if you give a pastry chef a bottle of pennington’s strawberry rye, chances are she will whip up a dessert. and if said pastry chef is feeling a little daring, she might just reinvent the classic tiramisu into something totally southern. guess what, this happened, it really, really happened! to read the entire post and see the full recipe, visit my new blog page by following this link
strawberry season sneaks up on us and does not linger; it is sensitive to the cold and it is fleeting. the berries can be quickly saturated, left waterlogged and tasteless by a day of rain. gardeners with strawberries generally keep close watch on the berries as they ripen with daily trips to the bed to gather the ripest, reddest, plumpest fruits. those that make it back to the kitchen may become any number of treats. sorbet, ice cream, jam or cake-too many choices and honestly, most are consumed as they are picked; who can resist just picked berries? not me, that is a fact.
probably my two favorite fruit pies, apple and strawberry-rhubarb. yup, this is the sort of day i would call fun. the sort of day that makes getting up at 2:40am worth the lack of sleep. the sort of day that makes working on your day off just fine. it’s true, i live to bake, absolutely love to bake, so there.
a while back, the tuesdays with dorie bakers made the savarin recipe. first we mixed up a batch of baba au rum dough. it was ridiculously easy to do-a simple yeasted cake batter was placed in a pan and allowed to rise for a brief period.
look at how light and fluffy it is, and it rose so quickly too! it baked up fast as well.
we made a simple syrup to soak the cake with. apparently, that is the key to an authentic savarin, lots of syrup soaked up by the cake.
to decorate it, lots of whipped cream and fresh berries. a classic, a true classic. i brought it to a potluck dinner, i blinked, i missed it. all i got was the dirty plate. good thing they are easy to make, if i want to try this one myself, i will have to make it again. and when i do, i’m not sharing…to see what the other bakers came up with, check out the tuesdays with dorie page.
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup nuts-your choice
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup cake flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups cake flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup strawberry preserves
preheat the oven to 350. grease and flour an 8″ square baking pan. to make the crumb topping, place all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to chop the nuts and continue pulsing until it begins to clump. don’t over do it or it will be one large clump rather than free flowing smaller lumps. set this aside while you prepare the cake.
in a small mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with 1/4 of the buttermilk and the vanilla, set aside. place the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and with the machine on low, allow it to mix to combine the ingredients. add the butter and the remaining buttermilk and mix on low to combine. scrape the bowl and turn the mixer to medium and allow it to cream until a little light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes. add the egg mixture in thirds and mix to combine. be sure to scrape the bowl. scrape half of the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top. spread the preserves evenly over the top of the cake. add the remaining batter and carefully spread it evenly over the preserves-this is a little tricky so take your time. top it all off by sprinkling the crumb mixture over the top. bake until a pick comes out clean, about an hour. allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes. turn it out and invert it onto a rack to cool completely. just before serving, dust it generously with the powdered sugar.
coconut yogurt looks a lot like regular low-fat yogurt. it has a lot of vegetable stabilizers in it to accomplish that so it is hardly an unprocessed food. the taste was more vanilla than coconut but even more surprising was just how sweet it was since it was labelled “plain.”
the fruit looks a little dry and leathery. it needs a little glaze over the top to give it a shine.
yes, another bundt cake to add to the collection. why not? there are endless possibilities and flavor combinations to try. strawberries are in season and a pink swirled bundt cake sounded like a perfect use for them.
nothing says summer like a handful of fresh picked strawberries. warm from the sun, they are juicy and sweet. picking them is like having a treasure hunt in my own garden. to find them, you must peek under the leaves of the plants and hope that the slugs and chipmunks have missed a few. strawberry season is a short affair. we enjoyed it while it lasted but i can see that we will need to add some more ever bearing plants to prolong the season.
a few notes about the cake. if you think that you will have a strongly flavored cake, think again. baking with fresh berries is tricky because of the effects on the batter that the ph balance of the berries can have. besides, the box mix cakes you may be familiar with utilize lots of artificial color and flavor to get their results. using strawberries adds a bit of flavor and a more pronounced floral note to the swirl. mainly, the color of the swirl is what you get. if you want a darker swirl, you can add a few drops of pink color, i left mine the natural shade from the berries.
my attempts to change my diet are a little hit or miss. got the cholesterol under control only to lose the vitamin d level needed for strong bones. frustrating to say the least. so, to change that, i am spending time outside in the garden during sunny hours and i am eating small amounts of dairy. one thing i won’t stop doing, eating sorbet and ice cream made without dairy products. i recently picked a bowl of strawberries from the garden and mixed up a batch of ice cream using one of david lebovitz’s recipes.
strawberry blossoms are pretty. when you look at them close up, the center of the bloom looks like a little yellow strawberry.
when you grow strawberries, it is a constant battle between you and the critters who eat them with a healthy dose of praying the rain doesn’t ruin the berries. it is also a little like treasure hunting too. each afternoon, i walk around the bed peeking under leaves in search of ripe berries.
a few notes about the recipe; strawberries soak up water like a sponge so wash them by giving them a quick dunk in a bowl of cold water and then pat them dry with paper towel to prevent waterlogging. a ripe banana will add to the creamy texture but you can omit it and increase the strawberries to a pound and a half. if you are not a coconut milk fan, use almond or hazelnut milk for a nutty flavor or switch it to rice or soy for a neutral flavor. when you puree the mix, if you leave it chunky, there will be icy bits of fruit in the finished product-the fruit freezes to a hard texture because of its high water content, i recommend a smooth puree. the added syrup and alcohol will also help prevent that rock hard frozen consistency but not much-let it soften before serving.
what’s not to love about a cake loaded with strawberries and whipped cream? i can’t think of anything. if you are smart and save the juices strained off of the macerated berries and make strawberry-basil martinis, there is even more to love. so why the frown on my face? one word-genoise. they are so finicky and temperamental to make and i did not have a good time with this one.
this weeks tuesdays with dorie-baking with julia challenge, french strawberry cake-page 273, and it is hosted by sophia of sophias sweets and allison of think, love, sleep, dine. visit their pages to read the full recipe.
first things first, genoise. it is a classic sponge cake and that should set off warning bells. now don’t go jumping out a window or running away. it is just a cake, albeit a difficult one but still a cake none the less. follow the rules and you shall have cake.
trudging along, i poured it into the pan hoping for success. after carefully folding in the flour and melted butter, the batter seemed so thin to me and you can see that it isn’t much. it came out of the oven like a rubber disk-i set about mixing up batch #2.
round 2; i over whipped the eggs and stiff peaks stood stock still rather than dissolving. i forged ahead anyway. batch #3 worked out better. since i have made genoise before, i knew i could omit the butter and still get a proper sponge cake.
the third cake had what i think was a perfect light and open crumb that you need for a proper genoise.
the key, not over or under whipping the eggs. that is a challenge and just because the recipe said to whip for 4-5 minutes, it’s not set in stone. the only way to know if you have the right consistency-check the ribbon and see how long it takes to dissolve. to get the 10 seconds, i had to whip for about 6-7 minutes.
next came the berries. i macerated them as the recipe instructed only i added a little vanilla bean and rose water to really punch up the flavor. the maceration process takes about 3 hours and is well worth it. the juices that remain after assembling the cake make awesome martinis! we made them with basil from the garden and i could have had 2 or 3 myself-luckily we ran out of the juices!!!
the whipped cream frosting is a little different; it has sour cream added to it to give it a little something, kinda like creme fraiche in a way. when i whip cream, i wrap plastic around the machine to prevent splashing.
strain the juices off by lifting the berries out with a slotted spoon. spread them over the top of the layer.
then you do it again. finally, the third layer is placed on top and the cake is frosted all over.
i think the recipe should call for the full 2 cups of cream in the carton rather than 1 1/4 cup. i didn’t have anything left to pipe rosettes with. i brought the cake to a dinner-i was lucky to get a sliver of a taste-they did give me back my dirty cake plate though…
many thanks to sophia and allison for hosting, well done ladies!
the first day of summer, or summer solstice as some call it, usually means hot weather and in that respect, we have had plenty. since it is so hot, i decided to make a fruit tart rather than heat the house up by using the oven to bake a pie. right now, markets are brimming with fresh berries of all types. for some reason, summer holidays mean truckloads of berries at almost affordable prices. why is that? in the summers of my childhood, picnics in honor of summer holidays always meant popsicles and watermelon slices-berries were for special occasions. on my last trek through the grocery store, i stocked up on strawberries and raspberries and luckily, enough survived to decorate the tart!
first step is to make a classic pastry cream. while it cools down in the fridge, you can make the tart shell. milk is heated with a vanilla bean and some sugar until it just begins to boil.
cornstarch is mixed with some milk to dissolve it and then the eggs are whisked in. classically referred to as a liason, this combination will thicken the custard filling.
while the milk heats/steeps, set a heat proof bowl, a mesh strainer and a spatula nearby to strain the custard.
once the milk reaches a slow boil, whisk a portion of the hot milk into the liason and then return the remaining milk in the pot to the heat. while whisking the boiling milk, the liason is carefully added. and whisked continually until it boils and thickens.
whisk the custard filling continually until it boils and thickens. be sure to let it boil for a full minute to cook out the starch.
once finished, pour the custard into the strainer and use the spatula to force it through the mesh into the bowl.
the reason for the strainer, all the little rubbery bits and the vanilla bean need to be removed or you will not have a creamy filling for your tart.
the simplest dough in the world!!! flour, powdered sugar and butter are pulsed in a food processor until they resemble a coarse meal. an egg yolk is added and the dough is pulsed until it comes together.
this buttery dough is so easy to work with that you can immediately press it into your tart pan-no chilling is necessary.
make sure it is evenly spread out-thin spots could cause the shell to crumble later on.
my favorite baking trick-line the shell with a large coffee filter (bribe a barista for some if you can or just use several home sized ones) and use beans or marbles as weights to prebake the crust. why a coffee filter? simple, they are designed to hold lots of weight-think about wet coffee grounds in a filter, they do not rip easily. parchment paper crumbles when it is baked, foil can cause breakage when removed from the tart and waxed paper is waxed and who wants that in the tart?
a perfect tart shell ready to be filled and decorated.
my next big secret; melt 2-3 ounces of white chocolate (or dark if you prefer) and carefully coat the bottom and the sides of the tart shell with it. this will help prevent the crust from becoming soggy. allow it to set by freezing it for 5-10 minutes then fill with the custard and decorate with the fruit.
slice the strawberries and arrange them around the edge of the tart. save the small end pieces that you cannot use and place them in the center of the tart before adding the raspberries. it’s a shame to waste the end pieces and no one will know they are there! if you must, you can seal the tart using a prepared tart glaze. in the summer months, supermarkets by me sell small tubs of fruit glaze in the produce section but stick to the peach one and dilute it-the strawberry one has too much added color. personally, i like mine naked!