Charlotte Cake

Strawberry Charlotte Cake

Summer is here and so is strawberry season.  I have been saving this recipe for strawberry time and I’m so excited that I finally get to share it with you!  Charlotte cakes are beautiful and light, but can be a challenge to make.  I learned some tricks from America’s Test Kitchen that makes the cake easy to make, without losing the beauty and elegance.

strawberries

A traditional Charlotte Cake is made with ladyfingers.  The problem with using lady fingers is that they can be dry, difficult to line up neatly, and the filling likes to ooze out between the ladyfingers and spoil the look.  America’s Test Kitchen came up with the brilliant idea of using a sponge cake instead of ladyfingers!  The sponge cake is light and flexible, making it easy to work with, but tough enough to hold the cake together.  The directions look long, but it comes together quickly.

Charlotte Cake

Charlotte Cake

Filling

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 3 large eggs, separated (save the whites for the cake)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen strawberries
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup Quark
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  1. Sprinkle gelatin over water in a large bowl and set aside.  Whisk egg yolks and cornstarch together in a medium bowl until combined.
  2. Combine strawberries, sugar, and butter in a medium saucepan.  Mash lightly and stir until no dry sugar remains.  Cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, until mixture is simmering and strawberries are almost completely broken down, 4 to 6 minutes.
  3. Remove strawberry mixture from heat and, whisking constantly, slowly add 1/2 cup strawberry mixture to yolk mixture to temper.  Continue whisking constantly, add the tempered yolk mixture to the strawberry mixture in the saucepan.   Return the saucepan to medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thick and bubbles, about one minute.
  4. Remove from heat, stir strawberry mixture into the gelatin until the gelatin is dissolved.  Fold in Quark.  Set aside, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened and reaches room temperature.  While the mixture cools, make the jelly mixture and cake.

Strawberries with sugar and butter

Jelly Mixture

  • 1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup strawberry jelly (or seedless jam)

Sprinkle gelatin over lemon juice in a small bowl and let sit until the gelatin softens.  Heat jelly in the microwave, stirring occasionally, until hot and runny, about 1 minute.  Add gelatin to jelly and whisk to dissolve.  Set aside.

charlottecake--6

Cake

  • 2/3 cup cake flour
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 egg whites (reserved from the filling)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease an 8 inch round cake pan and an 8 inch square cake pan, line with parchment paper and lightly grease the parchment.
  2. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.  Whisk oil, whole egg, water and vanilla into the flour mixture until a smooth batter forms.
  3. Whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-low speed in a stand mixer until foamy, about one minute.  Increase speed to medium high and whip until soft peaks form.  Transfer 1/3 of the egg whites to the batter, whisk gently until the mixture is lightened.  Gently fold the remaining egg whites into batter.
  4. Pour 1 cup batter into prepared round pan and spread evenly.  Pour the remaining batter into the prepared square pan and spread evenly.  Place pans on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in the upper middle position of the oven until cakes spring back when pressed lightly in the center, about 8-10 minutes.  Cakes should not brown.
  5. Let cakes cool in pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  Invert cakes onto wire rack.  Remove parchment and invert again.  allow to cool completely.

lining the springform pan with cake

Putting it all together!

  1. Place round cake in the center of a serving platter.  Spread with 2 tablespoons jelly mixture.  Place ring from a 9 inch springform pan around cake, leaving equal space on all sides.  Leave clasp of ring loose.
  2. Using a sharp knife, trim 1/8 inch off all edges of square cake.  Spread square cake with 2 tablespoons of jelly mixture.  Cut cake in half.  Cut each half lengthwise into two pieces to make four equal size long strips.  Place cake strips around the round cake, jelly side in, taking care to nestle ends together neatly (see above). Fasten clasp of springform ring.
  3. Using stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip cream until soft peaks form.  Gently fold cream into chilled filling until evenly mixed but still light and fluffy.
  4. Pour filling into the cake ring and spread evenly to the edge.  Drizzle the remaining jelly mixture on the filling.  Using a skewer or knife, swirl the jelly through the surface of the filling, making a marbled pattern.  Refrigerate for at least 5 hours or up to 24 hours.

Swirling the filling

To unmold, run a thin knife around the edge of the ring (just 1/2 inch down).  Release ring and lift to remove.  Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

charlottecake--7

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

 

Radish and Feta Rollups

Sustainable Connections in Bellingham has a great feature going called the Harvest of the Month.  May’s harvest is (drum roll please) RADISHES!

I love local produce, you really can’t beat it.  I was talking with Alex at Sustainable Connections about tying in their featured harvest with a recipe post here and he suggested I contact Roslyn at Rabbit Fields Farm.  I’m so glad he did!  I gave her a call and we set up a time to meet and take pictures of radishes, she didn’t even act like this was a weird request.

Roslyn and her radishes
This is the look that I got when I asked Roslyn to look lovingly at her radishes. I think that was a new one for her.

Roslyn had lots of work to do on her ten acre farm but patiently waited while I took photos of dirty radishes from every possible angle.  She is a terrific lady!   You can check out her website for the list of farmer’s markets where she has her produce.  Tell her I sent you, and tell her that I’m really sorry that I ran off without paying for the radishes.  I drove away with a cooler full of radishes and the money still in my pocket.  Oops.

Radishes fresh from the farm

Roslyn introduced me to some radishes that I’ve never tried before.  Breakfast Radishes have a mild flavor and really nice crunch.  I tried them in some different recipes and really like them.  Radishes pair well with feta, so here is a fresh, light appetizer for springtime.

zucchini rollup assembly

 

Radish Feta Rollups

The amounts above will vary depending on the size of the vegetables.  I made about two dozen rollups with the amounts listed.

Mix the yogurt and feta in a blender or food processor to a thick paste.  Add more yogurt if needed to get the consistency of toothpaste.  Lay the zucchini slices one at a time on a cutting board or counter and spread 1 teaspoon of the feta mixture on the slice, leaving 1/2 inch on each end clear.  Roll up a basil leaf into a cigar shape and place it in the center of the zucchini slice.  Line up the carrots and radishes on either side, then roll up the zucchini slice.  The feta mixture will hold the roll together.

Radish Rollups

Grilled Paneer Skewers

Paneer Skewers with Saffron Rice

In France there are 350 to 400 distinct types of French “Fromage” (cheese) grouped into eight categories. There can be many varieties within each type of cheese, leading some to claim closer to 1,000 different types of French cheese, but they are all called Fromage.  In East India there is only one cheese and that is Paneer.  The word “Paneer” even translates as “Cheese.”  This simple difference in the meaning of a word led to some confusion with a customer one day.

A woman came in and picked up some Paneer.  Then she looked around and noticed the Gouda.

Customer: Is this cheese?

Me: Yes it is!

Customer (looking doubtful): It is Paneer?

Me: No, that is Gouda.

Customer: It isn’t cheese?

Me: Yes, that is cheese.

Customer: Then it is Paneer?

Me: No, it is Gouda.

By this time I had visions of the Abbot and Costello routine, “Who’s on First,” and I started laughing.  The patient woman must have had a similar thought because she started laughing too.  To her, I was saying, “Gouda isn’t cheese, but it is cheese.”

I never heard of Paneer until John started making it and now it’s on the menu at our house at least once a week.  One of my favorite ways to cook it is on the barbecue.

Paneer Skewers

  • Marinade
    • 1 cup yogurt
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
    • 2 teaspoons garam masala
    • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
    • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
    • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
    • 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
    • Salt to taste
  • Skewers
    •  10-12 wooden skewers, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes
    • 1 lb paneer
    • 1 yellow pepper
    • 1 orange pepper
    • 1 red pepper
    • 1 red onion

Paneer on the Grill

  1. Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Cut the paneer, onion and peppers into bite size pieces.  Place the onion and peppers in the bowl with the marinade and toss to coat.  Cover and place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes.
  3. Once chilled, skewer the paneer and vegetable pieces and grill them on high heat for 10-15 minutes, turning frequently to brown evenly without scorching.
  4. Serve with basmati rice, or my favorite: saffron rice (recipe below).
John grilling Paneer Skewers
John is at the barbecue again!
  • Saffron Rice
    • 1/2 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
    • 2 tablespoons very hot water
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 1/4 cup pine nuts (or substitute slivered almonds)
    • 1 cup onion, finely chopped
    • 1 1/2 cups white basmati rice
    • 2 1/4 cups water
    • 1/2 cup golden raisins
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Soften the saffron in the 2 tablespoons hot water in a small bowl.

Heat the oil in a heavy pot over medium high heat.  Fry the pine nuts, onion, and rice, stirring constantly, for 10 to 15 minutes or until the onions are soft and the rice is starting to toast.  Add water, saffron, raisins, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.  Remove from the heat and leave covered until the water is absorbed and rice is tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.   Fluff the rice with a fork.

8 Reasons Why Summer is Better on a Farm

Summer time is always better on a farm. Even a girly girl can go tromping through the woods sometimes!

  1. Bare feet! Shoes out, calluses in! Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE shoes, but this is a freedom that can’t be beat. A regular washing of the feet was required before we were able to come back into the house, but it was worth it.
  2. “Down below”. This is how everyone refers to the area past the barns.
    farm 001
    farm-002
    Fields, a forest, creeks, sand pit, the river- if any fun was to be had it was here. Running around building tree forts, swimming in the natural ponds along the creek, summertime was spent wild a free with out a worry in the world. This was also the best way to guarantee we wouldn’t wake my dad up from his afternoon nap. Four rowdy kids and their neighborhood friends do not mix well with a daily 3am wake up call.
  3. The “Boom”. With summer comes irrigation. With the irrigation comes a massive sprinkler we fondly called “The Boom”. Nothing beats a hot day better than running through a grass field getting soaked by a huge stream of water being shot over your head!
  4. A creek! Once in a while I would be really brave and join my brothers exploring. Something that was always sure to be a day of adventure was following the stream from the farm to the river. We would come home with scrapes from blackberry bushes, stinging nettle bumps, smelling of skunk cabbage, covered in muck, but with the biggest smiles on our faces and stories to tell. *Side note, shoes are typically not a good idea when attempting this. I can’t tell you how many shoes/boots were sucked off our feet never to be seen again!*
  5. A river bar. Now we weren’t allowed to go down here by ourselves until we were older, but the private “beach” next to a beautiful (icy cold) river quickly became the older kids hangout. HayI can’t tell you how many summer nights were spent gathered around a bonfire. Country life at it’s best.
  6. A haymow. Did you know you can make the absolute coolest forts ever in a haymow? Some of the bales were too big for us to maneuver, but the smaller, lighter, straw bales made great tunnels, rooms, and walls! I can’t tell you how many things I would smuggle up there to outfit my “house”.
  7. Other Farm Kids! We were blessed to grow up with multiple cousins around at all times. However, our family was much larger than biological. BoysOur farm in next door to the Smit Family farm, and like us, the family had moved into the area to farm and would pass their livelihood from one generation to the next. Therefore, not only did these kids have one farm to run around on, but two! Multiple generations of these families grew up (playing and working) together on the combined biggest playground ever! 
  8. These. icecreamsandwich-15 I’m going to cheat a little bit for this one! We didn’t have these growing up (with the exceptions of some church fundraisers), but we have them now!! Nothing says “summer on the farm” like one of these babies. And yes, I am addicted already.

If you asked my parents how it was raising kids on a farm they may tell you about the constant dirt and random animals we would bring into the house. But they would also tell you how it was the best possible thing for their kids to grow up in an area where their imaginations could run as wild as their feet. Some may think farmers don’t appreciate the land as much as they should, but I can tell you this. My family loves the land they have been entrusted with. Generations have grown up here learning respect for nature and the way it works. It was the best childhood you could ask for. Honestly, if we didn’t respect the land enough to take care of it in the best way possible, it would never last long enough for future generations to explore. We wholeheartedly believe God has blessed us beyond what we deserve, and because of that we have an even bigger responsibility to manage those blessings properly.