This was my first month participating in the Daring Bakers Challenge, so you can only imagine how I felt when I got access to the secret forum July 1st and found out that the challenge was a 'Fresh Fraisier', something I had never even heard of. 'Oh no' I thought, I'm in wayyyyy over my head! Google Image Search to the rescue and a big sigh of relief... I can do this! It turns out that a Fraisier is simply a traditional French strawberry (putting the 'fraise' in fraisier) cake with exposed fruit in the creamy centre and a thin layer of almond paste or marzipan on the top.
My Fraisier version is a hybrid of the recipes Jana provided us and the Strawberry Cream Pie from the Complete America's Test Kitchen Tv Show Cookbook 2001-2011. The cake is ATK, the syrup is Jana's and the filling is modified from Jana's a slight bit. The end result was FANTASTIC!!!! I skipped the almond paste on top, mainly out of laziness as I just couldn't bring myself to go shopping the beautiful day I put the cake together :) The timing of this challenge was perfect as our Annapolis Valley strawberries were just coming out when I made this earlier in the month. I was itching to share this recipe earlier, while the fresh local berries were available, but rules are rules :)
My Annapolis Valley Strawberry Harvest Fraisier
Adapted from and Inspired by Tartine and Complete America's Test Kitchen Tv Show Cookbook 2001-2011
You will need:
1 chiffon cake, cooled and cut into 2 even layers (can be made night before)
1 recipe simple syrup (can be made night before, or earlier)
1 recipe pastry cream (can partially be made night before, or earlier)
1 quart fresh strawberries, washed and hulled (save some unhulled for garnish)
Icing sugar for dusting
1 1/4 cup (5 ounces) cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
5 large eggs (2 whole and 3 separated), room temperature
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 tbsp water
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Butter and flour a 9" springform pan, line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and set aside (sides of pan need to be at least 2 inches high).
Using a whisk, mix together all dry ingredients, except for 3 tbsp of the sugar, take that and set it aside. Whisk in the 2 whole eggs and the 3 yolks along with the melted butter, water and vanilla. Continue whisking until the batter is smooth.
In stand mixer with whisk attached, beat the 3 egg whites on medium-low speed until frothy, about a minute. While you continue beating the whites, slowing add in the reserved 3 tbsp of sugar and increase the speed to medium high and beat until soft peaks form, between 1 to 2 minutes.
Stir 1/3 of the whites into the batter and then add the remaining whites and gently fold them in until no streaks remain. Scrape batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with an offset spatula. Gently tap the pan 2 or 3 times on the counter (gently, remember it is a springform :) ) and bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes (may take upwards of 40, however my oven is pretty slow as you know and the cake was done at 30).
Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack and remove the parchment, then flip it back over and let the cake cool completely on the rack (at least 2 hours).
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup white sugar
In a small saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil until all the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let the syrup cool slightly and then store in the fridge until ready to use.
Pastry Cream/Mousse Filling
1 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg and 1 egg yolk
3 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 tsp unflavoured gelatin
1 1/2 tbsp water
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
In a medium saucepan combine the whole milk, vanilla and salt and scald over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. While the milk mixture is coming to temperature, whisk together the egg, egg yolk, sugar and cornstarch until well mixed and the eggs turn a light buttery yellow. When the milk is scalded, remove from heat and pour it very slowly into the egg mixture, down the side of the bowl, whisking the entire time. This will temper the eggs so that they do not cook too fast and scramble. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and put back on medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and can coat the back of a spoon, do not let the mixture come to a full boil. Remove from heat and pass the pastry cream through a fine mesh sieve into a large mixing bowl. Allow to cool for ten minutes stirring occasionally. Whisk the butter into the pastry cream, one tbsp at a time until smooth. Cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap onto the top of it to prevent a skin from forming. At this point you can chill the mixture 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. In the top of a double boiler, add 1/4 of the pastry cream and the softened gelatin and heat until it reaches 120 degrees (48.8 celcius), which is warm enough to get the gelatin to set up. Remove from heat. Whisk half of the remaining pastry cream into the gelatin mixture and then all of that into the remaining pastry cream.
In a stand mixer, using whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream until medium stiff peaks form. Fold immediately into the pastry cream and put into a large pastry bag fitted with a large round tip and pop it in the fridge while you get the strawberries ready to assemble the cake.
Assembling the Fraisier (at least 4 hours before serving time)
Make a ring of parchment paper and fit it into the outside ring of the springform pan you used to bake the cake (I used plastic wrap for this step and wished I hadn't when I tried to unmould the cake), it's okay for the ring to go higher than the pan, it is just used to get a nice clean outside edge. Put the springform ring with parchment liner directly onto your cake plate or stand (it's much easier to do this than to move the finished cake, provided you have room for your cake stand in the fridge). Put the bottom layer of the cake into the bottomless springform ring (directly on the cake plate) and brush with half (or slightly less) of the simple syrup. Then take your prettiest berries and cut them in half lengthwise and make as row around the outside of the cake, pointy side up (as shown in my photos), trying to keep them as tight as possible. Don't use huge berries for this part, as you might not have enough cream to cover them if you do. Once you have the ring of berries in place, pipe a thin layer of cream on the bottom of the cake (spreading it out with an offset spatula) and between the berries going up the side. Quarter the remaining berries and spread them evenly over the bottom layer. Then pipe the remaining pastry cream on top of the strawberries and smooth the top with an offset spatula. You should have enough cream to bring the level to to the top of the berries going around the cake or just slightly above. Place the top layer of cake on top of the berries and cream and brush with the remaining syrup (again, you might have some left if you think the cake is spongy enough). Cover with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. I recommend popping it into the freezer for 5 or 10 minutes right before unmoulding.
When set, release the springform pan and gently peel the parchment away revealing your beautifully layered Fraisier and dust it liberally with icing sugar and garnish with fresh berries. Refrigerate until ready to serve, and then re-dust with more icing sugar. I recommend eating this the day it is put together, although we had two slices survive until the next evening and they were still fabulous!
Phew!!! That was awesome! I can't wait to play around with this recipe and turn it into something very untraditional, with flavored cakes, syrups and even different fruits.