After lurking a bit and finally deciding that I wanted to be a part of something brilliant, I joined the Daring Bakers, a group that takes on a pastry/baking challenge once a month.
This month's challenge (hosted by Mary at Alpineberry) turned out to be Bostini Cream Pie. (It differs from the original by being served individually instead of as a giant cake (orange chiffon instead of the typical vanilla or butter cake, by the way), and the custard is thinner and not as thick as in the regular version.) I must admit, this was my reaction upon reading it was custard-based:
"Upon seeing the recipe for the first time, visions of failed custards (in the shape of people, read: runny, unset bowls of custard with eyes, noses, and mouths, twig arms and legs dancing in circles with the custard sloshing around on account of it not being set properly -- of the past danced in my head, laughing..."
Right... So it goes without saying that I was more than a bit scared at the idea of making it.
As you can tell (you can't? Hang on, I'll explain the picture!), the custard is thick and creamy, but not uber gelatinous to the point where you poke it and it has a hole that doesn't fill in when you remove your finger. There were some minor lumps and I'm not sure why. I think I tempered the egg mixture properly, and I did strain it. What's really odd, however, was that it didn't have a texture of lumpiness, like tapioca somehow made it's way into my custard, it was just smooth. It was a bit eggy for my taste, though.
No, I forgot to run my finger down the middle to prove that it coats the back of the spoon -- in my case, the spatula. But believe me, it did. I just put this picture up to show you my shortcomings because if you look closely enough, you can see the aforementioned lumps.
The first is a picture of the chiffon batter. (I forgot to snap one before I put the batter into the pans, and before I stuck the pans in the oven.) It was kind of billowy and very light, with hints of orange (tangerine, actually, but it practically tasted like orange). The recipe said to whip the egg whites until soft peaks form, and if anything freaks me out as much as custard, it's whipping egg whites (followed by folding the eggs whites into the batter). I think these were whipped properly, but maybe it wasn't... and maybe I deflated it when I folded the egg whites into the batter... Whatever it was that I did, it didn't seem to rise much higher than the level it was at when I split the batter between to 9-inch pans. (The recipe did say to fill the molds nearly to the top, which I didn't, so perhaps the rise wasn't noticeable except that some of the other DBers' pictures proved otherwise. Which leads me to the conclusion, maybe it's me.)
The batter was supposed to be baked in ramekins, but not having any meant I would bake it in two pans and cut out circles. I chose a scalloped-edged round cookie cutter. There were enough circles to give two to each five servings, plus a few extra for snacking -- not to mention the scraps!
The texture was spongy, moist, not crumbly, and it was "kissed" with an orange flavor.
The best way I could think to properly show off the greatness was in mini goblets. A custard layer came first (which was allowed -- I'm so nice! -- to set in the fridge for a while prior to layering), then a cake round followed by some melted bittersweet chocolate with butter, then I repeated the cake/chocolate step and added enough chocolate to fall a bit down the edges in a star pattern (which impressed some people, actually!)
The servings spent the night in the fridge.
For presentation and to dress it up for the pictures, I topped it with shavings of tangerine peel. Besides the prettiness factor, it added an extra burst of orange to each bight.
The chocolate hardened to form a shell. It was the cause of this:
It sank like Titanic, the spoon being the iceberg. But I digress...
The chocolate-orange combination is one of my favorites, which made this dessert a win-win. The warm feel of the chocolate was contrasted nicely by the coolness of the chilled custard, and the sponginess of the cake upped it to a third degree -- creamy custard, hard chocolate pieces, spongy cake. (Side note, I didn't notice the egginess as much when combined with the other components.)
The only part I didn't quite like was the heaviness. Even though I halved the recipe, the custard contained nearly two cups of heavy whipping cream and 4 1/2 egg yolks plus half a whole egg. I didn't measure the custard amounts per serving, though I figure there was 1/2 cup per serving, which may or may not have been a large amount but I don't know. The chocolate itself aided in the heavy factor, so after a few bites I had a heavy feeling in my stomach. This is best eaten spaced out over, at the very least, half an hour.
All in all, my first challenge with the DBers was a success and I cannot wait until November to find out what I'll be paranoid about next!
While you're at it, click the link for the Daring Bakers' Blogroll on the side and check out how the others' faired.
The recipe below is for the whole version. I cut it in half and it still came out well. If I remember correctly, half of 3/4 cup is 1/3 cup, and half of 1/3 cup is 2 Tbsps. and 2 tsps. For the 1/3 tsp, I used 1/8 plus half an 1/8 tsp. I'm not sure how correct that was but I figured it was close enough.
Bostini Cream Pie
(from Donna Scala & Kurtis Baguley of Bistro Don Giovanni and Scala's Bistro)
(makes 8 generous servings)
Custard (pastry cream):
3/4 cup whole milk
2 3/4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 whole egg, beaten
9 egg yolks, beaten
3 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 vanilla bean (EDITED:vanilla extract is okay)
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1 1/3 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup beaten egg yolks (3 to 4 yolks)
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup egg whites (about 8 large)
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
8 ounces semi or bittersweet chocolate
8 ounces unsalted butter
To prepare the custard:
Combine the milk and cornstarch in a bowl; blend until smooth. Whisk in the whole egg and yolks, beating until smooth. Combine the cream, vanilla bean and sugar in a saucepan and carefully bring to a boil. When the mixture just boils, whisk a ladleful into the egg mixture to temper it, then whisk this back into the cream mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Strain the custard and pour into 8 large custard cups. Refrigerate to chill.
To prepare the chiffon cakes:
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray 8 molds with nonstick cooking spray. You may use 7-ounce custard cups, ovenproof wide mugs or even large foil cups. Whatever you use should be the same size as the custard cups.
Sift the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add the oil, egg yolks, orange juice, zest and vanilla. Stir until smooth, but do not overbeat.
Beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gently fold the beaten whites into the orange batter. Fill the sprayed molds nearly to the top with the batter.
Bake approximately 25 minutes, until the cakes bounce back when lightly pressed with your fingertip. Do not overbake. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. When completely cool, remove the cakes from the molds. Cover the cakes to keep them moist.
To prepare the glaze:
Chop the chocolate into small pieces. Place the butter in a saucepan and heat until it is just about to bubble. Remove from the heat; add the chocolate and stir to melt. Pour through a strainer and keep warm.
Cut a thin slice from the top of each cake to create a flat surface. Place a cake flat-side down on top of each custard. Cover the tops with warm chocolate glaze. Serve immediately.
(What I did: I greased and lined two 9-inch round cake pans with wax paper, greasing the tops of the paper also. I baked it for 25 minutes, as the recipe said and it came out nicely -- somewhat firm on top (it passed the fingertip test) and just starting to pull away from the edges. After cooling as per the recipe, I then cut out circles with a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, and I didn't slice the top off to create a flat layer. I also chilled the goblets overnight. You can do that without the chocolate glaze, pouring it over each portion just prior to serving if you want to make this ahead of time but don't want a hard chocolate shell.)