Strawberry Shortcakes Franco-American Style

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I just love seeing what the next recipes will be for us to bake each month!  This one I knew immediately would be perfect for part 1 of our Father’s Day celebration as my parents are “official tasters” and I know they love strawberry shortcake…so we aren’t going out on a limb or anything. :) The recipe says these are called shortcakes for lack of a truer name.  They are a hybrid of part French, part American…with resulting shortcakes that are biscuit like-ladyfingers.  The word ladyfingers scared me a bit…a little too close to my failed Cardinal Slice that was part ladyfinger…the most delicate of the batters.  I did notice right away the recipe and temperature seemed different so I was hopeful…wary, but hopeful!

I made the ladyfingers the day before I needed them since the recipe says they could be made ahead of time….basically three steps:

  • Draw 12-3 in circles on parchment paper and flip
  • Prepare the ladyfinger batter…the most nerve wracking part of the whole process…and like I have said before, I just don’t like hearing the air escape as you so delicately fold.  I know I was a little less thorough folding because of my previous experience and since the recipe stated it was ok to see some egg white, meringue in the mixture :)
  • Then, pipe the discs starting in the center and dust twice with powdered sugar at two intervals while they rest.  Bake until golden…about 8 min.

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IMG_2879I have to say these smelled delicious while they were baking.  I ever so carefully pealed them from the parchment after they cooled and stored them until the next day. Yay, they seemed to be a success!! :)

For the filling, we had two options:  use only macerated berries or if you want to elevate your shortcakes to a whole different level, add roasted strawberries as well. So of course, I went the roasted strawberry route since none of us had ever had them.

I went ahead and prepared the two different strawberries just prior to assembling the shortcakes.  I followed Dorie’s suggestion and filled the inside of the first layer with a circle of cream and filled it with the roasted strawberries, put the top layer and covered with macerated strawberries and more cream.  Wow, these are a showy dessert!

To make a long story short…the reviews…there were 8 of us sharing these 6 shortcakes and the overwhelming reaction was they were simply delicious.  People had strong opinions about the roasted strawberries being added in though…a few LOVED them, a few LIKED them, one didn’t much care for them, and one…me, HATED them.   It was kind of funny…the general consensus was…we have SUCH delicious strawberries here in Southern California it is hard to make a plain, or slightly sugared strawberry taste any better than just that.  The roasting was kind of like taking the natural “strawberry” and making it taste more like strawberries in a jam.  All in all, a keeper for sure…just probably plain, sugared strawberries next time haha!

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Chocolate Cranberry Brownies

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Busy times here at our house…we had two kids move back from school for the summer…with much more than what they left with!!… our first college graduation (YAY)…that was a quick four years, graduation party, and left the next day for a family vacation before our college graduate began her full time job…phew!  All fun but what an exhausting two weeks.

Since we were traveling I had to sit out the fruit foccacia but I will have to tell you all, I did make the Nutella Buttons and Limoncello Cupcakes again for the graduation party and they were a huge success!  Those are great recipes!

This week’s recipe was “Chocolate Cherry Brownies” which gave the option for dried cranberries in place of the cherries…I went the cranberry route.  Personally, I was thinking why mess with a good brownie recipe by adding fruit into it but that is just me. :)  My fruit dessert loving tasters were all over this one….and they loved it.

This is a simple, straight forward, one bowl type of recipe.  It is worth noting I added an additional 8 min to the cooking time and still wonder if they were slightly undercooked.  They turned out like a brownie but slightly fudge-like.  Like I said earlier, I wasn’t too hip on adding cranberries to the brownie but I have to admit it was way better than I thought it would be.  I actually ate it and thought it was good…would I prefer a plain one, yes but this was good.

Rhubarb Upside-Down Brown Sugar Cake

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There are many, many things I have learned through my 3+ years of baking with Tuesdays with Dorie, but this recipe makes me remember one of the more funny ones…what is rhubarb and where do I find it!!  I remember the first time we baked with it, long ago, I had to ask the produce guy at Sprouts what it was and where I could find it.  This time I was much more confident…at least with locating it. :)

This is a rather easy recipe…especially considering the one we just tried out…Cardinal Slice!!  Two steps really…prepare the rhubarb and mix up the batter.  I think the hardest part was not wanting to overcook the rhubarb in the sugar since the recipe said “it can be a little tricky…heat it too much, and you’ll get mush, so keep an eye on it and be gentle when you toss and turn the fruit”.

All in all, the recipe came together with no problems but I think half of my tasters were underwhelmed with this one.  A few LOVED it but it was not a universal feeling.  I am thinking it was the rhubarb…I guess we are not a “rhubarb loving group”…maybe with an apple topping it would have gone over better since everyone thought the cake part was great.  Can’t love them all…but the fun is in the trying and a bonus when you do!

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Cardinal Slice

What is Cardinal Slice you say?… it is a “supremely elegant cake; long and rectangular and served in stand-up slices”  It is comprised of three main parts, each equally difficult to manage which makes this a challenging recipe…but hey I was up for the challenge!

The recipe consists of making three main parts:

  1. The Couleur/The Cream
  2. The Meringue
  3. The Sponge Batter

The Couleur is a syrupy extract of deeply caramelized sugar and espresso.  We were to caramelize the sugar spot by spot..which means as the sugar melts you sprinkle  a little more sugar over it.  The book tells us, “the sugar will smoke..lots; be really, really dark, really; and look foamy”.  Interesting.  This syrup was then to be added to our whipped cream as the layers in-between our cake.

I took on the task:

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Like any recipe, for the first try you only have the recipe to guide you…based on the recipe descriptions I thought I had succeeded, but that was just not the case.  My “Couleur” did not remain a syrupy mixture but rather stiff.  I even warmed it up slightly when trying to mix it in with the whipped cream and no luck whatsoever!  Super disappointing…as was this whole recipe.

The next step was to make the meringue and pipe it in three long lines along parchment paper in a jelly roll pan…leaving room to pipe the sponge batter in-between.  You then use the remaining meringue and mix it into the new sponge batter you cream with more eggs and yolks.  Then you use the same method and pipe the sponge batter in-between the lines of the meringue with enough pressure to fill up and slightly over the meringue.  You then have your three layers for this cake.  At this point what I have made looks just like the pictures and I am feeling hopeful.

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The recipe also says with the leftover sponge batter we can make Rothschilds, which are a chocolate coated ladyfinger.  Of course I went ahead and piped those as well since I already had the batter.  All of this is cooked in a 300 degree oven with the oven door slightly ajar so there is no steam building up.

After cooking I pull the layers of the cake out and it looks like the sponge batter isn’t as high as I would have liked but I still had hope…

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This is when my real problems started…the recipe says to carefully peel the the parchment away from the cake strips…well that just wasn’t happening.  I tried to preserve them to look ok but even that was difficult.  Still I persevered…who cares if it isn’t pretty right.  I trimmed the edges and the meringue/sponge batter tasted really good so I still had some hope…

Now I try to mix a little of the couleur into a little of the whipped cream…and it just wasn’t happening.  I then decided to just go with plain whipped cream to salvage what I had left to work with but it was SO difficult working with the cake layers!

This is my final product…not at all what the one in the cookbook looks like.

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The only good thing is my tasters still loved the flavor and couldn’t care less about the appearance but still…this recipe was a disappointment all the way around.  It is not a keeper in my book.  I will be curious to see if others struggled with it.  Oh, and the Rothchilds…not a success either.  It was just one of those days I guess :(  Onto the next recipe!!

Nutella Buttons

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These mini cupcakes or bouchees, “mouthfuls” in French, come with a surprise inside.  The cake is light and springy with the addition of whipped egg whites and the filling can be anything you like it to be…this recipe calls for Nutella centers.  I have never actually had Nutella, but my kids love it on bananas so I was thinking this will be a hit with them.

I was excited to try this one out…seemed easy enough and looked promising that everyone would enjoy them.  The only thing that took some time was making sure to set out the eggs in the morning so they could come to room temperature.  The batter comes together easy enough…somewhat different is that the base is more like a paste and then the whipped egg whites are folded in which is always disconcerting as you hear the air being pushed out.

So I was about at this point, just starting to put the first bit of batter into the cupcake liners when I could hear my oven turn off…EEK!  That has never happened.  I immediately think oh no the electricity went out but as I turn to see if the microwave clock is off as well, I see that it is on…OH NO, did my oven just die!!?  Why is it that my first thought was “I am so glad this didn’t happen on Thanksgiving”!!!  I went and turned on a couple of lights just to confirm that it was my oven and not the electricity and then hurriedly texted my mom and a couple of neighbors to see if I could borrow someone’s oven since I had Nutella Buttons ready to be baked.

Meanwhile I furiously finished filling the cupcakes with the nutella and final bit of batter on top and my mom had her oven pre-heating.

I went to open my garage door and the opener wouldn’t work!  Ok, now this is really getting weird…my oven and garage door opener don’t work but my lights are on????  I am like, now what?  My neighbor calls and asks me if I am having electricity problems….YES I am!  Turns out, later we find out we were experiencing a “low voltage” problem and our electricity was out for about 4 hours as they fixed the problem.  UGGH…but the silver lining, that I was SO happy about, was my oven was OK!! :) :)

I ended up having to start the batter all over again the next day…the second time was much easier I would have to say haha!  I definitely knew what I was doing and I have to say I was grateful these were delicious after all this trouble.  It would have been horrible if they didn’t taste good!

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I decided to make three different topping to see what tasted best with the nutella centers.  I made a chocolate ganache, white chocolate ganache (which didn’t turn out all that well…more like a glaze), and a dusting of powdered sugar. These are so pretty when they are finished and based on the reviews from my tasters, a keeper for sure!  One of my tasters said, “they were a bite of heaven”.  I have decided to make these a third time, call me crazy,  later this month as one of the desserts for my daughters college graduation party.  I have a feeling I will always remember the weird afternoon when I make these!!

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Ka’kat

IMG_1856 So, in our email I saw the next recipe was Ka’kat…what is that??  I seriously thought, hmm not too sure about this one.   I looked in the cookbook and read up on Ka’kat.  Turns out it is an Eastern Mediterranean street food similar to soft American pretzels (but look like bagels)…now that got my interest!  Further reading showed me that it wasn’t an all day kind of bread either…one 1-2 hour rise and one 30 minute rise…not too bad. The recipe makes 32 of these 2-3 inch bread rings.  At first I was thinking I might want to halve the recipe, but I had a bible study luncheon the next day and figured I would bring whatever is left from my tasters. Pretty simple recipe for really great results:

  • Make the sponge
  • First rise, 1-2 hours
  • Shaping and second rise, 30 minutes
  • Brush with egg wash, sprinkle and bake

IMG_1848 The recipe calls for sprinkling sesame seeds on the rings.  I did half that way and the other half I sprinkled course salt…going with the soft American pretzel thought. IMG_1854 IMG_1855 These were absolutely amazing!  They made my house smell wonderful and they tasted GREAT!  I would say they were very similar to Auntie Anne’s pretzels here in the States.  Super good!  I am so glad I made half with the course salt.  That was my favorite! My parents enjoyed them…my Dad’s text… “The bread rings were a hit!  I should have grabbed a couple more!  Good job!”

These are a keeper!!, although best right out of the oven…and I am glad they make quite a few for the effort which always is a good thing.

Coconut Tapioca with Slow Roasted Spiced Pineapple

IMG_2152This one was a little rough…I wasn’t sure who of my tasters was really going to like this one and it took me going to three stores to find the pearl tapioca.  In the end, they only had small pearl tapioca so I went with that.  Since Dorie suggested serving this with the spiced pineapple I went ahead and made that as well. IMG_2141 The tapioca was interesting looking…it reminded me of frozen ice cream balls you can get haha…I would have much preferred the ice cream! My family isn’t big tapioca fans, but my husband did try it and said it tasted like it was suppose to, but he still didn’t care for it much.  He thought the pineapple tasted like canned peaches…not sure what to make of that observation!!…maybe it was the color and the sweetness haha!  My mom doesn’t like it but my dad tried it and texted me back…”Can’t say I am a fan of the tapioca but the pineapple was outstanding.” So I was feeling  not so confident on this one as I sent it off to my last taster…although she told me she loves tapioca so I had a little hope haha! She is the true spirit of a taster.  I told her I wasn’t too sure about this one and her reply was:

” I always like the fact that I would never have the opportunity to taste most of the desserts and dishes otherwise and 99.9% of them have been fantastic!! It’s all about the experience, the wow is always a bonus”

Don’t you just love that??!! She actually loved both…yay!  I am guessing if you like tapioca this is a good recipe, for those of us who don’t…it doesn’t change your mind. :)