stainless steel bowl
Stand mixer (Kenwood Major) with whisk attachment

Add all of the ingredients besides the Hyfoamer and xanthan gum to the bowl.
Stir with the whisk to dissolve the sugar, citric acid and evenly disperse the gel colour and flavouring.
Add to the bowl of the stand mixer.
Sprinkle the Hyfoamer and xanthan gum over the liquid in the mixer.
Whisk on high until a foam is formed with no liquid at the bottom of the mixer bowl.
Using the extra red food colour gel paint 5 thin lines evenly spaced along the inside the piping bag from the tip to the opening.
Use the spatula to add the foam to the piping bag.
Expelling excess air at the top of the piping bag, twist the opening to close it and fasten with the rubber band. Hold as is until plating.

Cognac Honeycomb


(Brand- if applicable)
Bicarbonate of Soda
Sodium bicarbonate
5 g

Cognac Flavour
(Mallard Ferriere)
Not listed by manufacture or available online
6 drops

Gold Colouring Powder
Aluminium potassium silicate
(E 555), titanium dioxide (E 171), iron oxides (E 172).
2g (approximately)

50 g

Baking paper
Baking sheet
Fluffy dry paint brush
Medium sized pot
Paring knife

Add the sugar to the pot.
Heat the sugar over medium heat without stirring (to prevent crystallisation) but occasionally swirling the pot until all the sugar is melted and is a light caramel colour.
Add in the cognac flavour and sprinkle the bicarbonate of soda over the caramel.
Quickly whisk the mixture to disperse the bicarbonate of soda.
Pour out onto a baking paper lined baking sheet.
Allow to fully cool and set.
When set cut into geometric chunks.
Using the paint brush, brush all the exposed surfaces liberally with the gold colouring powder.
Store in an airtight container until plating.

Chocolate Sponge

Bitter Almond Flavour
(Mallard Ferriere)
Not listed by manufacture or available online
4 drops

Black Food Colour Gel
(Dr. Oetker)
Glucose syrup, sugar, water, vegetable carbon
(E 153), carrageenan,
lactic acid,
acetic acid, sodium lactate, potassium sorbate
1.5 g

Brown Dye
(Mallard Ferriere)
Not listed by manufacture or available online
5 ml

Caster Sugar
37 g

Chocolate Aroma
Aroma, inverted sugar, glycerine
(E 422)
5 ml

Corn Starch
37 g

Powered Egg White
(Louis Francois)
Powered hen’s egg albumin, xanthan gum (E 415), citric acid (E 330), triethyl citrate
(E 1505)
5 g

Soy Lecithin
Soy lecithin (E 322)
1.5 g

Sunflower Oil

Sunflower oil

4 ml

39 ml

Fine mesh sieve
Large paper cup
Microwave (Panasonic Pro II Industrial)
Silicone spatula
Stand mixer (Kenwood Major) with whisk attachment

Add the powered egg whites and 30 ml of the water the stand mixer.
Whisk on high until the mixture is cohesive and starting to aerate.
Add the sugar into the mixer and whisk until the sugar is dissolved and a glossy meringue is obtained.
Add in the black and brown food dye and briefly whisk until evenly incorporated.
Whisk the oil, remining water (9 ml) and soy lecithin together in the small bowl until the mixture is emulsified.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the emulsion, almond and chocolate flavouring using the spatula.
Gradually sift in the corn starch. Folding each addition into the meringue mix.
Fill the paper cup to 2/3 full with the mixture.
Microwave on full power for 45 seconds. (Note ; the mixture will expand significantly, then deflate slightly. The sponge is removed after approximately 5 seconds at this deflated state)
Remove the cooked sponge from the microwave, turn out onto the plate and allow to cool.
When cooled tear into small pieces to retain the rough natural texture of the sponge.


Medium sized plate
Metal spoon
Plate of any size
Smoke gun
Previously prepared elements

Place 4 honeycomb pieces and 3 sponge pieces onto the centre of the medium plate. Ensuring the isomalt dome will fit over it all.
Cut 1cm off the tip of the piping bag of cherry foam to open.
Start piping the foam onto the other plate to allow the foam to mesh with the painted food dye on the piping bag.
When the desired effect is achieved, pipe 5 mounds of appropriate sizes into the gaps between the sponge and honeycomb.
Place the isomalt dome over the dessert.
Light the smoke gun.
When smoke starts flowing out of the tubing, lift one side of the dome enough just to fit the tip of the tubing under the dome.
Allow the dome to fill with smoke.
Serve immediately. Use the metal spoon to crack the top of the dome to release the smoke, revealing the dessert.


Blumenthal, H. (2010). Heston’s Fantastical Feasts. New York : Bloomsbury, p.194.
Clarke, C. (2004). The Science of Ice Cream. Cambridge : Royal Society of Chemistry, p.49.
Deichmann, W., Henschler, D., Holmstedt, B. and Keil, G. (1986). What is there that is not poison ? A study of the Third Defense by Paracelsus. Archives of Toxicology, 58(4), pp.207-213.
Edwards, W. (2000). The Science of Sugar Confectionery. Cambridge : The Royal Society of Chemistry.
Edwards, W. (2007). The Science of Bakery Products. Cambridge : The Royal Society of Chemistry, pp.70-71.
Kurti, N. and Kurti, G. (1988). But The Crackling Is Superb – An Anthology on Food and Drink by Fellows and Foreign Members of The Royal Society. Bristol : Adam Hilger.
Kurti, N. and This-Benckhard, H. (1994). Chemistry and Physics in the Kitchen. Scientific American, 270(4), pp.66-71.
Lersch, M. (2014a) Texture - A hydrocolloid recipe collection. [e-book] pp.67. Available at : http://blog.khymos.org/recipe-collection/ [Accessed 16 Dec. 2017].
Lersch, M. (2014b) Texture - A hydrocolloid recipe collection. [e-book] pp.23. Available at : http://blog.khymos.org/recipe-collection/ [Accessed 16 Dec. 2017].
Lersch, M. (2014c) Texture - A hydrocolloid recipe collection. [e-book] pp.87. Available at : http://blog.khymos.org/recipe-collection/ [Accessed 16 Dec. 2017].
López-Alt, J. (2015). The Food Lab - Better Home Cooking Through Science. New York : W. W. Norton & Company, pp.143-147.
Low, A. (2013). Cornflour Sponge Cake Recipe by Ann Low. [online] Honest Cooking. Available at : http://honestcooking.com/cornflour-sponge-cake/). [Accessed 12 Dec. 2017].
McGee, H. (2004a). On Food and Cooking. 2nd ed. New York : Scribner, pp.660.
McGee, H. (2004b). On Food and Cooking. 2nd ed. New York : Scribner, pp.76.
McGee, H. (2004c). On Food and Cooking. 2nd ed. New York : Scribner, pp.259.
Msk-ingredients.com. (2018). Hyfoamer | MSK Specialist Ingredients. [online] Available at : http://msk-ingredients.com/hyfoamer-200g [Accessed 1 Jan. 2018].
Sift by Kara, 2014. Isomalt Fish Bowl Live Tutorial with Jessica Cruz Abstract Edible Arts ! [video online] Available at : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRsQZ4K0AKk [Accessed 18 Dec. 2017].
Sigmaaldrich.com. (2018). MSDS - 1349626. [online] Available at : https://www.sigmaaldrich.com/MSDS/MSDS/DisplayMSDSPage.do?country=IE&language=en&productNumber=1349626&brand=USP&PageToGoToURL=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.sigmaaldrich.com%2Fcatalog%2Fproduct%2Fusp%2F1349626%3Flang%3Den [Accessed 1 Jan. 2018].
This, H. (2011). Building a Meal - From Molecular Gastronomy to Culinary Constructivism. Translated from French by M. B. DeBevoise. New York : Columbia University Press, p.95.
This, H. (2014). Note-by-Note Cooking. Translated from French by M. B. DeBevoise. New York : Columbia University Press, p.22.
Wurgaft, B. (2015). Notes on “Note-by-Note” : A New Molecular Cuisine ? - Los Angeles Review of Books. [online] Los Angeles Review of Books. Available at : https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/notes-note-note-new-molecular-cuisine/#! [Accessed 18 Dec. 2017].

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