Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Daring Bakers do Fresh Fraisiers

Every once in awhile, someone manages to stump me with a dessert whose name I've not heard of before.  This month, it happened to be the Daring Baker's challenge that presented me with a new name for my baking vocabulary:  Fraisiers

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.

The dessert combines a chiffon cake, simple syrup, a pastry cream mousse and fresh fruit.  One of the key elements of this dish are the pieces of fresh fruit (typically strawberries) that encircle the outside of the mousse layer.  We were given plenty of leeway to be creative with the dessert as long as we made the base components from scratch.  We could change the flavor, the fruit and the presentation to our liking.

Unfortunately, time being what it is, I could not do what I had hoped to do – wine poached pears with a chocolate chiffon cake and chocolate pastry cream mousse.  I ran out of time though when a few of those unexpected events in life hit during the time I plan to use to do my challenge.  So, once again, I found myself up against the clock.  I had time to do most of it,  but I had to sacrifice the pears.  The compromise would be strawberries, which are in season now and readily available.

I stuck with my idea for the chocolate chiffon cake and the chocolate pastry cream.  The recipe included an option to make the chocolate chiffon cake, but not for the pastry cream.  I decided I would throw a ¼ cup of unsweetened cocoa powder into the pastry cream base, and while it appeared to curdle a bit, it did turn out quite nice in the end.  I also added about a teaspoon of espresso powder to both the cake batter and the pastry cream to help accentuate the chocolate flavor.  I also added a bit of espresso powder and vanilla extract to the simple syrup recipe.

In the end, the construction of the cake was not as difficult as I thought it would be.  Assembly took less than an hour.  The final product looked pretty nice.  I think if I were to make this again, I would now have the experience with this dessert to help clean up the edges a bit more and make it even prettier.  What I can say is that even though it wasn’t as pretty as I would have liked it, it still turned out very nicely.  The bright red strawberries were a nice contrast to the light brown hue of the mousse.  The flavor was very nice.  The chocolate wasn’t overpowering, the mousse was set up nicely and the strawberries and chocolate were a nice combination.

While I’m not certain whether I’ll make this particular dessert again, I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn a few new techniques that I know I’ll be using in the future.  Another great challenge from the Daring Bakers!

If you would like to see more posts from the Daring Bakers, or would like the recipe for yourself, please be sure to visit the Daring Kitchen.  You'll find the list of Daring Bakers in the Blogroll tab.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Good Things: American Bald Eagle

I've always been fascinated by birds of prey.  Of course, at the top of the list has to be the American Bald Eagle.  I had my first ever chance to photograph wild birds in flight on a recent trip to Alaska.  I was thrilled at the chance to get so close to these amazing raptors.  I got a few decent shots and thought I'd share them with you.  Given that today is the 4th of July, it just seems appropriate.  Enjoy and have a great Independence Day!  (Click on any photo to view full screen)