Friday, April 10, 2009

Fun with Friends

One of life's greatest lessons is to expect the unexpected. And this scene certainly was one I didn't expect to see when I opened my oven to check on the cheese pizza I had prepared for the kids. We had company, good friends Becky and Eli, over for dinner. And the pizzas (all four of them) were queued up ready to have their turn on the stone. Now I've seen large bubbles before in my pizza dough, but nothing of this magnitude. With the appearance of an inverted bowl, it held its shape after I removed it from the oven for some time, all the while blowing steam out the top like a steamboat. It was remarkable and quite hilarious, really. So funny that I rushed to get the camera for a photo shoot.

Luckily our pizza's crust did not inflate in that manner, which might have been a bit more tragic with its toppings of chicken sausage, shaved fennel and slivered garlic tumbling off into the oven (which I just spent quite a bit of my precious time cleaning, by the way). I must confess that I did not muster the energy to make my own dough this time-Bristol Farms makes a fine substitute, but I'm afraid that our friends, who read my blog, were hoping for the homemade kind. But we do what we can, right? And unfortunately, because I was in a highly distractable state due to minor chaos regarding the children and their guests (who were departing), I did overcook the crust a bit. Extra crunchy is how Matt's mom likes it and I think she would have been quite pleased at the results. Those who didn't care for the char so much just left those bits on the wasn't really that bad...I think.

It was a fine evening overall, with dogs frolicking, children playing peacefully, and much to celebrate (a baby and a PHD on the way-for Becky). We concluded our dinner with a most delicous Strawberry Cream Cake from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food Magazine. The Barefoot Contessa has a recipe for one too, and I've now made both, but this one was much better (sorry Ina). The buttery cake had a moist and tender crumb that soaked up all those sweet and succulent strawberry juices like a sponge. And a small addition of plain gelatin added to the whipped cream helped it hold its peaks brilliantly. I highly recommend this cake. It was easy to make and easy to eat. Yum. I tried for a better photo of it, but my camera ran out of batteries... So this one will have to do.

Strawberry Cream Cake
adapted from Everyday Food

1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature,
1 1/2 C flour (spooned and leveled), 2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 C sugar
2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 C whole milk
1 pound strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
1 t unflavored gelatin (from a 1/4-ounce envelope)
1 1/2 C heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8 inch cake pan. Cream butter and 1/2 C sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on high speed. Add eggs, yolks and vanilla extract and beat until light and fluffy. In a seperate bowl, sift dry ingredients together. Add to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk, mixing gently in between each one. Pour out into prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean when the top is pierced. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto cooling rack and cool completely.

When cake is cool, toss strawberries with 1/4 C sugar and set aside. Soften gelatin in 2 T of water for 5 minutes. Heat gently in a small saucepan until gelatin dissolves completely. Set aside. Whip cream with remaining sugar (1/4 C) until very soft peaks form. Add cooled gelatin and continue to whip until you have soft peaks.

With a serrated knife, carefully slice cake in half, side to side, through the middle. Spoon 1/2 of the strawberry mixture over the cake bottom, then half of the whipped cream, leaving a one inch border. Replace top of cake and spoon over remaining whipped cream. Refrigerate cake for at least one hour. Before serving, top with remaining strawberries and serve.


Anonymous said...

Hi, Id like to make this cake for my daughter's birthday. Do you think it is better to use Cake flour instead of All Purpose flour for this type of cake (strawberry cream cake)? Thanks for sharing this recipe.


Alison said...

Hi Marissa,

I did not use cake flour and it turned out wonderfully. Just make sure not to over beat the batter once you add the flour. I'm not sure if you would need the same amount of cake flour in a substitution because it is lighter....


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much Alison. I love reading your blog.

- marissa -