Monday, April 18, 2011

Finally, something that worked

Last weekend...and the weekend before...I had grand plans to cook something new and exciting every day and put up lots and lots of blog posts.

Didn't happen

So then I scrapped the idea of lots and lots of blog posts and just stuck with cooking something new and exciting every weekend day.

That DID happen.

What didn't happen was having all those new and exciting things turn out so fabulous and delicious they were worthy of blog posts.

I'm not sure what has happened, but I have been in a downward cooking spiral lately. It seems like everything I've been attempting to make turns out to be disasterous in the process or less than thrilling in taste...assuming I actually got it to work. Not only that, poor Mr. C fell victim to my disasterous cooking spree when I accidentally hit a measuring cup full of boiling water as I was pulling it out of the microwave. The mini flood landed in a pan of oil he was using to fry up some tortillas.

Oil burn. NICE!

That was it...the final straw. I said right then and there, "I am not going to cook anymore. Nothing is working for me lately." Good thing I have a few recipes in my "to be posted" computer file. Since strawberries are starting to fill the grocery store shelves, and prices are finally coming down (unlike everything else at the grocery store), how about if we stroll down strawberry lane with "Strawberries and Cream on a Cloud."

Mr. C chose this recipe for our Sunday dessert a couple weeks ago. It's one I got at a class I attended a long time ago at Thanksgiving Point (long before I became Mrs. C)--back when the classes there weren't almost 50.00 each. I wish I could remember the teacher's name, but I can't. (I think it might have been Lori Bennett.)

Without question, the best part of this recipe is the "Creme Anglaise" that is drizzled (or in my case, POURED) over the top. It's absolute edible ecstacy. Take a look at the recipe and then we'll chat about some of the changes I made to the recipe.

Strawberries and Cream on a Cloud
8 c sliced strawberries
2 T sugar
2 T orange juice
1 t grated orange rind
3/4 c slivered almonds
2 T sugar
1 c cake flour
1/2 c powdered sugar
1/2 t salt
10 large egg whites (save 8 of the yolks for later)
1 1/4 t cream of tartar
3/4 c sugar
1 1/2 t almond extract
Creme Anglaise:
2/3 c sugar
8 large egg yolks
3 1/2 c 1% milk
1 T vanilla
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. To prepare strawberries, combine ingredients in a bowl. Cover and chill 3 hours. To prepare cake, place almonds and 2 T sugar in a food processor; pulse until finely chopped. Sift together cake flour, powdered sugar, and salt in to a bowl. Combine the almond mixture with flour mixture, set aside. In the large bowl of a mixer, beat egg whites at high speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar; beat until soft peaks form. Add granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Sprinkle flour mixture over egg white mixture, folding it in 1/4 c at a time. Fold in almond extract. Spoon the batter into an ungreased 10-inch fluted/bundt pan and spread evenly. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour or until the cake springs back when lightly touched. While the cake is baking, prepare the creme anglaise. Combine the sugar and egg yolks in a large saucepan, stirring with a whisk until blended. Gradually add milk to the pan, stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook over medium heat until mixture coats the back of a spoon (about 8 minutes), stirring constantly. Immediately pour mixture into a bowl; stir in vanilla. Cover and chill. (The mixture will thicken as it cools.) When cake is done baking, turn the pan upside down and cool 40 minutes. Loosen cake from sides of pan using a narrow metal spatula. Invert cake onto plate. Serve with strawberries and creme anglaise.

Are you salivating yet? You should be. If nothing else, the creme anglaise is worth drooling over.

Let's talk about a couple changes I made. First, I used orange juice concentrate instead of regular orange juice for my berries. I don't recommend doing that. It was too strong. Because I love the almond and vanilla flavors in the other elements of the recipe so much, the super strong orange taste was just a bit too overpowering. Next time, I'll use plain juice.

Second, I didn't have any slivered almonds for the cake so I used sliced. The substitution worked just fine. The cake is nothing more that homemade angel food cake with finely chopped nuts added. If you don't want to go to the effort of making homemade angel food cake, just buy one. However, after trying my friend Cindy's homemade version a couple years ago, I'll never buy a store bought one again. The freshness of homemade just can't be beat. If you're never tried homemade, try it just once...for me. The cake is relatively easy to make. It takes a little patience to go from this... this... ...but it is OH SO WORTH IT! The cake needs to be inverted while it cools. Since an angel food cake/fluted pan has a hole in the middle, I prop mine on top of one of my vinegar bottles.

It'a a great little set up.

The last changes I made were in the creme. The recipe calls for 1% milk. I never have that on hand since all we drink is skim. I used skim and didn't really have any issues other than timing. The original recipe says it takes about 8 minutes for the creme to become thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, but mine too MUCH longer--probably twice that. Whether or not that was caused by the lack of fat content in the milk, I don't know. Either way, everything tasted just fine in the end. Also, I added a teaspoon of almond extract to the creme in addition to the tablespoon of the vanilla. As I mentioned in my last post, Mr. C is so enthralled with almond extract, I knew he'd go crazy for it. And he did! (To be honest, so did I!) It's a great addition to the creme, so I'll make it a permanent part of the recipe from now on.

As you can see, we didn't exactly drizzle the creme on. With something that delectible, more is definately better!

One of the nice things about this dessert is that all the components save for several days so it is one you can enjoy over and over. We ran out of berries before anything else. In fact, I still have creme in the fridge and half the cake is chillin' in the freezer for now.

I think I see a trifle coming!