It has been ages since I made a Princess Torte, actually many moons ago for a friend’s little princess 8th birthday. Although not difficult, it is a mini production of its own, the sort of cake that I could see the Daring Bakers attempt one month.
I know it’s really Spring when strawberry season starts around here. I think I could live on strawberries alone until the end of June! I almost did on Sunday actually. We went to friends' house for brunch and as we were talking outside on their patio, I dawned on me that it was also the weekend of the Strawberry Festival when strawberry picking really kicks off. We hopped in the car and loaded our baskets! I have already baked a couple of things with local strawberries I got both there and at the farmer’s market but in the meantime I wanted to share these Strawberry Charlottes.
As you can guess, the little bit of fun we had today with our friends was extremely welcome. I have to say, with last Sunday I am loving how such good weekends are giving me so much energy during the week. Welcome Spring!! Sorry Jen…we are not making snow angels in the snow but rolling in wild flowers. I keep filling the house with all sorts of buds and flowers that I find in the wood across the house. Bailey also makes sure that the ones from the florist are as tasty as the ones on his morning walks.
I made the Strawberry Charlottes a few weeks ago but did not get to post them until today. I have become so OCD about backing up text and picture files for the book that I did not realize I was backing up a bunch in the wrong folder including these. They were so good that I was getting a little sad knowing I would not have much time to make them again soon, until I looked under the "house stuff" folder. Why did I file them there, I don’t know…Actually I do and it scares me a bit so close to being another year old..
I am getting mushy brains for sure. No, it’s not that I am losing it but I notice that my focus is so tense on the thing I am working on at a particular time than anything that does not relate to that is relegated to a dark part of my brain. My inner dialogue goes something like this these days "Phone bill? What phone bill? Keys? Where the heck did I last see them? Speaking of which…where are my dogs?"
All day today I wished I still had a couple of these to share at brunch. I got inspired one more time by Japanese Pastry Chef, Hidemi Sugino who captured the essence of charlottes as my grandparents and their parents before them would have had them. Before people started using ladyfingers to build the charlottes, the most usual way to make them was actually to line your mold with day old bread and let the juice and moisture from your feeling permeates the layers to make them soft. Times have changed but Sugino had a recipe in one of his books using that idea which I interpreted my way by using angel food cake that I had leftover instead of bread. The filling is a simple vanilla pastry cream. Simple, clean, delicious…
Strawberries and Vanilla Charlottes Recipe:
Makes 4 to 6
Note: for this recipe I used cake that I had already baked just to eat as is, that’s why it’s made only for 4 to 6 cakes. Angel food cake gets its name from the quantity of egg whites used. Homemade beats store bough, hands down and it makes a lot to share with friends. Freeze the yolks for a later use or make custards, puddings, ice creams, creme brulee, etc…You can use pound cake, yogurt cake, day old bread, like an uncut loaf of pullman bread, etc…Since I was talking about leftovers, I still felt it was courtesy to give the recipe for angel food cake.
For the Angel Food Cake:
18 egg whites
1 pinch salt
1 1/2 (300gr)cups sugar
1 cup (140gr)cake flour, unsifted
1/2 cup (60gr)confectioners' sugar, unsifted
1 teaspoon lemon zest
For the Pastry Cream:
½ vanilla bean
1 cup (250ml) whole milk
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons (25gr) sugar
2 tablespoons (16gr) cornstarch
1/2 pound to 1 pound (250gr to 500gr) strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle.
Sift together the cake flour and confectioners sugar together. Reserve.
In an stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or with hand held beaters), whip egg whites with a pinch of salt until foamy (think cotton candy). Gradually add sugar while beating, and continue to beat until very stiff (think shaving cream).
Carefully fold the egg whites into the reserved flour mixture along with the lemon zest. Pour into a 10 inch tube pan lightly spray with cooking spray.
Bake for 45 minutes. Remove it from the oven and invert the pan and set it over a longneck bottle (water or wine). It is necessary to invert the pan when making angel food cake because while it cools, the weight of the cake is enough to collapse it if you let it sit on the counter top. Upside-down, the weight of the cake will keep the cake tall. Release the cake from the pan when it is completely cooled. Cut four to six 2-inches thick slices. Place a 3-inch cookie cutter on a slice of bread, insert and run a knife around the cutter to form one cake base. Hollow out each cake with a spoon or melon baler. Repeat for the other slices. Place the powdered sugar on a large plate and roll the cakes in it. Reserve.
Make the pastry cream: on a flat surface, cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds from the pod.
In a medium saucepan, combine the milk and vanilla bean seeds and pods over medium high heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer.
In the meantime, whisk together the egg and the egg yolk with the sugar and cornstarch.
Once the milk mixture is hot, remove the pod and slowly pour it over the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from curdling. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan over medium low and cook whisking constantly until the mixture thickens to a thick pudding like consistency. Transfer to a container. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the cream to prevent a skin from forming and let cool completely before using. Fill the cavities of each reserved cake. Decorate with the strawberry slices.
Eclairs With Chocolate Pastry Cream and Chocolate Glaze. Sprinkle of crushed Chikki (Indian Praline)
I wanted to write this post for our Daring Bakers challenge last night and started doing other stuff instead and I have just now gotten home from working a small party with Old Chef. I am exhausted and what happens when I am tired and need to focus is that I tend to make phrases and rhymes out of everything, like for our challenge this month, Pierre Herme’s Chocolate Eclairs: "Pierre, your eclairs, c’est du tonnerre. Soyons clairs, j’en suis fiere…" (does not sound that great translated but it basically reads that the eclairs were great!). I made the eclairs as written by our hosts but then played around a bit witht the eclairs and kept some of the pate a choux to make religieuses and cream puffs for a later post (without rhymes then, promise).
Indeed, Meeta and Tony made a great choice by going with Pierre Herme’s Chocolate Eclairs. Does PH really needs an introduction? I think not…He is pretty darn remarkable, not only by his creations but by his excellent timing and the excellence of the teams he puts together. I even But you see I have what the French call "un coeur d’artichaud", a heart like an artichoke…with many leaves for many people. So yes I like to look at and read Herme, but also Michalak, Aoki Bau, Glacier, Felder, and of course our favorite Zen Chef…And yes, B. knows and he is ok with it, except that PH had some serious shoes to fill regarding eclairs. Me? Never met an eclair I did not like so I was pretty happy to try a new recipe.
Pate a Choux for the eclairs – Chocolate sauce used in the chocolate glaze
It often starts with the egg….and ends with chocolate… giving the American icon Baker’s chocolate a go and the result was surprisingly very good and smooth.
A little story there…real short this time (humhum): a couple of years ago when we went home to France to see my family for Christmas, we left the chaos of family fun for a little two-day escapade in downtown Paris. On our way back we stopped at La Maison Du Chocolat and selected some delicious pastries to share with my parents. B. could not wait for after dinner and bought one single dark chocolate eclairs to have on the train ride back. When we split that one eclair, the world around us magically evaporated. No noise, no rocking from the train against the tracks, no little lady telling her grandchild to please sit down 5 times every 2 minutes, no brouhaha from kids playing with their little Christmas toys. We looked at each other and exclaimed at the same time with our mouths full "oh my god…this is incredible…" We did not even feel the stares of the people on the train. When we noticed them, we looked as guilty as if we had been caught up in a passionate moment of affection!
I often promised B. I’d try to make them as good as that one from La Maison du Chocolat but I never did. I knew that no matter how close I’d come or even if I were to succeed, there would always be something missing: Christmas, Paris and a train ride…. However, Pierre Herme’s eclairs got pretty darn close…very close if you kept the recipe given by our hosts as written: eclair shells, bittersweet pastry cream and bitter sweet chocolate glaze. That is a lot of chocolate, eggs, sugar, cream, butter heavens all spread throughout the Daring Bakers world!
Rose pastry cream, poured fondant and raspberry….add a lychee and it is a PH’s Ispahan eclair…
I did the full batch of doug but divided the pastry cream: half the pastry cream was chocolate trying to re-capture that elusive eclair described above. I did top some of the chocolate eclairs with some crushed Chikki (Hi Bina!). Inspired by PH’s Ispahan creations, I added rose water to the other half and made a poured fondant for the glaze. A poured fondant starts with a sugar syrup brought to high temperature then cooled dwon then whipped to a firm consistency. Once you have that block of fondant, you add some simple syrup and warm it up to pouring consistency. Why not do powdered sugar and water and call it a day? First, knowing your hot syrups is always a good thing…kidding (well, almost) but essentially this poured fondant is not as sweet as a simple glaze, goes on smooth and dries well, allowing you to stack, pack and transport those eclairs and pastries with ease….yes even if they only make it to your mouth! I borrowed The decoration for the second batch is inspired by Michalak and his book "C’est du gateau!" I love the picture in it and the smarts that went into it.
Allright…you need a recipe and I need sleep…
Most mornings I only have coffee for breakfasts except last week! Eclairs instead!
Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough. All recipes below from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 eclairs)
½ cup (125g) whole milk
½ cup (125g) water
1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
¼ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature
In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to theboil.Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to mediumand start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth. Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time,beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time youhave added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted itshould fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.
Notes: Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately. You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined bakingsheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C), bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes.
Chocolate Pastry Cream
2 cups (500g) whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 tbsp (75g) sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.
Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.
Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.
Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.
Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.
Notes:The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.
(makes 1 cup or 300g)
1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature
In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.
Notes: If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.
It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.
(makes 1½ cups or 525 g)
4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup (250 g) water
½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
1/3 cup (70 g) sugar
Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.
It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.
Notes: You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using.
This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.
For a great poured fondant recipe with step by step pictures, check out this post.
Allright before I get on to this dessert and explain this post title, I guess I should answer the question "So….who won the giveaway?". First off, I need to tell you that I surely did not expect such an incredible turnout…Wow! Ya’ll love cookies!! At the time of the drawing after midnight 478 had stopped by! I almost fell off my chair! I am sorry I only have one cookie cutter to offer as a prize and because of that I have decided to draw a second winner for a cookbook I went to pick up at my favourite antique books shop. It is called "Tested By Time – A Collection of Charleston Recipe", and I am sure it will find a good home among one of you.
I have read and jotted down everybody’s name with an appropriate number attached to it because there were a few duplicates in the comment box and I wanted to be absolutely fair. So…. "a." is the lucky recipient of the Brigitte-Keks cookie cutter and Kim from My Plate, My World will receive the cookbook. If you both can contact me with your mailing address, I can get these on to you a.s.a.p (my email address is in my profile page). Congratulation!
Last thing, I have received numerous emails on how to get the cookie cutter in the US and other parts of the world. I got mine through a lady in France organizing a group order and my mom advanced the Euros for me. The company that makes is Stadter . I am thinking that if we all send them an email maybe they will think about expanding their retail map. I also know that it is available through Amazon Germany and since Amazon France seems to deliver pretty easily to the US, it might be worth it to see if the German branch will do the same.
UPDATE: a reader just emailed me saying that the company will ship individually for about 15 euros a set or or they will ship a large order to one person and give a discount on the cost of the cookie imprinter as well as shipping. As much as I would love to help more, I cannot, at this time, become the person organizing such a thing and hope that another blogger will step forward and do that. The contact info is Christoph Reermann at info AT coolinarium DOT de
On to today’s post…. All day long I thought about the many ways I could approach it so it is without fireworks or parade that I come to wish all my friends and family back home a Happy 14th of July. I still don’t call it Bastille Day, not that I am a royalist but even French people don’t call it Bastille Day. I had never hears that phrase until I moved to the US to tell you the truth! Just like the English Channel is not called that in France either…but that is a story for another time!
I know what my family is doing today, they are watching the parade on the television (don’t miss the videos here and here ) and having a nice barbecue with a good glass of wine, just like these folks. To see the young culinary students preparing the Gala Dinner, click here. I come from a military family in France, all corps represented so we watch the parade and I have got to tell you….it is both rather impressive and beautiful even if you don’t care for the military, a nice organized ballets of men, horses, even firefighters and policemen are included…basically if you were a uniform you’re in! I miss that, I miss the fireworks on the lawn of the town hall, I miss holding my cousins' hands, scared of the noise and mesmerized by the lights. I miss meeting my friends behind the church to share the only bottle of very cheap wine we could afford before getting back to the family supper. I miss sitting out on the terrace and listening to my uncles tempers veering red as they start discussing politics.
That’s all…I miss it…but I am not making a big deal about it because I had my fireworks last week with my friends here and my husband. There is a whole French contingent meeting tomorrow for dinner and celebrating in town but I won’t be there. Main reason being that the group is not really my age so their idea of fun French music is little bit more antiquated than mine and too often I find that the conversations turn to how much they wish they were back home. I am not saying I don’t but I am here now. Everybody is different and I am not criticizing how people deal with being far away from home. I find that I did better by immersing myself in the here and now. That’s how I operate everyday to make the distance with my family easier. I am having a blast here and I know it will be hard to leave when/if we decide to go back to my native Provence. When I moved here I had no car, no debt, no bills, still studying for a job and everything I had fit in two suitcases, if I were to move now…Oh geez, I can’t even start to think about it!!
I am comfortable here, I love discovering this country, the people and everything that is crazy, insane or very cool about it. One thing I love about the US is that you can reinvent yourself fifty times over if you want to, much like the dessert I made us to celebrate the 14th of July, berries and cream. You can change the orders of the berries to suit your fancy or to celebrate both countries. B' glass will be red, white and blue and mine blue, white and red because in spite of having the same colors on our flags (I love that!) we nonetheless call them out differently…got to keep that little difference, you know?!! Mallory, this one is for you, to soothe your France withdrawals! Once you have the pastry cream done, it is more a method than a recipe depending on how big your glasses or dishes are, how much fruit you want in each, etc… There are many different recipes for pastry cream, I just happen to have the one given below ingrained in my brain from the restaurant so it is easy to make on a whim. I am working on combining two versions that I love and tonight I think I got it right…although I can’t tell you about it yet, 3 words came to mind when I tasted it: bowl, spoon, alone!
2 cups/ 500ml whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, cut open down the middle, seeded
1/4 tsp of salt
4 tablespoons of cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Heat the milk, vanilla seeds and salt in a pan and put over medium heat, and bring to a boil. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the sugar, cornstarch and eggs until smooth. Slowly add 1/2 of the milk mixture into the egg and whisk constantly to temper them. Add the remaining milk and return the whole thing to the saucepan. Cook over medium heat until it comes to a boil or until you get a thick consistency, whisking non-stop. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap, directly touching the cream, poke holes in the plastic with a knife or skewer, let cool completely.
3 cups diced strawberries
3 cups blueberries, fresh if possible
Layer the cream and the berries as you wish…..Et Voila!
I also need to tell you about the one of the Bastille Day presents I got over the weekend. A couple of weeks ago I started openly telling Fifi how much I love her painting style and with Carol they are my absolute must read blogs when I get up (beside food ones)…I close my eyes and I am in one of their fabulous paintings! Well, Fifi offered to create a Silhouette for Tartelette and all I had to do was give her some directions for colors and tools…bowl, whisk, hair wild to the wind, polka dots,…and today SassyTartey was born so she’s right up there on the sidebar and in my profile page. Thank you so much Fifi! You made my day!
I am a sucker for cream puffs….really I am…and strawberries and of course pastry cream because well, it is like eating berries on a cloud of cream and a pillowy puff. Yes, I know, I am often called a hopeless romantic or a dreamer, sometimes a combination of both. As long as I can remember I was the one hording the "choux" at every wedding back home. The "Piece Montee" (Constructed Piece), also known as a Croquembouche was for a long time the traditional wedding cake in France (and still is), with the American ones being the "new kid on the block" so to speak. I would take my little plate and usually wait for everybody to forget me and come back to take chunks out of the nougatine base and decorations, some caramel and of course a few extra choux.
I don’t know why but as a child I kept other "choux" related items very separate. I was like person who does not like her/his vegetables to touch the meat which in turn should not touch the corn. Aside from the "wedding choux" having its special place in my heart, I was a complete devout to "chouquettes" and "Religieuses". Each had a purpose: a wedding, an afternoon snack, and a Sunday dessert. It was not until years later when I became old enough to handle a rolling pin and a whisk that I started making "Puffs" just for fun, and fill them just for fun, and discover many years later that this little bite of heaven is my favorite to bake and eat. There is something absolutely liberating about biting into the crusty puff and to find my lips covered in cream, as well my fingers because it started oozing out from the side. Now you tell me if this isn’t heaven? Well, all things considered because this is a food blog peeps!!
Keeping with the not so child related idea, I got giddy about Mike's Strawberry Seduction event and I knew I had to pair my love for strawberry with my love for "choux". I made rather large so I could fill them with plenty of Grand Marnier Mousseline cream (pastry cream lightened with whipped cream) and strawberries. Mr. Tartelette, also known as B. called them "Strawberry Shortcakes crack" one night and tonight they were called "Zee Strawberry Cream Puff". They reminded me of one other favorite desserts of mine, the Tarte Tropezienne, but in the end we just called them plain "good"…
For the Choux:
85 gr all purpose flour
75 ml milk
65 gr butter
1 Tb sugar
1/8 tsp salt
Sift the flour and set aside. Heat the water, milk, butter and salt to a full rolling boil, so that the fat is not just floating on the top but is dispersed throughout the liquid. Stir the flour into the liquid with a heavy wooden spoon, adding it as fast as it can be absorbed. Avoid adding it all at once or it will form clumps. Cook, stirring constantly and breaking up the lumps if necessary, by pressing them against the side of the pan with the back of the spoon until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer the dough to a mixer bowl. Let the paste cool slightly so that the eggs will not cook when they are added. You can add and stir the eggs by hand but it requires some elbow grease. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, using the paddle attachment on low or medium speed. The dough should have the consistency of thick mayonnaise. Transfer the dough to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip (I use Ateco #809). Pipe big rounds on a parchment paper lined baking sheet,sprinkle them with pearl sugar and bake at 350F for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Split the choux in half.
For the Grand Marnier Mousseline:
zest of one orange
3 egg yolks
25 gr cornstarch
115 gr butter, cut into small chunks
30ml Grand Marnier
1 tsp gelatin and 1 TB water
120ml heavy cream
1-2 cups of fresh strawberries, sliced
Sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Let stand until ready to incorporate into the pastry cream. Bring the milk to a boil with the orange zest. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch until pale. Slowly pour the milk over it: add with a small amount to temper the eggs and make sure all your ingredients incorporate smoothly and them continue to add the rest of the milk. Return the whole thing over medium heat and cook until thick for about 5-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the butter and the Grand Marnier. In a microwave, dissolve the gelatin for 15 seconds. Quickly mix into the pastry cream. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap (make it touch the cream so it does not let a skin form on top) and refrigerate until cold.
Whip the cream to stiff peaks and gently fold it in the pastry cream. Pour into a piping bag and divide among the choux. arrange some strawberry slices over the cream and put the hats back on (the picture below makes me think of the Smurfs). Serve within the hour. If you plan to serve this later, assemble it at the last minute so the choux don’t get soggy.
Since we are in the seduction theme, I would like to dedicate this post to the only Cream Puff I really love: Ivonne. I never got to thank you properly for seducing me with this wonderful cake and it is about time I did. You were on my mind the whole time I was putting these together!