Friday, July 29, 2011

The Daring Bakers July 2011 Challenge: FRESH FRAISER!

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.

So...what is a Fraiser?

To put it simply "fraise" is french for strawberry hence the "Strawberry Cake". However a French Fraiser is more than a simply strawberry cake - take a light chiffon cake, split it drench it in a delicious sugar syrup maybe flavoured, fill decoratively with strawberries and a light pastry cream and finish it off with an almond paste icing. And there you have it - a French Fraisier

This challenge came in our winter with strawberries still to arrive. Luckily by mid July the first of the strawberries had arrived in the shops however they were quite pricey. I left making the Fraisier until the end of July when I was able to source some cheaper strawberries. They were large and well flavoured!

The filling was a creme patisserie of sorts with one whole egg and lots of cream.  I used delicious home made limoncello liqueur  to flavour the creme.

Chiffon cake is a delightfully light sponge which absorbs the sugar syrup beautifully! To go with the limoncello creme I made a lemon  chiffon cake using lemon juice in place of the water.
The recipe specified an 8inch (20cm) spring form cake pan but I found I only used a bit over half the cake mixture for this size pan. The remainder I bake in an angel food cake pan. When baked I support the upside down cake pan on glasses to allow the cake to hang as it cooled. (The pan is not greased so the cake can hold onto the pan). I'm not sure if this was necessary as it was not specified in the recipe but some other Daring Bakers had mentioned that the cake sank considerably after baking.  

The one half of  the cooled split cake in replaced into the clean cake pan which is line on the sides with paper and then drenched with sugar syrup. Mine was flavoured with the limoncello. And the halved
strawberries lined the edge. Fill the centre with creme and strawberries then top with the other half of cake equally drenched in syrup.

Traditionally this cake is finished off with almond paste. Not being able to find almond paste I made a simple lemon glace icing which actually complimented the cake wonderfully!

Here is the original recipe -

French Fraisier

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.

Variations to the Basic Chiffon Cake:

Lemon Chiffon Cake

Ingredient Alterations:
Reduce water to 1/4 cup (60 ml)
Add 1/8 cup (30 ml) lemon juice
Increase lemon zest to 1½ teaspoon (7½ ml) (5 gm)
Remove the vanilla from the recipe
Direction Alterations:
Follow the directions, same as above, adding the lemon juice and zest to the oil, egg yolks and water in step 4.

Orange Chiffon Cake

Ingredient Alterations:
Replace the full amount of water with orange juice
Replace lemon zest with the zest of one orange
Remove the vanilla from the recipe
Direction Alterations:
Follow the directions, same as above, adding the orange juice and zest to the oil, and egg yolks in step 4.

Coconut Chiffon Cake

Ingredient Alterations:
Add ¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1 gm) freshly ground nutmeg
Reduce oil to 1/8 cup (1 fl oz/30ml)
Reduce water to 1/8 cup (1 fl oz/30ml)
Add 1/3 cup (2 ⅔fl oz/80 ml) unsweetened coconut milk
Remove the vanilla from the recipe
Direction Alterations:
Follow the directions, same as above, adding the nutmeg to the flour mixture in step 3, and the coconut milk to the oil, water and egg yolks in step 4.

Chocolate Chiffon Cake

Ingredient Alterations:

Add 1/4 cup (60 ml) (3/4 oz/20 g) cocoa powder
Direction Alterations:
Follow the directions, same as above, adding the cocoa to the flour mixture in step 3.

Pastry Cream Filling:

Gluten Free! Vegans see the links at the end!
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:

    gluten free and vegan!
    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

This is a lovely fresh cake which I know I will make again and again. It is ideally prepared the day before you want to serve it so it's perfect for entertaining. Thank you Jana for Cherry Tea Cakes - I have a great go-to recipe when asked to bring a sweet for dessert! 


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Christmas in July

Christmas in July?

In Australia it is becoming quite fashionable to recreate Christmas in our winter to have what our cousins in the Northern hemisphere have. Chilly weather in which eating the usual Christmas fare such as turkeys, roasts and plum puddings is actually enjoyable.

Some would say it is wrong to take such a sacred day of the holy calendar out of its true and righteous place. Certainly, Christmas in July takes all that is commercialized about Christmas and celebrates that. Is it right or wrong? I'm not sure but these celebrations are building in number each year and have a dedicated following. 


This year I produced a cake for this particular occasion. I didn't want the cake to be specifically Christmas only so no holly and no Christmas greeting. Gold tipped briar roses, clusters of little red flowers and gold leaves encircle the three red candles. With a bit of red and gold ribbon tucked in here and there I finished the cake and was happy with the result.

Covered with white fondant icing the rich fruit cake underneath epitomises the luscious foods of Christmas. I know many have ditched the fruit cake in favour of chocolate mud, lemon or a multitude of other cake flavours. For this type of rolled fondant icing a fruit cake is really best. There is almost a kilogram of icing on this 8 inch cake and most cakes do not hold this weight very well.  

Over time I have come to know that the fruit cake is not well received the the US and perhaps other parts of the world as well. It is often the brunt of jokes and scorned at. (Oh, the poor fruit cake!)

A fruit cake made with quality fruit and good alcohol is delicious and appreciated in my family. Try my simple boiled fruit cake recipe and you will be surprised. But be sure to use good, dried, natural fruit not sweetened or adjusted in any way and good rum like a dark Jamaican rum. I like the Captain Morgan brand.

Boiled Fruit Cake

Boil the night before:

250g (1/2lb) butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
1kg (2lb) mixed fruit (your  choice of golden sultanas, raisins, currents, glace fruits etc)
2 teaspoons mixed spice

Boil all ingredients for 3 minutes. In the last 30 seconds add 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda. Let stand until morning or cool.

In the morning add:

4 beaten eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup self raising flour ( or 1 cup all purpose plus 2 teaspoons of baking powder)
1/2 cup rum

Mix well. Bake in a triple lined 20cm (8inch) square or round cake pan for 1 1/2 hours at 180C (350F) then 1/2 hour at 150C (300F).

Check  with a skewer that it is cooked.

Sprinkle over more rum when you take it out of the oven (maybe 1/4 cup) then wrap in a towel to cool slowly. This will ensure it will be moist. 

I hope you enjoy it .... if not just enjoy the pics of the decorated cake! 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dulce de Leche Brownies

Yes, everyone has been making them for years.  And loving them.
I instead have never found the recipe I love.

It was a case a bit like Goldilocks...
...too dry
... too sweet
...too nutty 
...too moist
...and so on.

Yeah, I'm fussy! None of the recipes really lived up to my expectations of what a brownie should be despite the huge quantities of delicious chocolate going into them.

Well, surprise, surprise! I tried this cocoa brownie often touted over the net when I need something quick to bring along to a picnic and guess what! It's brilliant! The flavour comes from cocoa. That is probably what I love. Now, don't use dutched cocoa. I really love the bitterness of natural cocoa and I think that is what makes these brownies so good.

In the words of Goldilocks....
..."aaah, this one is juuust right!"
And she ate them all up!

I have varied the original recipe by adding rum and subtituting the nuts for chocolate pieces.
For this variation I also added dulce de leche as a layer in the middle for my caramel loving nephew! They were a hit!

 Dulce de Leche is referred to in Australia as "caramel" and for many years we have been enjoying caramel tarts and slices or just eating it out of the can with a spoon. For the Dulce de Leche, in Australia you can use a can of Top Fill Caramel or simply boil a can of condensed milk for two hours completely submerged in a pot of water. Remember the part about "completely submerged" - there have been too many cans of condensed milk explosions during this process and it is not fun to clean off the ceiling! 

Dulce de Leche Brownies

140g unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup cocoa, sifted
1 tablespoon rum
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup chocolate pieces/chips
380g dulce de leche

Preheat oven to 160C and line an 8 inch/20cm square pan with baking paper. Grease well with butter or non stick cooking spray.

Melt butter then add sugar,  cocoa and salt. Allow to cool a bit if really hot. Then add rum and eggs. Finally fold in flour and chocolate pieces/chips.

Now spread half them mixture into your prepared pan. Dollop spoonfuls of dulce de leche evenly across the batter. Top with the remaining batter making sure the dulce de leche is covered.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. Really, I guess you should allow then to cool completely but a brownie is really at it's best gooey and warm even if it doesn't cut so cleanly.

If you should leave out the dulce de leche only bake your brownie for 20 to 25 minutes.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.

It was a thrill this month with Daring Bakers to learn the art of homemade phyllo! I have often made Baklava with store bought phyllo but have never even considered making my own. This was a wonderful nudge into the direction of the old arts of baking.

I have given you the original recipe we were supplied and also spoken of my variation. It was a delicious Baklava and lots of fun to make my own phyllo. 


For my syrup I simply measured equal quantities of sugar and water flavoured with a cinnamon stick and cardamom then after simmering for 20 minutes I added a two spoonfuls of orange flower water off the heat.For the syrup:

 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) honey
 1 1/4 cups (300ml) water
 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) sugar
 1 cinnamon stick
 1 (2-inch/50 mm) piece fresh citrus peel (lemon or orange work best)
 a few cloves or a pinch or ground clove

When you put your baklava in the oven start making your syrup. When you combine the two, one of them needs to be hot, I find it better when the baklava is hot and the syrup has cooled


1. Combine all ingredients in a medium pot over medium high heat. Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved
2. Boil for 10 minutes, stir occasionally.
3. Once boiled for 10 minutes remove from heat and strain cinnamon stick and lemon, allow to cool as baklava cooks

Phyllo Dough:

I doubled the quantity of pastry to achieve 22 sheets 10 x 10 inches. Really the pastry was easy to roll thinly but very time consuming - for me anyway! I think it took at least an one and a half hours to roll 22 sheets. Now I know why no one needed gyms years ago! My problem was that I mustn't have floured the sheets well enough so the last two sheets stuck and had to be rerolled - not a good idea. The dough was then very difficult to roll and that was my top two sheets on my Baklava. So definitely flour your sheets well.

1 1/3 cups (320 ml) (185 gm/6½ oz) unbleached all purpose (plain) flour
1/8 teaspoon (2/3 ml) (¾ gm) salt

1/2 cup less 1 tablespoon (105 ml) water, plus more if needed

2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough

1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) cider vinegar, (could substitute white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar, but could affect the taste)


1. In the bowl of your stand mixer combine flour and salt
2. Mix with paddle attachment
3. Combine water, oil and vinegar in a small bowl.
4. Add water & oil mixture with mixer on low speed, mix until you get a soft dough, if it appears dry add a little more water
5. Change to the dough hook and let knead approximately 10 minutes. You will end up with beautiful smooth dough. If you are kneading by hand, knead approx. 20 minutes.
6. Remove the dough from mixer and continue to knead for 2 more minutes. Pick up the dough and through it down hard on the counter a few times during the kneading process.
7. Shape the dough into a ball and lightly cover with oil
8. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest 30-90 minutes, longer is best ( I let mine rest 2 hours)

1. Unwrap your dough and cut off a chunk slightly larger then a golf ball. While you are rolling be sure to keep the other dough covered so it doesn’t dry out.
2. Be sure to flour your hands, rolling pin and counter. As you roll you will need to keep adding, don’t worry, you can’t over-flour

3. Roll out the dough a bit to flatten it out.

4. Wrap the dough around your rolling pin/dowel

5. Roll back and forth quickly with the dough remaining on the dowel
6. Rotate and repeat until it is as thin as you can it. Don’t worry if you get rips in the dough, as long as you have one perfect one for the top you will never notice.
7. When you get it as thin as you can with the rolling pin, carefully pick it up with well floured hands and stretch it on the backs of your hands as you would a pizza dough, just helps make it that much thinner. Roll out your dough until it is transparent. NOTE: you will not get it as thin as the frozen phyllo dough you purchase at the store, it is made by machine

9. Set aside on a well-floured surface. Repeat the process until your dough is used up. Between each sheet again flower well. You will not need to cover your dough with a wet cloth, as you do with boxed dough, it is moist enough that it will not try out.

Ingredients for the Filling:

I used the same nuts as the challenge recipe only in different quanities depending on how much I had. The walnuts were predominant. I used cinnamon, a pinch of cloves and a spoonful of orange flower water in the filling. I should have used more cloves. I clarified the butter as Audax recommended and added a few spoonfuls of olive oil. The syrup was just sugar and water flavoured with a cinnamon stick and cardamom then after simmering for 20 minutes I added a two spoonfuls of orange flower water off the heat.

I cooked the baklava according to the tips suggested by fellow Daring Baker Audax which is 30 minutes @ 200C, 30 minutes @ 150C, 30 minutes @ 100C then back up to 200C for colour( I didn't need the last one).

1 (5-inch/125 mm piece) cinnamon stick, broken into 2 to 3 pieces or 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (8 gm) ground cinnamon

15 to 20 whole allspice berries ( I just used a few pinches)
3/4 cup (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) blanched almonds

3/4 cup (180 ml) (155 gm/5½ oz) raw or roasted walnuts

3/4 cup (180 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) raw or roasted pistachios

2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm/ 5 1/3 oz) sugar

phyllo dough (see recipe above)

1 cup (2 sticks) (240 ml) (225g/8 oz) melted butter 

1. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.

2. Combine nuts, sugar and spices in a food processor and pulse on high until finely chopped. If you do not have a food processor chop with a sharp knife as fine as you can. Set aside

3. Trim your phyllo sheets to fit in your pan

4. Brush bottom of pan with butter and place first phyllo sheet

5. Brush the first phyllo sheet with butter and repeat approximately 5 times ending with butter. (Most recipes say more, but homemade phyllo is thicker so it's not needed)

6. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
7. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times

8. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top

9. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times
10. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
11. Continue layering and buttering phyllo 5 more times. On the top layer, make sure you have a piece of phyllo with no holes if possible, just looks better.

12. Once you have applied the top layer tuck in all the edges to give a nice appearance.

13. With a sharp knife cut your baklava in desired shapes and number of pieces. If you can't cut all the ways through don’t worry you will cut again later. A 9x9 pan cuts nicely into 30 pieces. Then brush with a generous layer of butter making sure to cover every area and edge
14. Bake for approximately 30 minutes; remove from oven and cut again this time all the way through. Continue baking for another 30 minutes. (Oven temperatures will vary, you are looking for the top to be a golden brown, take close watch yours may need more or less time in the oven)

15. When baklava is cooked remove from oven and pour the cooled (will still be warmish) syrup evenly over the top, taking care to cover all surfaces when pouring. It looks like it is a lot but over night the syrup will soak into the baklava creating a beautifully sweet and wonderfully textured baklava!
Next morning all syrup is absorbed

16. Allow to cool to room temperature. Once cooled cover and store at room temperature. Allow the baklava to sit overnight to absorb the syrup.

17. Serve at room temperature

I loved this opportunity to make the phyllo and it certainly adds crunch to the finished baklava. I'm not sure I would make homemade phyllo regularly ( although I would sure be fit and strong ) but I love knowing I can do it. I think next time I would stretch out one large rectangular sheet and roll up with the filling. Then cut into rounds.

Thank you Erica as you have taught me a new technique. These old traditional techniques will be lost if we don't continue to practice them even if we can buy good phyllo in the stores. Thank you, I have thoroughly enjoyed the process! (and the result!)