Fraisier

RECIPE: This is another pretty cake I had admired from the Great British Bake Off. The recipe for Fraisier seems to vary a bit. The traditional version uses a genoise sponge, an alcohol flavoured syrup, fresh strawberries and crème pâtissiére, topped with almond paste; however, the type of sponge can vary and it can alternatively be topped with meringue and glaze or simply dusted with confectioners’ sugar. My recipe used a ladyfinger sponge cake, but I substituted a spare joconde sponge that I had frozen after making L’Opera. The recipe also used a more complicated mousseline cream, which was delicious: you mix an Italian meringue with an egg yolk buttercream and then blend this combination with a crème pâtissiére. I’ve noticed some recipes use gelatine.

COMPONENTS: I can’t comment on the cake, but otherwise there were a lot of steps, especially compared with other recipes for Fraisier. You had to liquidise the sugar and heat it to 118 degrees Celsius for both the Italian meringue and the egg yolk buttercream, which is a step that requires constant attention and careful timing. It all came together well though. My mousseline cream was soft, even after being in the fridge for an hour or so, and this affects the assembly of the cake. I can see why other recipes use gelatine. I probably should have spread the meringue a little thinner on the top of the cake – the recipe doesn’t say how thick and I realised afterwards it would have been better at 2mm instead of 5mm. It’s a finishing trim rather than a full component of the cake. My apricot glaze needed to be thinner; it sat on top of the cake instead of flowing over it. The recipe said to sprinkle sugar over the strawberries before adding the rest of the cream. The cake was very sweet, so this step really wasn’t necessary.

ASSEMBLY: This was definitely the hardest part of making this cake and can really impact the finished look, which is why mine (above left) is nowhere near as pretty as the picture from the recipe (above right). You really need your sponge to go right to the edges of your tin mould. In hindsight, I wish I had cut smaller cakes and then assembled them in the cutters, just so the cake went right to the edges. The mousseline cream is soft, so even if you line up your strawberries with the edge of the cake, the cream will push them out from between the cakes. I had major overflow issues! I could only get huge strawberries so had to cut them in half. The cake will be flatter and more stable with consistently sized strawberries. See my post on L’Opera for tips on getting flatter cakes.

IMPRESSION: The taste was great, but it didn’t look at all like it was supposed to. I may try this again one day because there were multiple aspects I need to work on, but maybe with a different recipe. I think I’ll try Mary Berry’s, although I’d still use Felder’s finish of the meringue and glaze, which has the potential to look amazing.

Recipe from Patisserie by Christophe Felder.

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Banana Caramel Macarons

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RECIPE: I love Christophe Felder’s book because he provides step by step instructions with lots of photos to show exactly what the step is meant to look like. I tackled this recipe because I’ve tried making caramel several times and every time the sugar has crystallised. I felt better about this after watching every contestant fail a caramel technical challenge in the Great British Bake Off. I read all sorts of advice on the internet that suggested not stirring at all, different temperatures, painting down the sides, but this recipe is the first time I’ve managed to get it to work. Relief! Once again I halved the recipe, as I didn’t want enough macarons to make a croquembouche 🙂 Even though I halved the caramel I still have lots left, but it is perfect warmed up and drizzled over ice-cream.

COMPONENTS: The banana caramel is made in a couple of stages. I found it was important to have everything ready, as timing is critical when working with sugar. Even if you do get the caramel to work, it turns to crystals very quickly if you’re not ready to add the cream. I followed the recipe and stirred the sugar. There was no water added, it was just sugar, and I stirred constantly, not leaving it for a second. I admit to being nervous so probably added the cream a little early – the recipe asked for dark caramel and mine was more of a medium. This only affected the depth of flavour and I don’t care because it worked! The recipe required Italian meringue (the type that adds a sugar syrup to the egg whites). After one lot of crystallised sugar (I ignored my earlier success and didn’t stir constantly), I managed a good sugar syrup, which then almost crystallised because I didn’t have my eggs whipped to soft peaks ready for the sugar to be added. Timing really is critical. It also helps to read ahead in the recipe so you know what’s coming! Adding the egg whites and meringue to the macaron mix was straightforward. I rested the piped macarons for a little while before putting them in the oven. While the recipe didn’t recommend this, I know resting helps prevent cracking of the tops and creation of the ‘feet’ of the biscuit.

ASSEMBLY: The caramel and the macarons need to be cold, otherwise you’ll have sliding issues. I started by piping the caramel, but after overflows and not being able to stop the flow between macarons, I gave this up and used a teaspoon and dabbed it on. Make sure your macaron shells match in size, I paired mine up before I started.

IMPRESSIONS: I’ve never had a macaron that didn’t have a buttercream filling, and I’m now never going to hesitate to try different fillings. This was delicious. Sweet but not too sweet, soft with a crisp shell, and very more-ish.

Recipe from Patisserie by Christophe Felder.