Saturday, July 27, 2013

Fraisier (French Strawberry Cake)

Since the summer berries are in season right now, I wanted to make some type of strawberry dessert.  Also, this time I was interested in making something new instead of the old "tried and true".  I have recently been looking into a pastry cookbook and this particular recipe was one that I had remembered.

The recipe does have a lot of components, however once those have been made, the assembly goes by fast.  The recipe is made up of a sponge cake layer that is split.  The middle consists of an outer circle of sliced strawberries.  Inside is filled with whole strawberries that are covered in the crevasses and on top with a buttercream/pastry cream blend.  Then it is topped off with the other half of the cake layer and decorated with Italian meringue.

The hardest part of the recipe is gathering all the strawberries that are most consistent in size.  As you know, strawberries range from being the size of your fist to thumb size.  Since this dessert is being layered, the size is important.

adapted from Pierre Herme Pastries

Ingredients/ Cake                                            Ingredients/Pastry Cream
6 eggs                                                              3 egg yolks
5 tbs butter                                                      1 cup milk
1 cup sugar                                                      2 tbs butter (room temp)
1 3/4 cup flour                                                 1/3 cup sugar
                                                                        1/2 vanilla bean
Ingredients/ Kirsch Syrup                                3 1/2 tsp pastry cream powder
2 tsp kirsch                                                      or cornstarch
2 tsp raspberry liqueur                                     1 tbs flour
3 tbs water                                                      
3 tbs sugar                                                       Ingredients/Italian Meringue
                                                                        1/4 cup water
Ingredients/Buttercream                                  1 cup sugar
3 sticks or 1 1/2 cups butter plus 1 tbs            3 egg whites
6 tbs milk                                                        
4 egg yolks                                                       Ingredients/Mousseline Cream      
1/2 cup sugar                                                    10 cups strawberries, rinsed and hulled
1 batch of Italian meringue                               1 batch pastry cream (prev recipe)
(see previous recipe)                                         1 batch buttercream (prev recipe)

Ingredients/Less Sweet Italian Meringue
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg whites
2 tbs water

The first step in the process is making the sponge cake.  Prepare a 10 inch cake pan by buttering the interior.  Then dust with flour and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the butter in a small dish and cover then melt in the microwave.  Set aside to let cool.  Set up a double boiler system by filling a pot with water over medium high heat.  Once it starts to simmer, sit the bowl of a stand mixer over the pot.  Put the eggs and sugar in the bowl and beat with an immersion blender or mixer until it registers a temperature between 130 to 140 degrees.  Return the bowl to the stand mixer with a whisk attachment.  Whisk the mixture on high speed.  Continue to beat until the batter is cool to the touch.  The end result should be a light batter that has tripled in volume.

Set aside 2 tbs of the batter in a small bowl.  Then add the flour to the large bowl of batter in increments, gently folding until no dry streaks remain.  Blend together the 2 tbs of batter with the melted butter by using a fork.  Pour into the large bowl of batter and stir until incorporated.  Fill the prepared cake pan with the batter.  Place pan in oven and bake until cake springs back when lightly touched.  Baking time should be about 25-30 minutes.  Remove pan and invert cake onto a rack to cool.

While the cake is cooling, prepare your other components.  To create the syrup, fill a small pot with the sugar and water.   Place over medium high heat and let come to a boil.  Remove from heat and stir in the kirsch and raspberry liqueur.  Set aside to cool.

Start making the pastry cream by beating together the egg yolks, flour and pastry cream powder (or cornstarch) until smooth. This process should be completed by use of a stand mixer and bowl. Set aside.  Then take the vanilla pod and split.  Scrape out all the seeds.  Put both the pod and seeds in a small saucepan.  Add the milk and sugar.  Place the saucepan over medium high heat and stir, letting the mixture come to a boil.  Remove from heat and separate out 1/3 of the hot milk blend. Also, take out the split vanilla pod.

Prepare a cooling bath of ice water about 5 or 6 inches deep in your sink. Go back to the egg yolk mixture at the stand mixer and turn on medium high speed.  With the mixer still running, slowly pour in the 1/3 of the milk blend.  Beat for about 2 minutes to temper the eggs.  Once the mixture is tempered, pour back into the saucepan that contains the remaining milk blend. Put the empty bowl of the stand mixer upright in bath of ice water.   Take the saucepan and place over medium high heat and stir, letting the mixture come to a boil. Once it reaches the boiling point, remove the saucepan and pour the batter into the bowl that is sitting in the ice bath.  Let mixture cool to about 140 degrees.  Place bowl in the stand mixer, cut in the butter and beat until smooth.  Transfer to a small bowl and cover surface of pastry cream with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until needed.

For the Italian meringue, whisk the egg whites in a large bowl of a stand mixer until soft peaks form.  Set aside. Then heat up the sugar and water in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Let it come to a boil, watching the temperature.  Once it reaches 250 degrees, go back to the egg whites and turn the mixer on medium high speed. Continue to beat and slowly pour in a steady stream of the sugar syrup from the saucepan into the egg whites.  Turn the mixer down to medium speed and beat until meringue is cool to the touch. Set aside.

For the buttercream, an ice bath will need to be prepared again.  Using a stand mixer, beat together the egg yolks and sugar.  Set aside once the batter is light and fluffy.  Fill a saucepan with the milk and let come to a boil and remove.  Go back to the egg yolk batter and turn the mixer up to medium high.  While still beating, pour in a stream of all of the hot milk.  Return the batter to the saucepan and cook, stirring often until it reaches a temperature of 185 degrees.  Then place the saucepan of batter in the ice bath, letting sit until batter is cool to the touch.  Once cool, beat the batter with an immersion blender or small mixer for about 3 minutes.  Set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat all of the butter until the consistency becomes very smooth and creamy.  Using a wooden spoon, stir the cooled milk blend into the butter.  After completely blended, fold in the Italian meringue.

Place the bowl back in the stand mixer beat the buttercream for about 30 seconds.  With the mixer on low, blend in the cold pastry cream until the batter is smooth. This makes up the mousseline cream. 

To assemble the cake, start by trimming away the top crust of the sponge cake.  Then split in half and place the bottom half (cut side face up)in a 9 1/1 inch flan ring set over a cardboard cake round of the same size.  The cake may need to be trimmed to fit.  Once fitted, brush with half of the kirsch syrup.

Take out the hulled strawberries and slice one in half.  Place each half upright inside the ring, forming an interior circle. The stem top should be face down and the cut side facing the inside of the flan ring. Smooth one cup of the mousseline cream over the split cake inside the flan ring.  The cream should cover all exposed cake.  Then place whole strawberries, stem side down, into the center of the ring.  They should be tightly packed together and all reach the same height in the ring.  Some of your strawberries may need to be cut at the pointed end to achieve that result.  Once all the strawberries have been packed inside, fill all crevasses with the mousseline cream by using a piping tip and covering until you reach the top of the flan ring. Then place the other cake half over the cream layer and brush the top with the remaining syrup.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Make the less sweet meringue according to the same instructions as the Italian meringue.  Smooth or pipe the meringue over the cooled cake.  Removed the ring from the cake, pushing from the bottom up.  Then take a kitchen torch and toast the meringue layer on top.  Decorate the top by placing a ring of sliced strawberries in the middle.  Cake will need to be refrigerated until serving.

Notes and Tips:
1. There is a lot of mousseline cream so the pointed ends of the strawberries were not flush with the top cake layer.  For appearances, you may want to have just a layer of the cream to the point where you can still see a little bit of the pointed strawberries showing through.  If so you will have extra cream left over.

2. Should you not have a blow torch, you can achieve a quick toasting of the meringue by quickly cooking the cake under the oven broiler on high.  Watch closely-it browns quickly and remember this is to be a cold dessert. 

3. Filling of all the spaces in between the strawberries is important for the mouselline to pick up the flavor of the strawberries as well as to achieving a great look.  You do not want empty pockets of air inside.
                                     **LAST YEAR: Triple the Fudge Brownies**    

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Pecan Tassies

Pecan pie does vary quite a bit when it comes to the filling.  Some are sweeter than others and the filling can be runny or be pretty solid.  However, just like peanut brittle, there is never enough nuts there to satisfy.

These little gems turned out to be less like a pecan pie than I thought they would.  Instead of a nut topping with a filling, they were packed with pecans and the liquid filling baked up to be just enough to clump all the nuts together.  Between the taste and the size, these tarts are perfect for any get together or afternoon snack. The recipe below makes 24 tarts, 2 1/2 inches in diameter.

Pecan Tassies
adapted from The Essential Baker

Ingredients/Pastry Dough
1 cup flour
1/2 cup softened butter
3 oz softened cream cheese

3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbs dark corn syrup
1 egg
2 tbs melted butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup of pecans

For pastry dough, cream together butter and cream cheese until fluffy.  This should take about 2 minutes on medium speed using a stand mixer.  With the mixer still running, add the flour in 1/4 cup increments, beating until the mixture becomes a ball of dough.

Flatten the ball of dough, wrap in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to chill for no less than 2 hours.  Remove and let stand for about 10 minutes until it becomes flexible.  The dough should be able to be rolled easily without breaking and should not require a lot of flour.

Lightly dust 2 wax sheets of paper with flour.  Then sandwich the dough disc between the wax paper with the flour side facing the dough.  Roll until dough is 1/4 of an inch thick.  Remove the top sheet of paper and dust off excess flour from the dough.  Cut out rounds in the dough measuring 3 1/4 inches in diameter.  Keep cutting and rolling scraps until there is no longer enough dough to cut out.

Place each circle of dough in the mini tart pans. Press and shape to fit all crevasses, making sure it clings to the bottom as well as the fluted sides. Smooth off the excess dough sticking above the top edges with your fingers.   Place the pans on a baking sheet and chill in the refridgerator while you make the filling.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the nuts in a shallow foil pan or on a baking sheet.  Let nuts toast in oven for 5 minutes.  Remove and once the nuts have cooled, coarsely chop and set aside.

Fill a medium bowl with the egg, vanilla, butter and corn syrup.  Whip together with a wire whisk.  In a separate bowl, mix the sugar and salt together.  Add this dry mix to the egg mixture, whisking until completely blended. Put mixture into a container with a pouring spout.

Take out the mini tarts.  Evenly fill each one with the chopped pecans. Then pour the sugar mixture into each, dividing the liquid filling equally.

Leave the tarts on the baking sheet and place in oven to bake.  Tarts are done when filling is set and crust is a light brown.  This should take about 25-30 minutes.  Remove pans and place on rack to completely cool.

Tarts should come out of pans easily by tapping on the bottom.

Notes and Tips:
1. The tartlet pans I used were not non-stick and the instructions stated they needed to be greased.  I used a paper towel dipped in oil to grease the inside of the tart pans
2.  Even with greasing the pans, the spilling of the filling on the top edge of the tart will cause it to stick, so be careful when pouring the filling.
                       **LAST YEAR: Brown Sugar Peanut Squares**


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Fudge Swirl Cheesecake Ice Cream

Well, I guess it is official when it comes to chocolate.  There is one person at work that states they do not like the taste of chocolate.  In most people's opinion, they are really missing out on a lot of wonderful desserts.  For some, eliminating chocolate from desserts would be like eliminating water from the ocean.

Between the food allergies and the person that does not like chocolate, finding that perfect dessert that would meet with everyone's approval is not an easy task.  However, majority does rule, so there was one person that was left out of the ice cream tasting at work.

This recipe comes from a resource book that is packed with lots of frosty desserts, but this one did sound interesting.  I have seen a lot of recipes that use different dairy products in ice cream but the the choice of cream cheese is still the most appealing.

The ice cream froze up nice and hard, not like grandma's runny homemade vanilla.  The cream cheese ice cream is rich as tasty as is. However, the extra flavor and texture added with the fudge swirl and graham cracker crumbs really compliments the cream cheese.  Definitely a very sweet way to celebrate the start of summer. Makes about 1 1/4 pints with some fudge left over.

Fudge Swirl Ice Cream
adapted from 500 Ice Creams, Sorbets and Gelatos

Ingredients/Fudge Sauce
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup semi sweet choc chips

Ingredients/ Ice cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 egg yolks
4 tbs melted butter
1/2 cup graham cracker crumps
8 oz package of cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
juice and zest of 1 lemon or 3 tsp vanilla extract

For the fudge sauce, place corn syrup, brown sugar and butter in a small sauce pan.   Place over heat and let the mixture cook.  The sugar will dissolve and the mixture start to bubble.  Keep cooking until the consistency changes to a thick fudge type of consistency.

Take pan off of heat and stir in the remaining ingredients.  Stir until the chocolate melts and mixture is very smooth.  Let cool to room temperature.

To make the ice cream, start by making sure that your ice cream maker is ready.  Some require ice bags or frozen items to help keep things cool. In a medium size bowl, beat the whipping cream until thick and frothy.  Then add with egg yolks, sugar, zest,  and cream cheese. Beat ingredients together until smooth.  Pour into an ice cream maker and follow manufacturers instructions.

While that is getting cold, mix the melted butter with the graham crumbs.  When the ice cream maker process is complete, put ice cream in a storage container. Pour in the crumbs and the fudge sauce.  Then stir lightly to make sure that the flavors are mixed in just enough to make a swirl. You do not want fudge ice cream. Freeze until firm.

Notes and Tips:
1. feel free to add almonds to this recipe or eliminate the fudge and graham and use 1/2 cup of fruit (chopped strawberries, blueberries)
2. I did not use the juice and zest, just the vanilla extract but it is a great addition to use with fruit.
3. The ice cream is rich, so one serving will do for most people.  I made 2 batches for about 1 dz people.
                                **LAST YEAR: Croissant Pockets with Apricot and Brie**