(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.)

Another fun month!  Every time I do one of these pretty desserts, I wish I entertained more. This would have made a perfect dinner party dessert.

I didn’t take a million assembly pictures this time – none of the sub-recipes was particularly hard or particularly photogenic, so I didn’t drag out the lights for them.  Someday, I’ll have a kitchen with beautiful, natural light, but not this month.

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The top and bottom are a basic chiffon cake. I was worried about mine – I get eggs from my CSA, but they’re not very consistent.  They’re always fresh, but they’re never quite large enough to be large or small enough to justify adding an extra one to a recipe, so I worry about baking with them.  The chiffon cake involved beating 5 egg whites to firm peaks, while mixing the rest of the batter (oil, egg yolks, flour, a bit of lemon zest), then carefully folding everything together. 

I’m getting better at folding, so mine came together without a hitch, and baked up beautifully. 

While the cake was baking, I made the pastry cream.  It was also a reasonably standard recipe – heat the milk, temper in an egg, cook until thick, then cool.  One it’s cool, fold into whipped cream to lighten it.  Did I mention how good I’m getting at folding things into other things?

I should have added some sugar to the whipped cream – I like mine pastry cream a little sweeter then this turned out to be, but it was still good.  I saved a bit of whipped cream and colored it pink, to decorate with later.

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Assembly was straightforward.  There’s a Good Eats episode where Alton Brown shows you how to precisely split a cake with a hacksaw blade, but I never remember to get an extra one when I go to Home Depot, so mine came out a bit crooked. 

The bottom gets soaked with a simple syrup, then the fruit goes on top.  I put some around the edges and the rest in the middle.  The pastry cream goes on top, then the top layer of cake.  I left it in the fridge overnight at this point to make sure it was entirely set up before trying to cut it.

When I took it out the next day, I dusted it with powdered sugar, added some accents of pink whipped cream, and served.IMG_5918

It turned out great!  There weren’t a lot of strong flavors besides the strawberries, so they really stood out.  I’d have liked the pastry cream to be a bit sweeter, but next time I’ll just use a different recipe or add a bit more sugar.  I’m thinking next time I’ll try a chocolate chiffon cake, with fresh cherries in the middle.  Or maybe a banana pastry cream with bananas.  Or…

( see the recipe )

Strawberry Pie

Strawberries just aren’t something I think of when I think about fruit pies.  Sure, they get combined with rhubarb for strawberry-rhubarb pie, and our local pie shop has a strawberry cheesecake pie and, when they’re in season, a pie with fresh glazed strawberries on top, but you don’t seem them baked into pies like blueberries, boysenberries, or cherries. So when I saw a post on Willow Bird Baking about a strawberry sour cream pie, I had to try it.

It’s getting late in the season for strawberries, but there were a few nice-looking quarts still in the grocery stores.  I have terrible luck with pie crusts, so I picked up one of the frozen Marie Callender pie shells while I was at at the store.  It’s not that I can’t make pie crusts – I can – but that they don’t turn out significantly better then the store-bought ones.  So I save pie-crust-making for special occasions.

I sliced the strawberries:

Strawberry Pie

The rest of the ingredients – a cup of sugar (the original recipe had more, but I wanted the sour cream to pop a bit), a cup of flour, a pinch of salt, and a cup of sour cream – all go in a bowl to be mixed until they’re completely combine.  Then toss in the strawberries, mix gently, and pour into the pie shell.

Into the oven for 10 minutes at 450F, then reduce the heat to 350F for 30 to 40 minutes.  Mine really needed the full 40 minutes.  I put it in the fridge to cool overnight, then served it with a few more slices of strawberry on top. 

Strawberry Pie

I probably should have whipped some cream to put on top, but it was good just the way it was (and I’m saving my heavy cream for ice cream later this week).  Next time, I’ll bake it 5 minutes longer to firm up the center a bit more. 

I’m thinking it would make a great summer potluck dessert!

( see the recipe )