Wednesday, July 27, 2011

{DBC} frasiers and [im]perfectionism

Time flies by far too quickly for my liking. Individual days seem to drag on forever, but weeks vanish in the blink of an eye.

Disconcerting. Somewhat.

The moral of the story is that I'm not looking forward to having to be a real person. I'm very much enjoying student life, and not so much the thought of applying for internships. And jobs. And financial insecurity. And bills. And no longer having free time to watch inordinate amounts of Sherlock, Doctor Who, and others in what my Netflix profile has dubbed "Suspenseful British TV Shows".

Daring Bakers' Challenges, fun and exciting as they are, are more or less constant reminders of this rather unfavorable phenomenon. I feel like as soon as I submit one, I'm already writing up a post for the next. Only 12 challenges in a year, and we've finished seven. Frightening!

But I digress. I'll not be depressing.

I like to imagine that this is endearing in a 4-year-old-attempting-to-do-something-overly-sophisticated kind of way. Like long-division.

Though, I was pretty bummed to have missed last month's challenge - baklava - because it was so unexpectedly exciting. This month we've returned to the land of custard-like layered desserts with frasiers. I, of course, don't mind the custard; in fact, I adore custards.

It's more the layering bit that irks me.

Not that it's not pretty. Or scrumptious.

Just that I'm not very good at it.

And my perfectionist tendencies instill in me a feeling of self-loathing every time I unravel them.

Practice makes perfect!

[I just...need to practice...]

Fraisiers are lovely little French desserts [they would be] consisting of sponge cakes layered with custard and sliced fruit, topped with almond paste.

Delicious, in other words.

I had Tommy over to help me out, as per always, and we had a phenomenal time. He actually came over two consecutive evenings, since the dessert requires a bit of refrigeration and we both work full-time, so we spent one prepping the cake and custard and the second layering, cooking dinner, and eating while chatting over A Study in Pink [my plan is for this obsession of mine to permeate into everyone else's life, like a hugely entertaining breed of mold (also less horrifying than this poor analogy would suggest)].

As for the recipe, I'll just copy and paste. It is pretty long and elaborate, and doing absolutely nothing mentally stimulating for the past 4 weeks has left me rather lazy.

Adapted from the Daring Bakers' July Challenge

Basic Chiffon Cake:

  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (270 ml) (5½ oz/155 gm) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) (4 gm) baking powder
  • 3/4 cups (180 ml) (6 oz /170 gm) sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) (1½ gm) salt, preferably kosher
  • 1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) vegetable oil
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon (3.17 fl oz/95 ml) water
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3¾ ml) (3 gm) lemon zest, grated
  • 5 large egg whites
  • ¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1 gm) cream of tartar

  1. Preheat the oven to moderate 325°F (160°C/gas mark 3).
  2. Line the bottom of an 8-inch (20 cm) spring form pan with parchment paper. Do not grease the sides of the pan.
  3. 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.
  4. In a small bowl combine the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and lemon zest. Whisk thoroughly.
  5. Combine with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly for about one minute, or until very smooth.
  6. Put the egg whites into a stand mixer, and beat on medium speed using a whisk attachment on a medium speed, until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Removed the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.
  10. 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.

Pastry Cream Filling:

  • 1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon (1/2 ml) (¼ gm) salt, preferably kosher
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) (10 gm)cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) (2 oz/55 gm) sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) (1 oz/30 gm) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3¾ ml) (4 gm) gelatin
  • 1/2 tablespoon (7½ ml) water
  • 1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) heavy cream

  1. 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.
  2. Meanwhile, in a stand mixer add the cornstarch and sugar. Whisk to combine
  3. Add the eggs to the sugar and cornstarch and whisk until smooth.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Remove from heat and pass through a fine mesh sieve into a large mixing bowl. Allow to cool for ten minutes stirring occasionally.
  7. Cut the butter into four pieces and whisk into the pastry cream a piece at a time until smooth.
  8. 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.
  9. In a small dish, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand for a few minutes to soften.
  10. Put two inches (55 mm) of water into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.

Simple Syrup:

You may choose to flavor the syrup. One way is to use flavored sugar (for example: apple cider sugar, orange sugar, or vanilla sugar) or to stir in 1-2 teaspoons of flavored extract. You may also infuse with herbs or spices, if desired or add four tablespoons (60 ml) of fruit juice or liqueur while the syrup is cooling.

  • 1/3 cup (2⅔ fl oz/80 ml) (2⅔ oz/75 gm) of sugar, flavored or white
  • 1/3 cup (2⅔ fl oz/80 ml) of water

  1. Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil and let the sugar dissolve. Stirring is not necessary, but will not harm the syrup.
  3. Remove the syrup from the heat and cool slightly.
  4. 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.

Fraisier Assembly:

  • 1 baked 8 inch (20 cm) chiffon cake
  • 1 recipe pastry cream filling
  • ⅓ cup (80 ml) simple syrup or flavored syrup
  • 2 lbs (900 g) strawberries
  • confectioners’ sugar for dusting
  • ½ cup (120 ml) (5 oz/140 gm) almond paste

  1. Line the sides of a 8-inch (20 cm) spring form pan with plastic wrap. Do not line the bottom of the pan.
  2. Cut the cake in half horizontally to form two layers.
  3. 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.
  4. Hull and slice in half enough strawberries to arrange around the sides of the cake pan. Place the cut side of the strawberry against the sides of the pan, point side up forming a ring.
  5. Pipe cream in-between strawberries and a thin layer across the top of the cake.
  6. Hull and quarter your remaining strawberries and place them in the middle of the cake. Cover the strawberries and entirely with the all but 1 tbsp. (15 ml) of the pastry cream.
  7. Place the second cake layer on top and moisten with the simple syrup.
  8. 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. Spread the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of pastry cream on the top of the cake and cover with the round of almond paste.
  9. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  10. To serve release the sides of the spring form pan and peel away the plastic wrap.
  11. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Despite the aesthetic imperfections, it was mouthwateringly good.

And now I'm determined to master the art of layered desserts.


In other news, Friday is my last day interning. Bittersweet goodbyes.

I'm also out of food, again. Deciding whether or not laziness will outweigh my need for dinner. Raw cookie dough is always an option. And tomatoes. It's a wonder I'm still alive.


  1. looks absolutely incredible...
    first time ur space..
    very interesting posts with excellent cliks..
    Am your happy follower now..:)
    do stop by mine sometime..
    Tasty Appetite

  2. Beautiful pictures, loved the way you decorated the top of your fraisiers!


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