I had been looking forward to this Daring Bakers challenge with great anticipation all month long. Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenged us to make Fresh Fraisiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine. Fraisiers are one of those desserts I have always admired in the windows of pastry shops, but never dreamed of attempting at home. I was eager for the challenge, and for the notch in my pastry belt.
A fraisier is traditionally made with strawberries, however, we were given the option to experiment with our fruit selections. Since the recipe called for an almond paste layer, the most obvious fruit selection to me were peaches, glorious peaches! I love the flavor pairing of peach and almond, and if you add a few blueberries for color, you have yourself a delicious and beautiful fraisier.
Chiffon is such a wonderful, light cake. If you whip up your egg whites properly and fold them in with great care, you are in for a real treat. As a cake decorator, I find chiffon cakes to be an excellent medium to work with. They absorb a simple syrup with ease and compliment a wide variety of fillings and frosting. Another big plus is that they can be served right out of the refrigerator. Since they are made using oil and not butter, there is no need to allow them to come to room temperature since the oil does not firm up in the fridge.
It is essential to have a rock solid pastry cream recipe in your baking repertoire. It is a pastry staple that can be used in anything from banana cream pie, to cake filling to eclairs. This particular recipe calls for fewer eggs than most resulting in a less rich pastry cream. For me, the flavor is wonderful in this cake. It is a delicious compliment to the fresh fruit and lighter than air chiffon cake. It is a keeper in my book, and one that will be used often.
I love almonds in almost every form. However, I recognize that not everyone shares my love of this nut (yes, I know they are not technically nuts). If you are making this for a gathering and you are not sure if you have any almond haters in the bunch, I would suggest omitting the almond paste altogether. Instead, you could spread a layer of fruit preserve or puree, and it would be equally as delicious.
Plain and simple, this was my kind of dessert. I am only moderately ashamed to admit that I could eat this cake in its entirety and for days on end. It is that good. It is light and the flavors work so well together. The best part about this cake though is its versatility. Just about any fruit would work in this recipe. You could also get a little crazy and use a flavored simple syrup or an alternative chiffon cake flavor. The options are plentiful, and I plan to try them all :)
Thanks to Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes and my fellow Daring Bakers for a wonderful challenge.
Jaime @ The Great Cake Company
FRESH FRUIT FRAISIER
Recipe adapted from Tartine by Elisabeth M Prueitt and Chad Robertson
FOR THE CAKE
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5½ oz or155 gm) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, preferably kosher
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large egg yolks
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
5 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Preheat the oven to moderate 325°F (160°C/gas mark 3). Line the bottom of an 8-inch (20 cm) spring form pan with parchment paper. Do not grease the sides of the pan.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. Add in all but 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) of sugar, and all of the salt. Stir to combine.
In a small bowl combine the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and lemon zest. Whisk thoroughly. Combine with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly for about one minute, or until very smooth.
In a separate bowl, whip your egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Add cream of tartar and continue beating on a medium speed until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining sugar and beat on a medium-high speed until the whites hold firm and form shiny peaks.
Using a grease free rubber spatula, scoop about ⅓ of the whites into the yolk mixture and fold in gently. Gently fold in the remaining whites just until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and allow 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 in an air tight container.
FOR THE PASTRY CREAM FILLING
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt, preferably kosher
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon (4 gm) gelatin
1/2 tablespoon water
1 cup heavy cream
Pour the milk, vanilla, and salt into a heavy sauce pan. Place over medium-high heat and scald, bringing it to a near boiling point. Stir occasionally.
Meanwhile, in a stand mixer add the cornstarch and sugar. Whisk to combine. Add the eggs to the sugar and cornstarch and whisk until smooth.
When the milk is ready, gently and slowly while the stand mixer is whisking, pour the heated milk down the side of the bowl into the egg mixture.Pour the mixture back into the warm pot and continue to cook over a medium heat until the custard is thick, just about to boil and coats the back of a spoon
Remove from heat and pass through a fine mesh sieve into a large mixing bowl. Allow to cool for ten minutes stirring occasionally. Cut the butter into four pieces and whisk into the pastry cream a piece at a time until smooth
Cover the cream with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap onto the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for up to five days
In a small dish, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand for a few minutes to soften
Put two inches (55 mm) of water into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat.
Measure 1/4 cup (2 oz/60 ml) of the chilled pastry cream into a small stainless steel bowl that will sit across the sauce pan with the simmering water, without touching the water.
Heat the cream until it is 120 F (48.8 C). Add the gelatin and whisk until smooth. Remove from the water bath, and whisk the remaining cold pastry cream in to incorporate in two batches.
In a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Immediately fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream with a rubber spatula.
FOR THE SIMPLE SYRUP1/3 cup of sugar, flavored or white
1/3 cup of water
*optional flavoring (flavored sugars, herbs or spices, 1-2 tsp extract, or up to 4 tablespoons of liqueur or fruit juice)
Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the syrup from the heat and cool slightly. Add any optional flavorings. Transfer syrup to a lidded container or jar that can be stored in the refrigerator. Simple syrup can be stored for up to one month.
ASSEMBLY OF THE FRAISIERLine the sides of a 8-inch (20 cm) spring form pan with plastic wrap. Do NOT line the bottom of the pan.
Cut the cake in half horizontally to form two layers. Fit the bottom layer into the prepared spring form pan. Moisten the layer evenly with the simple syrup. When the cake has absorbed enough syrup to resemble a squishy sponge, you have enough.
Wash and slice enough fresh fruit to arrange around the sides of the cake pan. Place the cut side of the fruit against the sides of the pan forming a ring. Pipe cream in between fruit and a thin layer across the top of the cake. Wash and slice your remaining fruit and place them in the middle of the cake. Cover entirely with all but about 1 tablespoon of the pastry cream. Place the second cake layer on top and moisten with the simple syrup.
Lightly dust a work surface with confectioners' sugar and roll out the almond paste to a 10-inch (25 cm) round 1/16 inch (1.5 mm) thick. Trim almond paste to fit top of cake (I used a 7" cake pan as my guide to cut clean circle). Spread the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of pastry cream on the top of the cake and cover with the round of almond paste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours until set.
To serve release the sides of the spring form pan and peel away the plastic wrap. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.