Monday, October 29, 2007

A Comedy of (Custard) Errors

For my very first Daring Bakers challenge, I received the recipe for Bostini Cream Pie, an orange flavored cake and custard dessert with chocolate sauce on top. I have to admit that I had pretty mixed feelings about it- I was really excited to try something I had never heard of before but also disappointed because: a) I don’t like oranges, b) I’m not the biggest fan of fluffy cakes, and c) I initially thought it was Boston Cream Pie, a dessert I LOVE. Sadly, I didn’t have enough imagination to find a good substitute for the oranges and, frankly, I wanted to be a purist for my first challenge, so despite my objections, I decided to give the recipe a try just as it was written.

I started with the milk-cornstarch mixture, which I set aside and pretty much forgot about. Then I moved on to what seemed like an endless number of eggs to separate. Then I heated the cream mixture and tempered the eggs and cooked the custard. AND THEN… I looked at my counter at the lonely container of milk and cornstarch that had been left behind! I swiftly apologized to the milk mixture and mixed it into the cooking custard, wondering what I missed in the recipe to have forgotten this. In hindsight, I maybe should have just forgotten the milk altogether at that point, because the custard tasted richer before adding it, and even with the cornstarch, it never quite set up. Also, the distraction of finding the milk and having to cook the whole thing longer made the custard curdle a bit. It was fine after straining, but I have a feeling the custard did not come out exactly as it was supposed to. I also didn’t realize I didn’t have the right size of ramekins, so I used smaller ones, which I think was fine.

The chiffon cake portion was less eventful, although I realized I didn’t have any more custard cups, so I had to bake it in a cake pan and later cut out the rounds to put over the custard. That worked out just fine and left me with lots of cake edges to munch on. When it was time to put the Bostini together, I got the custards out of the refrigerator and realized that they were still very soft! This was pretty annoying because a) it dashed my plans of unmolding them and presenting them in the cool layered look I had seen online and in some of the DB posts, and b) I have made several successful custards in the past and this one, my first public posting challenge, had not turned out right. I decided to just assemble them in the ramekins, drizzling the chocolate glaze a la Jackson Pollock over the dessert. In the end, I was pretty happy with the results. The Bostini did look pretty cool, if I do say so myself. The pictures don’t quite do them justice!

Bostini side view

Bostini top view

Audience Response:

I valiantly served the Bostini at a business dinner for my husband and some of his colleagues, all of whom seemed very impressed. The colleagues all seemed to enjoy them, although eating them was a somewhat messy undertaking because the custard slushed out a bit when we tried to cut through the cake. Everyone gave them thumbs up! My husband later said that he liked his Bostini a lot despite not loving orange and chocolate together, but felt that the custard seemed almost bland when paired with the very flavorful cake and chocolate sauce. He also said that it was hard to get a good solid bite with all three components together. His final verdict: he wouldn’t request for me to make it again (because it seemed too stressful and time-consuming) but he liked it enough to potentially order it in a restaurant.

My response:

To my surprise (as a custard-lover and orange-hater), the chiffon cake was my favorite part of the dessert. I thought the texture was great (not so fluffy that it felt like eating a sponge) and it was so flavorful! I agree with my husband that, in comparison to the cake, the custard did seem kind of bland. In the end, I liked the custard OK and thought its texture was fine with the cake, although a richer, firmer custard would probably have been better. I disagree with my husband’s opinion that it was hard to get a bite with all three components, but wonder whether there were just too many components.

What I learned/practiced:

1) As it turns out, I might not hate oranges after all!

2) I can safely say that I had never separated so many eggs at any one time in my entire life (I was also separating eggs for chocolate pots de crème at the same time!). I think I got to be a real pro too… I was even able to separate 6 eggs without breaking a single yolk, making a cool flower pattern in my yolk bowl.

Egg yolk daisy

3) Since I only made half the recipe, I got a great arithmetic refresher with all the fractions. I also figured out new ways to measure 3/8 of a cup or ½ an egg yolk, a great skill to have for the future I think.

4) I got a friendly reminder to read the whole recipe CAREFULLY to make sure I’m accounting for all ingredients. I figured out that, for the custard, I just missed one word (“whisk IN the eggs” rather than just “whisk the eggs”) and it made me leave out a whole major component. Now I know to really read and pay attention to the recipe before starting.

The final verdict:

I’m not sure I would make Bostini again. They were pretty time- and energy-intensive and I found the custard to be more finicky that other recipes I’ve used in the past. If I make it again, I would probably find a different custard recipe that was richer and firmer (or perhaps I would ACTUALLY follow the recipe correctly!).



Courtney said...

sandy i love that you served at colleges of your hubby you are brave. they look great

Lis said...

Hooray! Fantastic post, Sandy!

And how cool was your egg flower? Very, I say!

Can not wait to see what you come up with next month!

Congrats on your first DB challenge! WOOT!


Quellia said...

Pretty flower - I wouldn't object if I were given that type of flower!
Great work on the challenge and welcome to the DB's!

glamah16 said...

You did those and chocolate pot de creme at the same time? Wow. we all forget things, but it turned out great.

April said...

Well, they look tasty!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Sandy what an excellent write up for you first challenge. Lots of learning going on. We all have had our "I left what out." moments. ;))
Smaller was better for these beauties of richness.

Annemarie said...

Great post, and great bits of learning you did. I'm also a custard lover and found the custard great on its own but a bit overpowered when with the other bits. I did the same as you and halved my custard recipe so was as knee-deep in fractions as I was in yolks. Well done to the both of us. :)

Sheltie Girl said...

Sandy - You did a wonderful job on your Bostini's. Kudos for serving it to your husband's business colleagues without having it for a test run first. Welcome to the Daring Baker's!

Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go

Andrea said...

Your Bostinis look beautiful with the Jackson Pollock chocolate on top! And it sounds like you were able to get through the process in spite of some missteps along the way. Congrats and welcome to the Daring Bakers!

Jen Yu said...

Oh, I think they turned out just great and you did a terrific job. I too was "meh" on the idea when I read the recipe, but thought the combination was pretty darn tasty when I finally gave it a try! Congratulations on your DB challenge!

-jen at use real butter

breadchick said...

Brave of you to serve your first DB challenge to business guests!!! Great job on your challenge!!! Glad to have you aboard.

Megan said...

It sounds like this custard is pretty forgiving. I think your dessert looks wonderful. And I love your egg flower!

Deborah said...

Ha! I'm usually an orange lover and custard hater, but I was opposite for this dessert! Great job on your first challenge!

Susan said...

Great job on the dessert and write up!

Christina said...

Great save! I'm glad everyone enjoyed it.

Tartelette said...

Jackso Pollock would be proud! GReat first DB challenge!

Gabi said...

Great job! It's wonderful when you find that your taste for a food can change given the right opportunity.
Welcome to the DBs