Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Fresh 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.
Fraise is the French word for strawberry.  A Frasiers is a cake made with fresh strawberries and filled with pastry cream.  Making the required sponge cake was not the challenge for me.  I used my normal egg free cake recipe except that I substituted cake flour for all purpose flour to give it a lighter texture and I add a teaspoon of lemon zest.
Fresh berries are easy, all I had to do was walk out into my garden to find fresh strawberries and blueberries.
The pastry cream was the big challenge because I needed to make a dairy and egg free version.  I tried the recommended vegan recipe made with non dairy milk and starch but what I got was a very nice pudding, but hardly a pastry cream.  Next, I tried a recipe made with cashew cream.  The cashew flavor was too strong and the texture was not right either.  I’m going to use that failed recipe as a base for some homemade ice cream this weekend.  Finally, I remembered that the best non dairy whipped cream I’ve ever had was made with coconut milk so I started with a cooked base of coconut milk, sugar, vanilla and a little arrowroot powder.  This made a very light pudding.  I took another can of refrigerated coconut milk and removed the solids from the top.  It’s very important that the solid part at the top is very cold.  Then I whipped the coconut solids until I had soft peaks.  When the coconut pudding base has cooled completely I folded in the whipped coconut.  The result was a perfect coconut pastry cream.  I was a little worried that the coconut flavor would be too strong but it barely has any coconut flavor at all.  It was light in color and very creamy.

You were supposed to top the cake with a layer of almond paste but neither Mr RK or I like almond paste so I left it out.  Looking at this picture, I realize that I could have done a better job of decorating the top of the cake.  It looks a little bare, but this cake was wonderful.  I would make this again, maybe with a chocolate sponge cake, chocolate pastry cream and raspberries...

Fresh Strawberry Fraisier
Makes 8 servings - Use organic ingredients whenever possible
For the Sponge Cake:
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/4 cup sunflower, safflower or canola oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat your oven to 350°
Line the bottom of an 8” spring form pan with parchment and grease the sides.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.
In a pint measuring cup or small bowl mix together the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla.
Pour the liquids into the dry ingredients and fold gently using a rubber spatula.
Pour the batter into the spring form pan.
Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Allow the cake to cool completely.
Remove the cake from the pan and slice in half horizontally to create to thin cakes.
Wash and dry your spring form pan.
For the Pastry Cream:
2 cans full fat coconut milk (make sure it’s free of bisulfites and other chemicals)
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons arrowroot starch
I tablespoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
Put one of the cans of coconut milk in your refrigerator (do not shake it) This can be done a day ahead.
In a sauce pan, whisk together the other can of coconut milk with the sugar, starch, and vanilla.
Bring to a boil on a medium high heat, whisking continuously.
Turn the heat down to a simmer and continue to whisk the mixture until it’s thick, about 3-4 minutes. 
Turn off the heat and let the “pudding” cool completely for at least 30 minutes. 
Whisk the pudding occasionally to prevent the top from getting stiff.
Remove the can of coconut milk from your fridge and open it.
Gently remove the “cream” from the top of the can without mixing it into the “water” below.
In a bowl, whipping the coconut cream with an electric beater, with a whisk attachment if it has one, until you have soft peaks.
Gently fold the whipped cream into the pudding using a rubber spatula.
Put the finished pastry cream into your refrigerator.
For the Simple Sugar:
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan.
Bring the mixture to a boil and let the sugar dissolve. (you don’t need to stir it)
Remove the syrup from the heat and let it cool slightly.
For the Fruit:
1 basket of strawberries
handful of blueberries (optional)
Remove the stems from the strawberries and cut them in half
To Assemble the Fraisier:
Line the sides of the spring form pan with plastic wrap.
Put one of the cakes into the pan.
Brush the top of the cake with half of the simple sugar.
Line the nicest strawberries around the inside of the pan with the cut side toward the pan to form a ring.
(If you’re going to use the blueberries, put them into the cut side of the strawberry first)
Put the pastry cream into a pastry bag and pipe a thin layer over the strawberries and on the surface of the cake.
Put the remaining sliced strawberries into the center of the cake, saving some for decorating the top of the cake.
Cover the strawberries with all but two tablespoons of the remaining pastry cream.
Place the second cake on top.
Brush the remaining simple sugar on to the top of the cake.
Spread the reserved 2 tablespoons of pastry cream on top of the cake.
Refrigerate the cake for at least 4 hours.
Remove the sides of the spring form pan and gently peel off the plastic wrap.
Decorate the top of the cake with the reserved strawberries and powered sugar.
Serve immediately.  Store any uneaten cake in the refrigerator.

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