Tuesdays with Dorie: French Strawberry Cake and Imperfect Genoise

No photos this time.  It just wasn’t pretty here in the Ragland kitchen.  Since we had just driven in from D.C. on Sunday, I opted for a Father’s Day do-over on Monday and planned a menu of herbed pork tenderloin, rice pilaf, and tarragon roasted asparagus, and of course, a French Strawberry Cake.

With my trusty helper, Olivia, in the kitchen to assist.  We attempted the Perfect Genoise – the foundation of our dessert.  Dorie Greenspan writes that genoise is the first cake batter mastered by a French patissier.  Clearly, I would have been stuck in genoise school for some time.  Just the directions for the Genoise amounted to two pages (Baking with Julia is a BIG book!)

This unleavened cake (no baking soda or powder) is just eggs, sugar, flour, and melted butter.  You beat the eggs and sugar together until the mixture triples in size – a light, airy froth.  I spent a good 7-8 minutes using the whisk attachment in my KA mixer.  I think I didn’t use a high enough speed at first, so I increased it to “6” and it started to fill with air.

I wish I had seen my compadres posts about sifting the flour into the mixing bowl.  As I I tipped my waxed paper cone of twice-sifted flour, I asked my assistant for help.  Unwittingly, she dumped the contents in their entirety into my light airy mixture. The flour was supposed to be added in three additions.   I could feel the air being sucked out of my batter, though I attempted to fold – but as I folded I kept finding more and more pockets of flour, as well as a nice pile at the bottom of my mixing bowl.

All I could do was move forward, so I did, pouring the batter into my prepared pan and hoping for the best. Ollie and I watched through the oven window as our cake refused to rise – deflating our hopes and our dessert.

I only made 2/3 of the strawberries and whipped cream frosting – it wouldn’t take much to frost our one layer – standing at barely 1/2″ (I don’t think I am exaggerating…)  Dense and eggy, I went ahead and added some of the strawberry liquid to what would be more aptly named, strawberry shortcake.

We ate it all, but it wasn’t the light dessert I had hoped for.

If this is something you would like to try, see http://sophiasbaking.blogspot.com/ or http://thinklovesleepdine.blogspot.com/ for the recipe.


TWD: Oasis Naan

Intimidated by the calories and the time-consuming nature of the Sticky Pecan Buns last month, I sat out the last Tuesday with Dorie.  I am happy to say that this afternoon I was back in full force and eager to make Oasis Naan.  I planned an Indian meal for tonight so that I could serve the naan in lieu of rice – a chicken, onion, and potato curry with Trader Joe’s curry simmer sauce and a can of light coconut milk.

The recipe called for stirring the flour and water (with yeast)  in one direction.  When trying to blend flour and water, that’s trickier than it sounds.  I had hoped to break out my new food processor or take my KA out of the corral for this recipe, but what it called for was brute strength.  I managed to get the 3 cups of flour and water blended, only to have it become a sticky mess as I added the rest of the flour cup by cup.  I turned it out onto my flour-y  countertop and spent the next 10 minutes as instructed (kneading vigorously)!!!

The dough became smooth and elastic as I worked it, and finally I placed the ball in a well-oiled bowl.  Covered with plastic wrap, the dough doubled in size over the next two hours.   Possessing neither a pizza stone nor quarry tiles, I opted to invert a baking sheet as the recipe suggests,  placing it on the oven rack.  While waiting for the oven to reach 500 degrees, I prepared the dough for baking.  Dividing the dough evenly into eight balls, and with rolling pin in hand, I rolled out 4 dough circles with the help of my daughter Olivia.  She particularly enjoyed pricking the naan allover with the fork.  I chopped some scallions for adornment and put some cumin in a shaker with a top of wire mesh.  Using this, we could just “dust” the naan with cumin and not blacken it!

a ball of dough in an oiled bowl

Our first batch the dough seemed too dense – the circles weren’t thin enough and I had forgotten to wet the center of the circle before pricking it with the fork.  We spent a bit more time rolling out our second batch, and the water seemed to thin the dough a bit and made the pricking easier.  We skipped the scallions on this batch and just dusted them with salt and cumin.  They definitely looked more authentic!

Golden Naan

I was surprised by how much the kids liked it – they are both taking it to school for snack tomorrow.  I am hoping that our second attempt was better than our first – I will try the second batch tomorrow and see if it was “airier” than the first.  I could see snacking with this bread and some hummus.  While it is delicious, I don’t know if I’ll make it again.  I will be interested to hear about the texture of other bakers’ breads…

If you want to try to make Oasis Naan yourself, visit one of our hosts for the recipe:




Looking forward to Fresh Strawberry Cake in a couple of weeks!