Tropical Strawberry Tortecake!

Tropical Strawberry Tortecake from The Rowdy Baker

 

Here is a recipe that is definitely a labor of love, an artistic adventure, and a culinary explosion of flavors and textures.

The recipe looks long because…well, because it is! Let’s go with “involved”, but not difficult. You will be making pie crust, pastry cream, thickened pineapple puree, and coconut whipped cream. You’ll also be melting chocolate, slicing and sugaring strawberries, and thickening strawberry juice for a pretty drizzle. If you choose to, you will make a few chocolate curls or toast a little coconut.

Oh, and you’ll also be washing lots of bowls, pans, and equipment.

and it is…

ABSOLUTELY WORTH IT!

Tropical Strawberry Tortecake - The Rowdy Baker

 

If you’re shaking your head, saying “Oh, hell no!”, remember this: Most of this can be made ahead so the assembly can be done quickly when you’re ready. There are also short cuts, should you choose to use them, such as vanilla pudding instead of pastry cream, crushed pineapple instead of the lovely, light puree, and whipping cream from a can for the top. You could even (this hurts to say it) use packaged pie crusts.

This took me about 2 hours, start to finish. I think I could do it more quickly now, since part of that time was spent searching for my blender and doing a little bit of cleaning up as I went.

Hope you like stirring! During the process of making this, you will need to remember to occasionally stir the strawberries, the pastry cream, and the pineapple puree.

Tropical Strawberry Torte Cake
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Makes four generous, luscious desserts. Six, if you make thinner layers of pie crust.
Ingredients
  • FRUIT:
  • 2 cups, packed, thinly sliced strawberries
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 cups fresh pineapple, in small chunks
  • ¾ (approximately) teaspoon agar-agar, divided (I buy this in bulk at my local health food store.)
  • ****
  • PASTRY CRUST:
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vodka (you can use the cheap stuff! Or if you prefer, you can use white vinegar.
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup shortening, very cold
  • Coarse sugar (I use sparkling sugar)
  • 1 ounce of melted dark chocolate
  • ½ teaspoon coconut oil
  • ****
  • PASTRY CREAM:
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cup whole milk (you can substitute half & half if you want a richer cream)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ****
  • FOR DECORATING (optional)
  • Whipped coconut milk (using can of chilled coconut milk)* or lightly sweetened whipping cream
  • Chocolate curls
  • Toasted coconut
Instructions
  1. Place sliced strawberries in a small bowl and add ½ cup sugar. Stir well and set aside. (Stir now and then, when you think about it.)
  2. Heat oven to 400 F.
  3. MAKE PASTRY:
  4. In a small cup, combine the milk and vodka. Set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. With your fingers (or a pastry blender), blend the cold shortening into the flour mixture until well combined. Use a light hand; it's fine if there are small lumps of shortening visible.
  6. Add milk and vodka all at once. Stir gently, using fingers or fork, until you can gather it into a rough ball.
  7. Flatten dough onto a lightly floured piece of parchment. Sprinkle with flour and cover with parchment. Roll out about ¼-inch thick.
  8. Remove top sheet of parchment and lightly sprinkle with coarse sugar. Pat gently with your hand. Place the top piece of parchment back on dough and, grabbing one edge (make sure you have both pieces of parchment AND a little of the dough in your hands), flip it quickly over.
  9. Peel off top, sprinkle that side with sugar and pat. Cut with 3-inch square cookie cutter. You should easily get 12 squares, with a little dough left over. (bake and eat the scraps!)
  10. Using flat spatula, move squares to ungreased baking sheet. Prick all over with a fork and bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until just beginning to get brown around the edges. Move to a cooling rack.
  11. Melt chocolate and coconut oil in a small pan on low, or in the microwave. Melt it slowly, stirring often. Drizzle over cooled pastry squares. (I like to use a small zipper bag with one corner snipped off.)
  12. MAKE PASTRY CREAM:
  13. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, water, and egg yolks until frothy.
  14. In a medium pan over medium heat, bring milk almost to the boiling point. You should see bubbles all around the edges, and bubbles just beginning to come up in the middle.
  15. Pour half of the hot mixture into the egg yolk mixture, whisking thoroughly. Return the mixture to the pan and whisk over medium-low heat until it thickens...1 -2 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Whisk well to avoid lumps. Cover lightly and whisk every 5 minutes or so until it cools completely.
  16. MAKE PINEAPPLE PUREE:
  17. Place pineapple in blender and blend until smooth. Measure out 1½ cups of puree. If you don't have quite enough, add some of the sugar-juice from the strawberries.
  18. Place puree in a small pan over medium heat. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon agar-agar. Whisk until mixture comes to a boil. Lower heat if necessary to keep mixture at a low simmer for 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside, stirring occasionally until room temperature.
  19. Add one-third of the cooled pastry cream to the pineapple mixture and stir well.
  20. Drain strawberries, reserving the liquid.
  21. Place one pastry square on each dessert plate.
  22. Place a spoonful of pastry cream on each square, spreading cream slightly.
  23. Place a spoonful of pineapple puree on the pastry cream, spreading slightly.
  24. Divide half of the strawberries between the four squares, and top with another pastry square.
  25. Repeat, ending with pastry square.
  26. In a small pan, combine ½ cup reserved strawberry juice and a pinch of agar-agar. Stir on medium high until thickened. Drizzle over desserts.
  27. Top with whipped coconut milk or whipping cream. Garnish with chocolate curl, a strawberry slice, or toasted coconut.
  28. Serve proudly!
  29. *To whip coconut milk, open chilled can of coconut milk and carefully scoop out the solid cream at the top. Discard (or use elsewhere) liquid at the bottom. Beat in a cold bowl, just as you would whipping cream. Sweeten to taste after cream forms peaks.

I took photos – lots and lots of photos, but will try to just hit the highlights. Here we go!

Stir sugar into strawberries. Set aside but stir occasionally.

Stir sugar into strawberries. Set aside but stir occasionally.

I use vodka in my pie crust. You can use vinegar if you'd prefer.

I use vodka in my pie crust. You can use vinegar if you’d prefer.

Add liquids to flour and stir gently with fingers or fork.

Add liquids to flour and stir gently with fingers or fork.

Flip the dough over, parchment and all, and pull off top piece of parchment.

Flip the dough over, parchment and all, and pull off top piece of parchment.

Sprinkle dough with coarse sugar. (I like sparkling sugar!)

Sprinkle dough with coarse sugar. (I like sparkling sugar!)

I'm generous with this stuff because I love CRUNCH!

I’m generous with this stuff because I love CRUNCH!

Cut out 12 squares

Cut out 12 squares

Place on baking sheet and prick all over with a fork

Place on baking sheet and prick all over with a fork

Bake until they just start turning golden brown at the edges. (They kinda look like saltines!)

Bake until they just start turning golden brown at the edges

Sprinkle agar-agar on pineapple puree and simmer

Sprinkle agar-agar on pineapple puree and simmer

The pastry cream - nice and thick

The pastry cream – nice and thick

Assemble! Add some pastry cream. (You can be a little more generous than this.)

Assemble! Add some pastry cream. (You can be a little more generous than this.)

Add the pineapple puree

Add the pineapple puree

Then some berries, and...repeat!

Then some berries, and…repeat!

Find a FORK!

Find a FORK!

More desserts, coming up. But first, I’d better hit that stationary bike in the back bedroom…

Lorinda

 

2 thoughts on “Tropical Strawberry Tortecake!

  1. OK, now I’m getting excited! Pastry cream isn’t all that hard. In fact, by taking us step by step, you make fancy-shmancy seem easy-peasy.

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