May 5, 2013

Strawberry Parfait with Olive Oil Cake

We are stepping it up with cakes. This week's strawberry parfait has a moist olive oil cake as the base and a rich cream filling combination of pastry cream and buttercream. Fresh strawberries are used but can be substituted for any other berry or fruit of your liking. Raspberry jam adds a nice tartness. Dolloped with a bit of creme fraiche, this is a lovely introduction to summer.

Jo Wong
Gas oven, convection setting off, metric measurements

Another good basic recipe, great cake recipe to add in your repertoire. The cake has a very light and moist crumb.  And it was definitely delicious in single serving parfaits or made into a party size fruit trifle to share at a summer barbeque or picnic.

Recipe and techniques were easy to follow, no need for refrigerating the batter over night, just pour into a pan and bake.  Only modification I made to the recipe was to reduce the granulated sugar to 100g.

I did make the pastry cream recipe, however the pastry cream came out firm and rubbery after refrigeration, it was not creamy as described.  It ended up being scrapped at the last minute.  I was glad, there was heavy whipping cream and Greek God's Strawberry yogurt at home.  I whipped 2 cups of cream with 2 Tbsp granulated sugar to soft peaks and whisked in 1/2 cup of strawberry greek yogurt and used it for the cream topping.  For the filling, remove a cup of the cream filling and whisk in a tablespoon of mango puree. It turned out much lighter than the rich mousseline butter cream filling recommended in the book.  For the strawberry powder, I crushed a couple slices of Trader Joe's freeze dried strawberries and sprinkled it on top.  I replaced the strawberry jam with Mango puree.  You can use any fruits to make your parfaits, use whatever is seasonal and available and you won't be disappointed.  It was a delicious dessert, a hit with the kids.

standard bake, standard measure

Due to the many components of this week's recipes, I split them up over two days. First day: olive oil cake and raspberry jam, second day: pastry cream, buttercream and assembly.  Since the pastry cream needs only yolks and the buttercream needs only whites, I decided to make them on the same day to use up the whole egg.

Olive oil cake: This was an easy cake, much like a genoise. But instead of butter, it uses olive oil. I used just a regular grocery store extra virgin olive oil. The cake baked up light and fluffy, very pale in color. I baked it at 350 for about 16 minutes in a quarter sheet pan. When I tried to invert it after cooling, it broke a bit, but I just put it back together and froze it and it turned out fine. After tasting a scrap, it has a very pronounced olive oil flavor. I'd be interested to see how the taste changes with different olive oils.

Raspberry jam: I couldn't find raspberry puree, so I made my own from frozen raspberries. I pureed them in my Vitamix, then strained the seeds, and made the jam with the pectin. It was easy and smelled amazing while cooking.

Pastry cream: I made the small batch, since I'd only need part of it anyways. To get the 1/2 cup egg yolks I used a whole dozen eggs! Which left me with way more egg whites than I needed for the buttercream. Anyway, the recipe was straightforward, until I got to the cooking part. The mixture seemed to be very lumpy and almost looked curdled, but I just kept whisking away and it all smoothed out. I may have let it get too thick, because the finished pastry cream was very very thick. I wish the recipe would have described how it was going to look, or how thick to get it so I could be more accurate.

Buttercream: This we've made before for this project, so I knew all the steps. I needed only 1/4 cup egg whites, but after cracking all those eggs for the yolks, I had about 1 1/4 cup of whites. So I just saved the rest and made an omelette later.

Assembly: After locating the appropriate size glasses (from Westvleteren abbey in Belgium), I got all my components together to assemble the parfaits. But before, I had to make the mousseline, which was just pastry cream and buttercream whipped together. First, jam, then cake, then strawberries, then mousseline, then cake, then creme fraiche, and I topped it all off with pink sparking sugar and diced strawberries. I didn't have strawberry powder, but I did find a recipe to make it myself at home, so I might do that in the future.

The glasses looked so beautiful, just like the pictures in the book! I also made one bigger parfait for my husband to share at work, and the feedback was "awesome!" Although, some people were shy at first about just digging in for one bite. These are a very special treat for a dinner party. With some advance planning, these are easily assembled right before serving.

Two 4" cakes, metric measure, standard bake

I decided to take the parfait concept and turn it into an individual dessert, well a very generous-sized dessert. I'd say it would be perfect for two. I was counting on the creme moussoline to be thick enough to hold up when constructing the cake and I'm pleased with how it turned out. It's not stiff like a mousse filling but the whole cake doesn't collapse on itself which is all I wanted. 

I really like the Olive Oil Cake for this recipe. On it's own though, the olive oil flavor is too strong for me. I used an oil from Trader Joe's. Perhaps there is a good oil for baking that is fruity and doesn't overpower other ingredients but I'm not sure. The moussoline is sweet and mild, so a lot of berries and raspberry jam are needed for contrast. I would definitely make this again but have a plan to make components ahead rather than tackle it all in one day. More about the assembly of the cake is on my blog

Jo Wong
My son loves the parfaits and as it was, today was his 17th birthday and his request was the parfaits. I double the recipe and baked it up in an 8" round cake pan. Used Jenn's idea of using the cake ring and acetate to assemble the cake together. We called it the strawberry mango parfait cake. :)

Metric measurement, Standard bake

I made the olive oil cake without a hitch. It had a light olive oil taste and it was not as strong as I thought it would be. All went exactly as it should have with no complications.

I started both the basic buttercream and pastry cream. In making the basic buttercream, the temperature reached 240˚ when I realized I hadn't turned on the stand mixer to whip the egg whites before it reached 248˚. I turned the mixer on high and the egg whites had stiff peaks in no time. Making this recipe many times has really helped me figure out how to fix errors. Afterwards all went well with this recipe. In making the pastry cream, I used flour as I could not find Bird's Custard Powder. I make pastry cream often but this one was quite different. There were so many steps to this one compared to the recipe I normally use. After cooling the pastry cream in the ice bath I placed plastic wrap over it so a layer of film would not develop on top and refrigerated it for later.

In making the mousseline, it called for combining both the pastry cream and buttercream. I had refrigerated the buttercream and didn't wait for it to come to room temperature. I had to whip it for a while before it was fully combined with the pastry cream. I turned the stand mixer on high and left it on while I placed the raspberry jam, the first layer of cake and strawberries in the parfait glass. I started on the second parfait using an individual serving glass stand. The strawberries were not standing up very well on their own. I piped in the mousseline on both parfaits. It was not as firm as I thought it should be. From here on everything went downhill, literally. I laid the mousseline down and completed the assembly of the parfait topping them with the créme fraîche. It took me a while to complete both parfaits. The mousseline began to seep through the strawberries in the glass and it was knocking down the strawberries in the glass stand. After such a struggle, I turned to store the almost full pastry bag to find it had poured all over the counter and down onto the floor. I couldn't stop from laughing. I served the parfaits to my family and cleaned up the mess. Without letting them know of my mishap, they reported they truly enjoyed the dessert and said it was a winner. I told them I would not make this one again and received puzzled looks. Well, if I do make it again, I will use my own pastry cream recipe.

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