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**