Wednesday, July 27, 2011

July Daring Bakers Challenge - French Fraisiers

Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.

As I imagined putting the components of this recipe together, I struggled to see how it was all going to happen by the 27th. But, whaddaya know, today is the 27th and the cake is done, has been delivered to my dear friend Allyson (Happy Birthday Al!) and even eaten by her and her family. The nice thing about this challenge is that all of the components could be made in advance and putting it all together didn't take very long. One thing I didn't really like about this finished dessert is that the recipes included didn't make enough pastry cream (or call for enough strawberries) for me to be able to use leftovers to decorate the top of the cake. Thus, the cake itself was a little boring looking (to me). Of course, I haven't yet seen what it looked like when they cut into it.

Now, on to the recipe. The first component I made was the chiffon cake. One of my very first posts on this blog was for a chiffon cake, so some of this background may be repetitive to my regular readers. But, for the sake of you just joining, or those who want to hear it again, I'll give a background. My favorite thing about chiffon cakes is that they were created by Americans. Most cakes and cake making methods were developed by the French. Chiffon cakes became popular in the US because they were simpler to make than traditional European cakes, and they could easily be made at home. Also, they used oil instead of butter, which made them less expensive to make. (This was important in the early 1900s during the Great Depression.) Chiffon cakes were light and fluffy (due to the addition of whipped egg whites), like a genoise cake, BUT they tasted better because they used oil and egg yolks to give richness and flavor. This was a Suzie Homemaker kind of cake!

To begin, preheat the oven to 325°F and line the bottom of an 8-inch spring form pan with parchment paper. Do not grease the sides of the pan. In your mixing bowl, stir together 5.5 oz all-purpose flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 4.5 oz sugar and 1/2 tsp salt.

In another small bowl, combine 2 fl oz canola oil, 3 large egg yolks, 60 ml water, 30 ml lemon juice and 1.5 tsp lemon zest. Whisk thoroughly. Combine with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly for about one minute until very smooth.

Now, put 5 large egg whites (this will leave you with 2 yolks hanging around, find a few more and make ice cream when you are done!) into a stand mixer, and beat on medium speed until frothy. Add 1/4 tsp cream of tartar and beat on a medium until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add 1.5 oz additional sugar and beat on a medium-high speed until the whites are firm and shiny. Fold the whites into the yolk mixture until just combined. Pour into the prepared spring form pan and bake for 45-55 minutes until it passes the toothpick test. Allow the cake to cool in the pan on a wire rack. To unmold, run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake from the pan and remove the spring form sides. Invert the cake and peel off the parchment paper. Refrigerate for up to four days or freeze for a week.

I made this cake on Saturday and froze it until Tuesday.

You'll also need a simple syrup to moisten the cake during assembly. To make just enough for this cake, combine about 1/3 cup each of water and sugar, stir, then put on the stove over medium-high heat. Allow to boil so the sugar will dissolve. You can also add in flavorings like vanilla or other extracts, as well as fruit juice or liquor as the syrup is cooling. Once it's cool, you can store this in a closed container in the fridge for up to a month. (I store mine longer than that on occasion with no problems.) For this cake, I just made a simple sugar syrup, no flavorings.

To make the pastry cream mousse for the filling, pour 8 fl oz milk, 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1/8 tsp salt into a heavy saucepan and scald over medium-high heat. In another bowl, combine 2 T cornstarch with 2 oz sugar. Add to that 1 large egg and whisk until smooth. Once the milk is scalded, slowly add it to the sugar/egg mixture, while constantly whisking. Pour the entire mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat until the custard is thickened and coats the back of a spoon. (You don't want it to boil.) Remove from heat and pass through a sieve into a large mixing bowl. Cool for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add 1 oz butter cut up into small pieces. Cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent it from forming a "skin." Chill in the fridge for up to 5 days. When you are ready to assemble your Fraisier, make the mousse by first sprinkling 3/4 tsp gelatin over about 2 tsp cold water. Let it stand for a few minutes to soften. Then, remove about 2 oz of chilled pastry cream from the bowl, and place in a small metal bowl placed over a small saucepan of simmering water. Make sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the hot water. Stir the pastry cream until hot (125 F, almost too hot to touch) then add the softened gelatin and stir to mix. Remove from the water bath, and whisk in the remaining cold pastry cream in 2 batches. In a separate bowl (or stand mixer), whisk 1 cup cold cream to medium-stiff peaks. Immediately fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream.

For assembly, line the sides of your spring form pan with plastic wrap. Don't worry about lining the bottom, you won't be using it.

Place the plastic-lined spring form rim on the serving plate of your choice and then fit 1/2 of your chiffon cake layer in the bottom. (I recommend using a long serrated knife to cut your cake layer in half, but some stores do sell a tool specifically for this purpose.) Use about 1/2 of your simple syrup to thoroughly soak the bottom cake layer.

Now, using about 2 pounds of fresh strawberries, line the sides of the spring form pan with center cut slices of strawberry, pushed together around the sides with the tips pointing upward. Then, pipe a line of pastry cream mousse around the berries and in the center of the cake. Cut the remaining strawberries (may want to save a few for the top for decoration) into quarters and add to the center of your pan, on top of the thin layer of pastry cream.

Pipe more pastry cream mousse over the top of the berries to make an even layer with the tops of the strawberries lining the sides. Add your second cake layer on top then soak it with the rest of the syrup. Scoop the remaining 1-2 T pastry cream mousse on the top of the second cake layer and, on top of that, lay a custom-cut circle of almond paste (rolled out on a lightly dusted surface of confectioner's sugar). You can decorate it however you want, but you might want to have saved some of the components to do this!

Sure wish I'd gotten a cross-sectional picture or at least one of the sides!

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