Once again, this is a post inspired by Masterchef Australia — in my last Masterchef-inspired blog post, I talked about creating my perfect sandwich. This week, it was another Sunday challenge that inspired my creation. In Sunday’s challenge, the contestants were supposed to make seductive dishes from one of three pairs of ingredients — strawberries and cream; caviar and champaign; and chocolate and roses. Obviously this challenge inspired me, and I set out yesterday evening to create a dish, one that I call Not-Lamingtons.
What is a lamington you ask? Lamingtons are true-blue Aussie snacks. They’re essentially sponge cakes that are dipped in chocolate icing with dessicated coconut sprinkled on. If you want to see a picture of it, the Wikipedia link above has a few.
You might be thinking, I’d use the chocolate and rose pair of ingredients? If you thought so, you’re incorrect. Instead, this recipe uses strawberries and cream.
You see when I was younger, I really liked strawberries and cream. And the best form of strawberries and cream I liked when I was younger was a strawberry jelly (Jell-O in America) topped with whipped cream. When the challenge on Masterchef was announced, I immediately thought back to that. A strawberry jelly and cream is pretty pedestrian, I mean, anyone can go out to buy Aeroplane Jelly and make some easily.
Furthermore, I like to subvert expectations when it comes to food. I’ve made “coffee” that was actually crab soup, “cigars” that were actually sandwiches rolled up and set on fire; and “cupcakes” that were entirely made of meat and jellied scrambled eggs (those things are paleo as fuck). My colleagues at the office at my day job are usually victims of my experimentations (both good and bad). And so, a plan began to form.
What if I could make strawberry jelly and whipped cream in the form of a cake? Cakes entirely made of jelly wouldn’t work — they’re too wobbly and it’d give away the fact that it’s made of jelly. No, instead something structurally sound was needed, and hopefully, tastes bland as well, so the taste of the strawberry and cream would rise and take dominance. Sponge cake was the answer.
In my typical fashion, let me reveal the ingredients required:
There are some things that are not in the picture: dessicated coconut, balsamic vinegar, sugar, gelatine.
Not Lamingtons Part 1: The Sponge Cake
Sponge cakes are fairly easy to make, but fairly hard to perfect. Long ago before we went on a paleo diet, my partner and I messed around with many many different kinds of sponge cake recipes, but none fit us as well as the one I am about to describe below:
Sponge cake Ingredients:
- 3 eggs, room temperature, separated
- 50 grams sugar
- 4 teaspoons cocoa powder (baking)
- 70 grams corn flour (2/3rd cups-ish)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
You might note that this recipe is a little different from most sponge cake recipes — there is no equal weight of butter and eggs for example. There is a good reason for this. This recipe makes the lightest sponge I know. It’s all in the technique, I personally believe. The reason why a very light sponge cake is needed is because I want the strawberry jelly to soak into the air holes in the sponge cake.
To make the sponge:
- Preheat oven to 170°C
- Beat the egg whites and sugar together until stiff peaks form. This takes anywhere between 5–8 minutes to happen on the highest speed. It should look like this:
- Separately, beat the egg yolks till it is foamy and gooey.
- Sift the mix of corn flour, baking powder and cocoa powder multiple times. This is to break up the chunks that may occur
- With the mixer on low on the egg whites, slowly pour in the beaten egg yolks and mix it. Be careful to not overbeat your eggs. You know they’re overbeaten when the egg mixture becomes grainy.
- Slowly sift in a little bit of the flour mixture into the beaten eggs. Use a metal spoon to fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture. The keyword is fold, not stir. That’s why you typically use a metal spoon, because there is a sharp edge, which allows you to cut through the mixture and fold them, as opposed to a duller instrument which merely stirs it.
- Repeat the above step until all the flour mixture is used.
- Line a 20cm x 20cm tray (trust me on this: a square tray makes it easier to cut later) with baking paper, and grease it. You may also want to dust it with a little corn flour
- Pour the mixture into the tray. Do not try to flatten it with your spoon. Instead, let it flow. You risk pushing air out of the nicely aerated egg and flour mixture if you try to smooth it with a spoon
- Bake it for 25 minutes
- After 25 minutes, the cake should have risen beautifully. Take it out of the oven and put it on a cooling rack to cool it down. It should look like this:
In case it isn’t clear, the height of the cake is about 6 cm, which is pretty dang high for a cake to rise out of its initial 1.5–2cm depth
Not Lamingtons Part 2: The Strawberry Jelly
Remember this was initially a plan to dress up a jelly and whipped cream as a cake? This is how I did it. I made strawberry jelly. You can skip this entire part and use Aeroplane Jelly (or whatever brand of jelly you like) instead.
Strawberry jelly ingredients:
- 250 grams of straberries, hulled
- 4 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 4 teaspoon gelatine
- 1 cup coriander leaves
- 200 ml water
Before you go “wait, coriander???”. Yes, coriander. It actually has that soapy smell that somehow, when combined with strawberries, lift and augments the flavour of strawberries. The function of the balsamic vinegar is similar. You see, when creating a strawberry jelly from fresh strawberries, the flavour can get pretty watered down, so it’d help if they were further augmented.
So, to make the strawberry jelly, I went to some crazy lengths.
- Blend the strawberries with coriander leaves. Make it as fine as possible.
- Filter the blended results into a bowl using a rough muslin cloth. Strawberry has a lot of natural pectin, which is they gooey stuff left behind in the filter — that’s the reason why strawberry jam is so awesome.
- The filtered remain should still be pink-ish. I further used my Aeropress to pressurize the remaining coriander+strawberry juice:
- The result of Aeropressing the strawberry juice was a clear light red liquid formed. For the record, I spent about 1.5 hours Aeropressing the juice out, 3 times. It’s a laborious and time consuming thing. I was aiming for a clear liquid, and I think I did get there pretty much.
- This strawberry juice should be still quite cold, which poses a problem for the gelatine. Mine was also quite tart.
- Heat up the strawberry juice (you can choose to have it clear or not) in a pan, but do not boil it, as it will sorta ruin the flavour of the strawberry. Heat it to the point where you can comfortably dissolve sugar and gelatine in it. Add the balsamic as well
- Once the balsamic vinegar is added, the liquid should be a darker red, not unlike the jelly liquid you’d see when you typically make jelly out of a packet
- Pour it into a container, and let the jelly cool for about 30 mins in the fridge.
- When the jelly is the consistency of egg white, take it out of the fridge. You can see the jelly in the finished picture of the sponge cake. I took mine out a little too late — it was sticking to the bowl already.
Not Lamingtons Part 3: Putting it all together
This part is the same to making lamingtons. Essentially the idea is simple: cut the sponge cakes into squares, fill them with whipped cream, and coat them with a thick layer of strawberry jelly. I also poured some generic strawberry liquer (Vok is awesome, almost all my fruity liquers come from them) into the sponge before hand. After coating them in a thick layer of strawberry jelly, I dipped them into dessicated coconut.
The result? Something that looks like lamingtons, but when bitten into, is jelly-like (because the jelly would have soaked into the air holes in the sponge if done correctly), and tastes like strawberries and cream.
This is the final result:
I must say though, I was actually surprised how subtle the flavours were. I had expected bold strawberry flavours to overpower everything, but it didn’t. The sponge was very very light, which is always a delight, and it was flavoured rather well by the jelly. The whipped cream in the middle just finished everything nicely.
The quality of the not-lamingtons did get worse as I made them. Because I had cut 16 squares, by the time I had gotten to the last square, the jelly had pretty much set into a jam-like consistency, which meant the jelly weren’t getting soaked into the sponge any more. In retrospect, I should have taken it out of the fridge earlier, and also realized that it was winter, and I needed to work faster.
Why don’t you try it and tell me what you think of it? Also, if you’re in the Sydney area, why not join up Strangers for Dinner, and who knows, you may be matched with me, and I may cook something like that :P