Delicious Fourth of July Fruit Fraisier

I have been seeing pictures of fruit fraisiers popping up all over the internet for a while now, and every time I do I say, “Yes!  I must make one of those!” and then, well, then…I chicken out.  You see, pastry cream and I have not always been the best of friends, I suppose this comes from the fact that I have never had central air/heating and so my pastry cream turns to mush before my very eyes (damn need for temperature control!)  And being a vegetarian, enforcing my pastry cream with gelatin is not an option and so, I had to find another way.

This lead to my experimenting  with agar.  Yes, I mean EXERIMENTing, I had no idea what I was doing folks.  Now, let me tell you about the failures! I had one batch of pastry cream that more like playdough than cream, and one that was downright rubbery and chewy–yuck, but eventually I found a recipe that worked–it held-but not too much, it was creamy (not chewy) and didn’t mush!  Yay no mushy!

I thought that July 4th would be the perfect time to make my fraiser debut; I can go all red, white, blue and Yummy!  And it is the perfect time of year to get the best fresh fruit!

A fruit fraisier is really a very simple cake, it just takes some assembly.  First there is the Chiffon, some pastry cream, some fresh fruit (some to make a desing along the edge and more to fill in the center, some more pastry cream and another layer of chiffon, it then gets topped with a layer of almond paste and a fresh fruit design! Ta Da!  You have a Fraisier!  Now for the good stuff–the recipes!

Lemon Chiffon Cake

7 eggs, separated
2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup canola oil
4 teaspoons grated lemon peel
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Place egg whites in a large bowl; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks, water, oil, lemon peel and vanilla; add to dry ingredients and beat until well blended. Add cream of tartar to egg whites; beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. Fold into batter.
Gently spoon into an ungreased 10-in. tube pan. Cut through batter with a knife to remove air pockets. Bake on the lowest oven rack at 325° for 50-55 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Immediately invert pan; cool completely, about 1 hour.
Run a knife around sides and center tube of pan. Remove cake.  Woot!  Cake portion done!!!

Agar Infused Pastry Cream!

1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt, preferably kosher
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoon agar
1/2 tablespoon water
1 cup heavy cream

Pour the milk, vanilla, and salt into a heavy sauce pan. Place over medium-high heat and scald, bringing it to a near boiling point. Stir occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a stand mixer add the cornstarch and sugar. Whisk to combine. Add the eggs to the sugar and cornstarch and whisk until smooth.

When the milk is ready, gently and slowly while the stand mixer is whisking, temper the egg mixture (pour the heated milk down the side of the bowl into the egg mixture.)  Pour the mixture back into the warm pot and continue to cook over a medium heat until the custard is thick, just about to boil and coats the back of a spoon.

Remove from heat and pass through a fine mesh sieve into a large mixing bowl. Allow to cool for ten minutes stirring occasionally. Cut the butter into four pieces and whisk into the pastry cream a piece at a time until smooth

Cover the cream with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap onto the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for up to five days

In a small dish, sprinkle the agar over the water and let stand for a few minutes to soften.

Put two inches of water into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat.
Measure 1/4 cup of the chilled pastry cream into a small stainless steel bowl that will sit across the sauce pan with the simmering water, without touching the water.

Heat the pastry cream until it is 120 F the add the agar mixture and whisk until smooth. Remove from the water bath, and whisk the remaining cold pastry cream in to incorporate in two batches.

In a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Immediately fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream with a rubber spatula.  Pastry cream MUST be used immediately.  If you want to save the  pastry cream do not add the whipped cream until time for use.

Assembly is best done in a springform pan coated with plastic wrap, make sure to space your side fruit evenly and back with pastry cream before filling in the center of the cake!  Oh, and don’t forget the almond paste on the top of the cake–it really does make all the difference!  Just roll it out and cut it to the dimensions of your cake, top, decorate with fresh fruit and serve!

Happy Fourth Everyone!

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