Strawberry Shortcake: my version

It has been a while since I baked and assembled a nice-looking cake from scratch. It was my mom’s birthday last Friday, birthdays = cakes. I originally thought of just making some kind of dessert but a cake is just much more celebratory. I wanted to make a fresh mango cake but mangoes were not in season (too bad). Strawberry it is. I didn’t really follow a specific recipe for the whole cake except for the basic sponge cake. I used a Génoise cake recipe, the ingredients are very simple but it is not the simplest cake to make. It is basically just eggs, sugar, flour, butter and a little vanilla extract. The layers consist of whipped cream, my own homemade strawberry jam, fresh strawberries, and a honey syrup. I used chopped pistachios as a garnish on top and sides – makes a very good contrast of colours with the strawberries!

Ingredients:

Génoise Sponge Cake (7″ cake):

  • 3 Large Eggs (approx. 55 grams each)
  • 100 grams Granulated Sugar
  • 100 grams Cake Flour (soft wheat flour) – sift
  • 50 grams Melted Butter
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

Layers:

  • 450 mL Whipping Cream
  • 3 tbsp. Granulated Sugar
  • Approx. 6 Large Strawberries – wash, dry, hull and cut into halves + more for garnish
  • 2 tbsp. Honey + ¼ cup Hot Water – mixed together (honey syrup)
  • ¼ cup Strawberry Jam + 1 tbsp. Hot Water – mixed together  (I used homemade – definitely made a difference in taste)

Method:

Génoise Sponge Cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Prepare a 7″ cake pan – line only the bottom with parchment paper.
  2. Sift flour and melt butter.
  3. Break eggs in a medium sized mixing bowl and whisk with sugar. Set eggs over a water bath (simmering, NOT boiling) until the the eggs reach about body temperature, stirring occasionally – avoid cooking eggs so be careful not to have the heat too high.
  4. Mix with an electric mixer or on a stand mixer on high speed until increases in volume and becomes a creamy colour. *Important*: continue beating eggs on medium speed until eggs reach a “ribbon” stage (testing with a whisk, draw the mixture up, away from the bowl and allow it to flow back to the mixing bowl, if it looks like you can almost write letters in the mixture without it being too runny then it has reached the “ribbon” stage). It is difficult to describe in words so I might consider documenting the whole process in another post. 🙂
  5. Add in sifted flour and FOLD in flour with a rubber spatula until just mixed in. (try to do this in a fast motion and DO NOT over-mix)
  6. When flour is all mixed in, add butter + vanilla and FOLD until well mixed (DO NOT over-mix).
  7. Pour batter into cake pan and tap the pan the counter to remove any big air bubbles, bake right away in preheated oven for about 30 minutes. Try not to open the oven door during the baking process. The cake is done when a knife is inserted into the centre and comes out clean.
  8. Cool cake, remove from pan – slide a paring knife around the pan and cake should come out easily when pan is flipped over (metal knives are not recommended for “non-stick” pans).

Layering:

  1. Beat whipping cream with sugar until firm peaks form. Chill in fridge until ready to use.
  2. Cut cooled cake into three even layers. If the cake is shaped like a “dome” on top, cut off the excess to make a flat layer.
  3. Brush honey syrup onto the bottom two layers.
  4. Place strawberries on the bottom layer of cake and spread on whipped cream evenly, place second layer of cake on top.
  5. Spread strawberry jam on cake and top with a thin layer of whipped cream.
  6. Coat the top and sides with remaining whipped cream.
  7. Pipe cream for decoration (if desired – might require more cream). Garnish with strawberries and chopped pistachios.
  8. Chill until ready to serve.

It is not the best-looking cake but it is not bad. 😛 I didn’t take a picture of the cross-section, I thought that it would be nice to see it in an illustration. I didn’t sweeten the whipped cream too much because my mom is a not a big fan of overly sweet desserts. I also cut back on the cream (trying to be a tiny bit healthier). The end result was VERY yummy, the cake had a rich egg flavour and the layers had a very aromatic strawberry flavour – with fresh berries and the jam. Glad mom enjoyed it, she even had two pieces (she usually stops at one).


Gourmet Crackers Experiment – Sun Dried Tomatoes with Fresh Basil

How can you go wrong with tomatoes and basil? After successfully making the thin and crispy sesame crackers, I wanted to further customize my recipe. I am addicted to making crackers 🙂 I wanted to try, yes, a classic combination of tomatoes and basil. So I tweaked the recipe and came up with this delicious recipe. These crackers turned out to be very rich in tomato flavour with a hint of basil. This recipe is the almost the same with the sesame crackers recipe, except for the thickness – these are thicker because I wanted the crispiness to be closer to a cracker rather than chips and secondly, the tomato bits can’t be pressed too thin – they will make holes in the crackers when the dough is being rolled out. The oven temperature also needed to be lowered otherwise the tomato will burn easily. I brought a box to work and they were popular – almost all gone in 30 minutes!

Ingredients:

  • 200 grams All Purpose Flour
  • 50 grams Whole Wheat Flour (I used stoned milled)
  • ½ tsp. Sea Salt + more for sprinkling tops
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 2 tbsp. Brown Sugar
  • 30 grams Sun Dried Tomato – finely chopped
  • ¼ cup finely chopped Fresh Basil
  • 25 ml. Olive Oil (good quality) + more for brushing

Method:

    1. In a medium bowl, mix all dry ingredients, including chopped basil and sun dried tomatoes.
    2. Add water and olive oil.
    3. Mix with a rubber spatula until the dough starts to form. If the dough is too dry, add a bit more water.
    4. Turn the dough on a counter and knead until it becomes not sticky on your hands.
    5. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for at least an hour to let the flavours develop in the dough.
    6. After resting, divide the dough into four pieces so you can work them through the pasta maker individually.
      * Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C.
    7. Work the well-floured dough from the thickest setting and gradually to the thinner setting (I rolled these to the setting “5” with the thinnest at “9”).
      * If you don’t have a pasta maker, roll the dough with a rolling pin into a very thin sheet.
    8. Cut the dough sheets so it fits on the cookie sheet, place on the cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and brush with more olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
    9. Cut the dough sheets into small size crackers and bake for 15-16 minutes or until golden brown (keep an eye on them because they can burn easily). Let cool and store in an air tight container.

Tip: Avoid baking these crackers too long because excess browning will diminish the basil flavour in the crackers.

This recipe makes me not wanting to buy crackers anymore, they are so yummy and easy to make, not to mention easy on your wallet!


Sesame Crackers

After a couple times of trial and error, I have finally come up with this recipe. It is great for snacking, contains whole wheat, olive oil and toasted sesame seeds! A piece of equipment you might want to consider getting if you don’t already have is the pasta maker, it made my life so much easier. Here I rolled them out so thin that the crispiness is more like chips more than crackers. So why have greasy chips when you can have these thin and crispy crackers?

Ingredients:

  • 200 grams All Purpose Flour
  • 50 grams Whole Wheat Flour (I used stoned milled)
  • ½ tsp. Sea Salt + more for sprinkling tops
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 2 tbsp. Brown Sugar
  • 1 tbsp. Toasted White Sesame Seeds
  • 1 tbsp. Toasted Black Sesame Seeds
    * I used Japanese sesame seeds – they are very flavourful and are already toasted which is very convenient.
  • 115 ml. Water (adjust according to dough texture)
  • 25 ml. Olive Oil (good quality) + more for brushing

*If you don't have a pastry cutter, just cut the dough with a knife. In this photo I cut them before brushing the oil but it actually easier to brush the oil and then cut.

Method:

    1. In a medium bowl, mix all dry ingredients.
    2. Add water and olive oil.
    3. Mix with a rubber spatula until the dough starts to form. If the dough is too dry, add a bit more water.
    4. Turn the dough on a counter and knead until it becomes not sticky on your hands.
    5. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
    6. After resting, divide the dough into four pieces so you can work them through the pasta maker individually.
      * Preheat oven to 375°F/190°C.
    7. Work the well-floured dough from the thickest setting and gradually to the thinner setting (I rolled these to the setting “7” with the thinnest at “9”).
      * If you don’t have a pasta maker, roll the dough with a rolling pin into a very thin sheet.
    8. Cut the dough sheets so it fits on the cookie sheet, place on the cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and brush with more olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
    9. Cut the dough sheets into small size crackers and bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown (keep an eye on them because they can burn easily). Let cool and store in an air tight container.

I usually don’t store them for a long time because they are always gone after a couple of days. They taste great with hummus too!