Monday, December 26, 2011

Watch out, a Strawberry Charlatan

We survived Christmas for another year. 

Since having a child, Christmas has completely changed. Santa is once again part of the equation and we set "traps" for him and his reindeer. We also get up at dawn and spend the day with a sugared-up toddler. We are then generally too exhausted to get drunk and end up falling into bed and going straight to sleep.

Another thing to note is Christmas in Brisbane is hot. For some reason, most of us follow the traditions of the colder climates and serve ham, turkey, roast veggies and pudding, ie hot and heavy. As I generally make some kind of dessert to share at our family's Christmas gatherings, I decided this year to make something a little light and fruity. And with the above comments regarding our change of Christmas routine and our cold climate charade, I've decided to call my dessert a Strawberry Charlatan (instead of a Strawberry Charlotte).

Warning, there are a few steps in this recipe, so be prepared! ENJOY and Merry Christmas.

Strawberry Charlatan

Step 1 - Sponge cake
175g cup plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
125g unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk
300g caster sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Butter and line 2 x cake tins. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.

In a saucepan over a medium-low heat, combine butter and milk and stir until just melted. Set aside to cool completely. 

Set up a clean bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water). In the bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla. Whisk for about 10 minutes or until the mixture doubles in size. Take off the heat and continue to whisk until the batter comes back to room temperature (could be another 10 minutes - generally less if using an electric beater). When ready, add the sifted dry ingredients and beat on a low speed until just combined. Next pour in the milk and beat again until smooth - be very carefully not to over beat! Pour the mixture evenly into the 2 cake tins and pop in the oven to bake for about 35 minutes or until the tops are golden and a skewer can be inserted and come out clean. When ready, remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Once cooled, carefully cut one of the cakes in half and set aside. Wrap the second cake in cling and store in the freezer for another time.

Step 2 - Sponge fingers
1 cup plain flour
5 large eggs, separated, plus 2 extra egg whites
175g caster sugar
Icing sugar for dusting

Line a large, flat tray with baking paper. In a bowl, beat the egg yolks and 2 tablespoons of sugar until thick. In a clean bowl with a clean beater, whisk the 7 egg whites whites with the remaining sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg yolk and whites together, then fold through the sifted flour. 

Using a piping bag with a medium round tip, pipe the mixture in straight lines across the baking paper. Pipe the lines next to each other, touching, and try and keep them all the same width and length. If it helps, draw a template before you start piping. Dust with icing sugar and set aside for about 15 minutes, then dust again and pop in the oven at 180 degrees celsius for about 10 minutes or until then just begin to turn golden.

Step 3 - Strawberry mousse
4 punnets strawberries, plus extra punnet for decoration
150g caster sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
4 tbs water
4tsp unflavoured gelatin powder
1 1/2 cup heavy cream

Hull and quarter the 4 punnets of strawberries. In a saucepan over medium heat, add the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and water. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and cook for about 30 minutes or until fruit is very soft. Once ready, carefully pour into a beater and pulse until smooth. Pour back into the saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Whisk until completely combined. Allow to cool completely. In a separate bowl, beat the cream until thick then carefully fold through the strawberry mixture.

Step 4 - Assemble
Raspberry jam for spreading

In a springbase tin, place one layer of sponge on the bottom. Spread some raspberry jam over the top. Top with half the mousse. Spread some jam on the top of the second sponge and place on top of the mousse, spread the remaining mousse on top and smooth. My cake tins were smaller than my springbase tin, so I was able to wrap my sponge fingers around the cake at this point, but if yours is the same size, cover the tin and refrigerate and wrap the fingers in cling wrap until ready to serve. If you have the room, wrap the fingers around the cake and refrigerate for at least 3 hours so the mousse sets. When ready to serve, quarter the remaining punnet of strawberries and scatter over the top of the cake. Serve with whipped cream. ENJOY!

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