First off, I am sorry that my posts have been so far and in-between. I have not neglected you my dedicated and very loved peeps! The heat index here has been near and over 120°F so the last thing I have been wanting to do is cook or bake. Also, this month just flew by and before I knew it my phone was beeping at me telling me that the Daring Bakers challenge was due in a few days and I lucked out with this weekend off of work, so I set to it.
Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make French frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine. The challenge was to make all the elements to this dish, in the shape of a freestanding cake with distinctive layers. I had made a version of a similar cake before. My Japanese Christmas Cake, which was amazing, I loved and wanted to make again, so honestly I was not afraid of this challenge like I was with the baklava.
I wanted to do something different and since we had all the freedom to do as we wished so I went with a very simple but fantastic combination of almond, strawberry, and white chocolate. This combination ended up being light, a nice combinations of textures, and the flavor was amazing. Don’t get me wrong, this sounds and was fairly simple but there are many steps required to complete the dish. Most can be made a day in advanced, so that takes some of the time and issues out of assembly which does take a little patience.
What I was really excited about was this gave me the opportunity to use my new kitchen gadget; a stick blender with 3 attachments, a processor, whisk, and hand blender. This is seriously the best thing I have ever owned and I am so happy to have it. For those who have limited kitchen counter space I highly recommend one, it is just wonderful.
One last thing in this post I also wanted to share with you is how many of my recipes come to pass. I still have black and white Composition books that I write and sketch plating ideas in, and recipe measurements. I found a bunch of the note books at the store one day on sale for $0.87. I have two of four filled now, with recipes that all look similar to this.
See, this is what my original recipe/post looked like, now aren’t you glad I cleaned it up and hopefully made sense out of it for you? I sit and watch tv, mostly things like Futurama and Bones so many times I can almost quote it, and write out ideas for recipes with little sketches. With my iPhone, a bottle of water, my favorite pen (blue ink only), notebook, bad penmanship, horrible spelling, and dodgy little sketches of what I want my food to look like in the end, I set out on my cooking adventures to share with all you wonderful people.
Almond Sponge Cake
- 1/2 c finely ground toasted almonds *see directions*
- 1/2 c flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 4 eggs, separated
- 3/4 c sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract or paste
- 1 tsp almond extract
- Take 1 cup of whole raw unsalted almonds and toast in the oven until crisp and firm at 400°F for 10-12 minutes, tossing in the pan every 3 minutes.
- While the nuts are toasting, prepare your spring form pan. An 8″ or 9″ work best. Very lightly grease and line the base with parchment.
- Once the nuts are crisp and toasted, set aside to cool and prepare the rest of your ingredients, by splitting the eggs into yolks and whites in two separate medium size bowls. Leave your oven at the current set temperature.
- In your food processor grind the almonds until a very fine meal, add in the salt and flour and pulse until well combined. Sift the mixture into a bowl. Any part of the mixture that doesn’t sift without forcing through put back in the processor and repeat until you have 1 cup of the flour/almond mixture. Once that is measured out and complete set aside.
- In the bowl with your egg yolks add in the sugar and whisk until tripled in volume and a very pale yellow color. Mix in your extracts. Now, slowly sift your flour into the egg yolk mixture folding in gently. Set aside.
- Prepare your egg whites to a soft peak stage. You don’t want to take the egg whites too far past a soft peak. This will give them room to rise appropriately in the oven.
- Stir in a spoonful of the meringue into the egg yolk mixture to lighten and then fold in 1/2 of the remaining whites gently until combined and then fold in the remaining whites until well combined. Be very careful when folding in the whites, use a whisk if you’re afraid to over or under fold, this allows air to remain in the mixture. Never tap your bowl on the counter or whisk on the bowl, this will deflate the aerated mixture.
- Pour into your prepared spring form pan and bake 18-22 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack completely before removing from the pan.
- Once the cake is completely cool, remove from the spring form pan gently and then very carefully slice in half to give you two 1/2″-3/4″ layers. Set aside, if not using immediately wrap the cooled cakes in cling film until ready for use.
- 1/2 c sugar
- 1/4 c water
- 1/4 c Amaretto
In a small sauce pan bring to a boil and set aside to cool until ready for use.
White Chocolate Amaretto Ganache
- 1 1/4 c heavy cream
- 14 oz white chocolate, chopped roughly, good quality
- 2 tbsp Amaretto
- In a medium microwaveable bowl add the chopped white chocolate and amaretto.
- In a small saucepan bring the heavy cream up to a simmer, and pour over the chocolate.
- Let it set for a two minutes, then stir gently from the center to the outer edges of the bowl. If needed, microwave in 10 second intervals until the mixture is completely smooth. Let the mixture cool completely before use.
- 2 pints of fresh strawberries, divided
- 1/2 c sugar
- 2 tbsp + 2 tsp water, Cold
- 1 package gelatin, divided
- Remove the stems of both pints of berries, and divide one pint of the strawberries into two portions. You will use one of the half portions to make the coulis, set the rest of the strawberries(pint and a half) aside for further use.
- The divided section you are going to use, cut the strawberries in half or quarters depending on size. Try and get them all uniform. Put the strawberries, sugar and two tablespoons of water into a small sauce pan and bring up to a boil.
- In a small cup add 2 tsp of cold water. Open the gelatin packet and remove 1 tsp. Add the tsp of gelatin to the cold water. Reserve the remainder of the packet for later use.
- Once the berries come up to a boil, place in the blender and puree until smooth. While on a slow blend, carefully remove the cap and slowly pour in the gelatin mixture into the warm/hot coulis.
- Pour the mixture through a sieve into a small bowl to remove any seeds and set aside to cool.
White Chocolate Mousse, egg-less
- 2 c heavy cream, chilled well
- 3/4 of the prepared White Chocolate Amaretto Ganache recipe from above
- 1 tbsp cold water
- Remaining packet of gelatin from coulis recipe above
*Do not make this until you are ready to assemble the cake*
- In a cup add the remaining gelatin in the package from the coulis recipe to 1 tablespoon of cold water and stir until dissolved. Let set for 10 minutes. Place in microwave for 10 seconds until warm, and stir until completely smooth and clear.
- In a bowl divide the prepared white chocolate ganache into. One bowl should contain 3/4 of the mixture while another contains 1/4 of the mixture. Set the 1/4 mixture aside.
- In the bowl that contains 3/4 of the ganache slowly whisk in the gelatin until well combined. Make sure you pour in slowly while whisking constantly to avoid getting lumps.
- In the bowl of your stand mixture, whisk the cream on medium high until just starting to reach the soft peak stage, turn down to medium speed and slowly drizzle in the ganache gelatin mixture. Keep whisking until medium peaks form, and the mixture is firm but spreadable.
Above Recipes prepared: Almond Sponge Cake, Amaretto Syrup, Strawberry Coulis, White Chocolate Mousse, White Chocolate Ganache, 1 1/2 pints Strawberries (washed, stems removed, and sliced in half top to bottom)
Items needed: Angled spatula, and a 8″ or 9″ spring form pan, sides lined with a 5″ high strip of wax paper with a length two inches longer then the pan is around. I found the easiest way to measure the sides, is to wrap a piece of kitchen twine around the outside of the pan, overlapping slightly no more then 1-2″. Lay the string over a length of parchment to match the length of the string and be 5″ high. Line the inside of the sides of the pan with the parchment and tape closed on the outside of the parchment/inside of the pan
You should have the lined spring-form pan in front of you and all the prepared items around you.
- Place one of the layers of sponge in the bottom of your pan, press down gently to level and fit snugly.
- Brush the top of the sponge generously with the syrup.
- Layer the strawberries on top of the sponge, line the outside withe the flat side of the cut strawberries facing out, and side by side. Once you have the berries lining the pan. Fill the space with the remaining berries.
- Spoon the mousse gently into the pan to cover the berries, with the angled spatula gently push the sides to fill in all the spaces between the berries.
- Brush one side of the last layer of sponge with syrup, and place in the pan on top of the mousse syrup side down. Press gently but firmly down to level out and ensure the mousse gets in any free and open space.
- Brush the now top side of the sponge with the syrup. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Pour the Remaining Ganache onto the top layer of sponge and with the angled spatula spread evenly over the cake. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Pour the Strawberry Coulis over the top of the ganache and with the angled spatula spread evenly over the top. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours
- To remove the cake from the pan, unbuckle the sides and gently lift off the cake.
- Remove the tape from the parchment and very slowly and gently peel off the cake. You should be able to see all the layers now lovely and delicate.
- Decorate the top with fresh cream and fresh sliced strawberries.
Whew! You’re done! Now stand back and admire what you’ve created. Serve to amazed friends and family. Refrigerate any unserved portions of cake.