Spring and summer come along and a cook's thoughts turn to limiting use of the oven when possible. Here is a dessert at once lovely and uncomplicated that requires very little cooking. I made it for Easter; it would be suitable for Mother's Day, graduations, barbeques, or really any other occasion.
Strawberry Lemon Bavarian Cake, published in Gourmet in 1991.
It is a Bavarian cream on a shortbread crust; I suspect the crust is why Gourmet called it a Bavarian cake, in the same way that a cream cheese custard on crust is commonly called a cheesecake. A traditional Bavarian cream is prepared in a decorative mold and turned out for serving. This is what those Jell-O and Cool Whip concoctions are meant to imitate; with or without a crust, it is not much harder to make than the Jell-O and tastes better into the bargain.
Crème bavaroise seems to have first appeared in the early 19th century. Some French sources claim that it originated in Switzerland; others suggest it was invented in France and named in honour of a visiting Bavarian aristocrat. There are early versions among Carême's recipes, though his bavaroise was called 'fromage' (cheese) rather than 'crème.'
It is, as I said, easy, but this is one of those recipes that almost demand you do a mise-en-place. I mention this because I am sure I am not the only home cook who doesn't spend a lot of time on 'the mise.' I don't have lots of small bowls in which to put my various chopped, weighed, or measured ingredients. I don't even have the space to put a lot of small bowls -- either counter space when cooking or storage space the rest of the time.
Most of the time I don't want to wash up a lot of small bowls, either. But I recognise that there are times when you just need to do the whole mise-en-place, small bowls and washing up and all, and this is one of them. Do the prep work, and it will all come together swiftly and smoothly.
The first step is the shortbread crust. This in itself doesn't require elaborate preparation but the crust needs to be ready to go when the cream is done, so having the crust baked and chilled is itself a step in the mise-en-place. You could, I think, make the crust the day before and store it, covered, in the refrigerator.
Put the bowl in which you're going to whip the cream, and the beaters of your hand mixer or whisk attachment of your stand mixer in the refrigerator or freezer.
Prepare the berries. Clean, hull, dice, spruce up if necessary, and set aside.
Next, fill a bowl larger than your saucepan with cool water and then prepare the gelatine mixture. Do not fill the bowl as much as you think you ought to. What you want is to be able to lift your gelatine mixture off the heat and plop it into the cool water without juggling the bowl and saucepan, and also without the water rising up and splashing into the gelatine.
Once the gelatine has cooled you can get the bowl and beaters out of the fridge and finish the recipe as directed.
When you're ready to serve, run a clean, cold knife around the edge of the pan before you remove the ring. I served the additional berries on the side but you could certainly decorate the top with them if you preferred. Mint or basil leaves would also be a fine garnish.