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.