fresh strawberry cake w/ cardamom

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During my routine solitary stroll through the city (when the sun’s not out to murder me) last week, I heard an angelic voice call out from within the market “3 punnets of strawberries for 6 dollars! 3 for $6”. I instantly snapped out of my usual zombie state and charged right through the crowd in search of the source of the voice. Because. There’s no better cure for yet another failed Valentines’ Day than a mound of strawberries, right??

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After eating an entire 500g punnet plain, I thought I’d better think of a way to use up the rest before I acquire an allergic reaction à la Hummingbirdhigh. Following an extensive recipe search through my favourite blogs, I decided on Pastry Affair’s Fresh Strawberry Cake as it incorporates fresh whole strawberries into a whole wheat cake.

Btw, do I need to address the fact that the last time I blogged about food/a recipe was… almost a year ago? I can’t believe myself – someone I know in real life found out about it and I panicked and went into hibernation until now. I’ve missed rambling and taking pictures of my attempts at making edible food without fear of being judged (my readership isn’t so impressive that I have haters yet). Every view, like and follow I get still puts a smile on my face; it’s strangely comforting.

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Fresh strawberry cake w/ cardamom (I made 1 9″ round cake and 2 cakelettes)

(adapted from Pastry Affair)

100g butter, softened
147g granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
3 large egg whites (105g)
1 tsp vanilla
52g flour
105g whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cardamom pods, cracked open and seeds grinded to a powder
210ml milk
393g strawberries, washed and hulled

Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Butter and flour a 9/10-inch cake pan.

Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the egg whites and vanilla. Fold in the dry ingredients and milk alternatively starting with dry -> wet -> dry. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth the top.

Plant the strawberries cut side down into the batter, distributing them evenly throughout the cake. Sprinkle cake with roughly a tablespoon of granulated sugar. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the centre springs back when pressed lightly. Cool before slicing and serving.

strawberry shortcake

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Akin to the impossible reality that there are actual humans on this earth who do not prefer chocolate (HOW!?), my brother is physically repulsed at the mere thought of strawberries. Despite generally not being a picky eater, he would rather swallow a can of pickles than smell a strawberry. It’s pretty inexplicable to me, to say the least, as I love strawberries and love baking with them. My birthday cake last year was a Fraisier cake, not to mention strawberry shortcake has featured twice on our picnic menu.

So of course my baking debut since coming back to Australia would be a strawberry shortcake. I’ve been meaning to make one but sadly it wasn’t a good season for strawberries in Taiwan. But hey, I get to fancy it up with my newly acquired ring mould (which I’ve wanted for ages… before now I would use loose-bottomed cake tins without the base or a cardboard fence to make entremets and it never turned out nearly as neat as it did with a proper ring mold this time). And in all honesty this is not only one of the best-looking cakes I’ve made (minus the rough icing job), but one of the best tasting too with the addition of crème de fraises.

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Fancy-ish strawberry shortcake (6″)

For the genoise cake:
3 eggs
80g sugar
75g flour
20g cornflour
pinch of salt
20g milk
20g butter
dash of strawberry liqueur, optional
red food colouring (natural gel/paste preferred)

For the filling/decoration:
300g heavy cream
1~2 tbsp sugar
dash of strawberry liqueur, optional
1 pint strawberries, chopped into ~1cm cubes
1 tsp sugar

Preheat the oven to 175°C and line a 11 x 17″ (or similar) baking sheet with parchment paper. Get above a pot of simmering water (only about 1″ – so it doesn’t come into contact with the mixing bowl above it), and place a heatproof bowl (I just used my mixer bowl) with the eggs and sugar in it. Immediately start moving the eggs around whether by whisking or stirring so they don’t scramble, and continue to do this until the sugar has dissolved and the eggs at about body temperature. Whisk the now warm egg and sugar mixture to the ribbon stage, about 10 mins, then stir on low speed for another minute. Sift in the dry ingredients a third at a time, folding gently by hand after each time and stop when no more flour can be seen. Melt the butter with the milk, and combine it with about a cup of the batter. Then pour that mixture back into the main batter and fold gently from the bottom just until even. Divide the batter in two and mix the liqueur and colouring into one of them so that half the batter is plain and the other strawberry. Spoon the alternate colours onto the baking sheet, then swirl them with a finger, making sure you touch the pan as the side touching the baking paper will be on the outside. Even the top out (it doesn’t matter if the colours bleed into each other on the top) and bake for 15-20 mins or until the centre is spongy when touched.

In the meantime, prepare the bits & pieces for assembly. Whip the cream, sugar and strawberry liqueur together to soft peaks. Cover and store in the fridge until needed. Save two good-looking strawberries for decorating the top of the cake, and macerate the rest with sugar and a little liqueur if you’d like. Wait 20 minutes then drain the strawberries, saving the syrup to soak the cake with.

Cover the cake with another sheet of parchment and flip the entire thing over in the pan so as to avoid tearing the cake. Peel off the bottom parchment that was underneath the cake, flip that piece of parchment upside down so the clean side is now touching what was the underside of the cake. Trim long strips of cake with a width that is equal to the height of your ring mold, and fit around the circumference of the mold once. Remove the ring mold temporarily to brush the cake with syrup, and to use it as a guide to cut 3 circles that are slightly smaller. (There wasn’t enough for 3 full circles so my bottom layer is made up of scraps). Place the long strip back against the internal circumference of the ring mold, followed by the bottom circle of cake. Brush bottom cake layer with syrup, and spread on ~1/3 of the whipped cream, followed by scattering ~1/3 of the chopped strawberries. Repeat this twice more, except when you get to the top layer, spread the cream on even and flat, saving some for the decoration. Using a small cookie cutter as a guide, place on the remaining strawberries carefully and remove the cutter. Pipe blobs of cream around the edges and on top of them place on the strawberry wedges.

tuile sandwiches w/ strawberry ganache

IMAG0695[1]Life doesn’t get any better than free chocolate. Add that to one of the reasons why Tuesdays are ∞ better than Mondays. It was as if the goddess of replenishment took pity on my post-gross-anatomy-prac hunger and arranged for a fateful meeting between me and the lolly buffet stand.

Recall that I wanted to make Milan cookies a few days ago, I still did but was reminded of my abysmal piping skills and was sure they would not resemble the ones I so liked and would single out of engagement biscuit tins. So I went for tuiles – they can be more freeform and use more or less the same ingredients. But I still wanted to fill them up with sinfully sweet ganache, in this case a strawberry-white chocolate combo. I can’t seem to refuse this match made in heaven, of the way the tartness of the strawberries cut through the intense sweetness of white chocolate.

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I literally stuffed 10+ tuiles straight into my mouth as soon as they came out of the oven and crisped up some. How can something made only with butter, sugar, egg whites and flour taste so good!? Addictive doesn’t even cut it.

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Tuiles with strawberry-white chocolate ganache

For the tuiles:
65g butter, room temperature
118g pure icing sugar, sifted
2 (80mL) egg whites, room temperature
43g plain flour, sifted
1/2 tsp almond (or any other) extract, optional

For the ganache:
130 white chocolate
34g butter
23g cream
86g strawberry puree, sieved

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Line baking trays (I use teflon-coated baking sheets which are way cheaper than Silpats and have lasted for years).

Beat the butter until creamy then add in the sugar and beat some more on mid-high speed until white in colour. While mixing on low speed, pour in the lightly whisked egg whites little by little to emulsify completely. Then add in flavouring if desired and fold in the flour either by hand or on low speed.

Fill a piping bag with a <1cm round tip with the batter and pipe out 2cm diameter rounds, at least 3cm apart as they will spread very thinly. Bake for approx. 10 minutes or until golden all the way through (not just edges). They will be quite soft and malleable straight out of the oven, so if you like you can shape them while they’re warm. Otherwise let cool to crisp up completely before lifting them out.

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To make the ganache, melt the chocolate gently in warm water/over a bain marie/in the microwave and set aside. Boil together the cream and strawberry puree, then pour into the chocolate. Let the mixture sit for a minute then stir together to incorporate. While it’s still warm add in the butter (in small pieces) and stir to melt and combine. Let it come to room temperature to firm up to pipeable consistency and pipe/spoon it on half of the cookies. Sandwich similar sized pieces together and enjoy!

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strawberry-white chocolate éclairs

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In celebration of 3 (!!) of my classmates’ birthdays, I decided to make some long overdue choux pastry. Crisp thin shell coupled with rich creamy mousseline-like filling, what’s not to like?

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Until last year, I hadn’t had a lot of success with choux pastry. Not the actual making of it, but the baking. It would always collapse, the insides gummy and soggy, not what you’d call a picture perfect pastry. One day I accidentally left some puffs in the oven after turning it off, and when I pulled them out, dreading to see a pile of ash terribly burned puffs, they were perfect. Golden brown, hollow sound on tapping. I was ecstatic. A longer baking time was all that was required to produce these delectable treats.

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Is it weird that I always get hungry looking at gross anatomy specimens? And it’s not just me, I’ve checked. Maybe something to do with how processed muscles literally 100% resemble pulled pork. Today was the first time I held a human brain in my hands in all its slippery glory, with bonus spinal cord. Just think about it, a once alive person’s memories, all of it, preserved and sacred.

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Strawberry-white chocolate éclairs

For the choux pastry:
50g water
50g milk
50g butter
pinch of salt
1 tsp sugar
60g bread flour (for best results, but all-purpose is also fine)
2 large eggs, lightly whisked

For the strawberry-white chocolate filling:
125g strawberries, hulled & washed
20g milk
1 egg
50g caster sugar
15g cornflour
35g white chocolate, chopped finely
100g heavy cream
10g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F and line a baking tray. Measure out the ingredients for the choux beforehand and have the flour ready by the stove.

Melt the butter with milk, water, salt and sugar and bring to the boil. As soon as it starts to boil, turn off the heat and tip in all of the flour at once. Stir it in and turn the heat back on to low, work the dough vigorously so there are no flour clumps. When a thin film is formed at the bottom of the pan, turn off the heat and set it to the side to cool completely.

When the dough has cooled, beat in the eggs a little at a time. When the egg has been absorbed completely, add in more until the batter hangs off the spatula/spoon/whisk in an upside down triangle sort of shape. (i.e. neither drippy nor stiff) You may need more/less egg depending on how long the dough was cooked, so only incorporate a little at a time and check the consistency constantly.

Fill a piping bag fitted with any > 1cm tip with the batter, and pipe out any type of choux pastry you fancy. There was enough for me to make 13 smallish éclairs and 9 profiteroles.

Bake for about 20 minutes until they are golden brown and sound hollow when lightly tapped. Leave to cool completely.

In the meantime blend the strawberries with milk and sieve out the seeds straight into a pot. Whisk the egg and 50g sugar until pale and thick, then add the cornflour and whisk to incorporate. Bring the strawberry mixture to a simmer, and pour the hot liquid a little at a time into the egg mixture, whisking the latter constantly to avoid scrambling. Once all the liquid is poured from the pot, put the entire mixture back in to the pot on medium heat, whisking all the time. Let bubble for about 2 minutes (still whisking) until thick.

In a heatproof container place the chopped white chocolate, and pour in the hot strawberry pastry cream directly on top (strain the pastry cream first if lumpy). Stir until the chocolate has melted and put clingfilm directly on top of the pastry cream before putting it in the fridge to chill completely.

Whip up the cream with 10g sugar until soft peaks form, then fold it through the chilled strawberry pastry cream. Put it into a piping bag with a small tip and fill up the hollow shells. Pretend to overfill a couple and deliver straight to your mouth (I know I did). Serve the rest as soon as they’re filled.

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