A few months ago, I binged every season I could find of "The Great British Baking Show" on Netflix. I never thought that I'd actually learn anything from watching those talented home bakers, as they strive week-after-week to make a star baker-worthy cake, bread or pastry (and try to earn that elusive "Paul Hollywood handshake").
Finally, I can say, that all those nights I spent watching "cake week" episodes — the ones devoted to carefully rolling warm sponge cakes into spirals without breaking them — have paid off. I made my first ever Swiss roll the other night, on a whim.
If you aren't aware, local strawberries are in season. (I picked up six pints this weekend at a farmers market, but you also can pick-your-own at many local farms.) Knowing this ahead of time, I asked several of my Berkshire Eagle co-workers for dessert recipes that use strawberries. Meggie Baker, digital projects manager for news, sent along a recipe for a no-bake strawberry cheesecake; Margaret Button, associate features editor, sent me a recipe for a strawberry cream cake roll and Lindsey Hollenbaugh, managing editor content engagement, provided a strawberry sauce recipe.
I went into the weekend planning on making only the no-bake cheesecake with a homemade graham cracker crust. But, after popping the cheesecake in the refrigerator to chill, I was still a little ambitious and had plenty of leftover strawberries to use. I put a pound of hulled strawberries onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and popped them in the freezer. (This is a simple way to freeze and later bag strawberries for use in the future.) Then, I decided to make the cake roll. I made the sponge cake and put it in the oven. I got my flour sack towel ready and waited for the cake to bake. I had never made a sponge cake before, never mind roll one in a towel and set it to cool. But I did both. I flipped my warm sponge cake onto a towel, slowly peeled off the parchment paper and carefully rolled it in my flour sack towel. As it cooled, I made the cream filling, suspicious of how easy it had been to roll that cake. Surely, I though, it will crack. But, to my delight, I unrolled the towel, spread the cream according to the directions and rolled the sponge back up without any problems. I later dusted it with powdered sugar. It was light, airy and delicious.
The cheesecake also was light and delicious and a great treat on a hot night. I plan on making both of these desserts again and again.
As for that Paul Hollywood handshake, I think it's equivalent to a family that happily downed these desserts.
STRAWBERRY CREAM CAKE ROLL
This fresh Strawberry and Cream cake is the perfect dessert for a summer night get-together. It's relatively simple to make — the hardest part is rolling it in a towel right after it comes out of the oven. It does get a bit soggy after about 6 hours in the refrigerator. Raspberries, blackberries and blueberries can also be used.
Margaret Button, associate features editor
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 recipe filling
Separate eggs. Allow egg whites and yolks to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, grease a 15-by-10-by-1-inch baking pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper; grease paper. Set aside. In a medium bowl, stir together flour and baking powder; set aside.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl, beat egg yolks and vanilla with an electric mixer on high speed about 5 minutes or until thick and lemon-color. Gradually beat in the 1/3 cup granulated sugar, beating on high speed until sugar is almost dissolved.
Thoroughly wash beaters. In another bowl, beat egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the 1/2 cup granulated sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold egg yolk mixture into beaten egg whites. Sprinkle flour mixture over egg mixture; fold in gently just until combined. Spread batter evenly in the prepared pan.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Immediately loosen edges of cake from pan and turn cake out onto a towel sprinkled with powdered sugar. Remove parchment paper from cake. Roll towel and cake into a spiral, starting from a short side of the cake. Cool on a wire rack. Meanwhile, prepare desired filling.
Unroll cake; remove towel. Spread cake with desired filling to within 1 inch of edges. Roll up cake; trim ends. Cover; chill for up to 6 hours.
STRAWBERRY CREAM FILLING
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped strawberries (or 1 cup fresh raspberries)
In a medium mixing bowl, beat whipping cream, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form (tips curl). Fold in strawberries or raspberries. Sprinkle cake with powdered sugar after rolling with filling.
NO-BAKE STRAWBERRY CHEESECAKE
YIELD: Makes 8 servings
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 ounces prepared whipped topping, thawed
1 prepared graham cracker crust (or make your own)
1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and halved lengthwise
Beat the cream cheese until smooth with an electric mixer. Gradually beat in the sugar. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla until just combined. Fold in the whipped topping. Scrape mixture into the pie crust. (There may be some filling leftover. If so, reserve it to be decoratively piped onto the top of the pie.) Chill in the refrigerator for 4 hours.
Decorate the top of the cheesecake, when chilled. Starting in the center, arrange the strawberries in a circular pattern. Pipe with extra filling, if desired.
Note: If you prefer to make a graham cracker crust, combine 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs with 1/4 cup sugar and 1/3 cup melted butter. Press the mixture into a 9-inch pie plate and bake for 8 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven. Cool completely before filling.
This sauce is perfect as a chocolate cake filling or served slightly warmed over vanilla ice cream. If you're using super fresh, ripe strawberries that are on the sweeter side, consider using a little less sugar in this recipe. This is also a great way to use up strawberries that are close to the end of the shelf life.
Lindsey Hollenbaugh, managing editor content engagement
1 pound strawberries
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup water (divided)
1/8 teaspoon salt (pinch)
Wash, clean, and hull strawberries. Chop them into equal size pieces.
Place strawberries in a saucepan with half the water, sugar, lemon juice and salt. Place it on medium heat until all the sugar is dissolved; shaking the pan to cook evenly.
Continue to cook a minute more, then, use a vegetable or potato masher and mash the fruit to create a smoother sauce.
Add cornstarch to the remaining water and stir well. Add it to the strawberries.
Continue to cook on medium — the mixture will thicken and look glossy. When glossy and thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon or spatula it's ready.
If you want a super smooth sauce, strain the filling by pouring it through a sieve.
Pour into a mason jar. Let cool completely.