Daring Bakers in October: Bostini Cream Pie

October 29, 2007 at 12:07 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, daring bakers, groups, sweet things | 64 Comments

Bostini cream pie

“Hey– don’t you mean Boston cream pie?” you ask.  I know I’m a lousy typist, but I do in fact mean Bostini.  It is, of course, a take on the traditional Boston cream pie, created by Donna Scala and Kurtis Baguley of Bistro Don Giovanni and Scala’s Bistro in Northern California– an orange-flavored chiffon cake sitting on a bed of vanilla custard and topped with chocolate glaze.  Our Daring Baker hostess this month is Mary from Alpineberry, and since she first tried it about 12 years ago, Bostini cream pie has been one of her restaurant favorites.  From what Mary whips up in the kitchen I’d say she has impeccable taste, so I was certainly excited to try this when I saw she had chosen it as the October challenge. 

Once I got the ingredients together (a whole farm’s worth of eggs and dairy!), the recipe came together pretty easily.  No troubles with the cake (I recommend squeezing the orange juice yourself for best flavor and whipping the egg whites by hand to avoid overbeating), and the custard thickened up quickly thanks to the cornstarch.  The glaze couldn’t have been easier– just melted chocolate and butter. 

Bostini cream pie

This dessert is assembled in a ramekin or custard cup at the restaurants, but we were allowed to play with presentation, provided we didn’t stray from the ingredient list or basic concepts.  I thought about putting it together in a wine glass or bowl, but wanted to put some cute new teacups to use, so I really didn’t play too much.  I baked my chiffon cakes in a muffin tin rather than using the same cups I assembled the cake in (as the recipe instructed).  I don’t know if my teacups are oven-proof, and didn’t want to chance blowing them up the first time I used them!  Also, I liked that the muffin-sized cakes were a bit smaller than the cups, so that all the drippy glaze could run into the custard instead of just down the outside of the cups.

Bostini cream pie

Boston cream pie is R’s number one dessert, and he really liked this version of it.  And my brother, who is visiting from Seattle, just loved the custard.  I am one of those weirdos who doesn’t like the combination of fruit and chocolate, but the orange flavor was pretty subtle and fresh, so I didn’t mind it here.  This dessert is super-rich, so you can get away with a small portion, even though the recipe yields quite a lot.  (I actually halved the custard and glaze amounts.  I made the full recipe of cake and froze what we didn’t eat right away.)  As you can see from the top picture, my oranges were larger than my dessert, and it was plenty! 

Thanks to Mary for picking another winning DB challenge!  You can check out the recipe over on her site.  Don’t forget to look at all the other Bostinis out there by visiting the Daring Bakers’ Blogroll.  From some sneak previews I’ve seen, they look pretty good…

DB whisk

Daring Bakers in September: Cinnamon and Sticky Buns

September 30, 2007 at 1:56 pm | Posted in breakfast things, daring bakers, groups, sweet things, sweet yeast breads | 56 Comments

cinnamon buns

What smells better than bread, cinnamon and sugar baking in the oven?  Not a whole lot, really.  And that’s why I was so pumped to see that Daring Baker Marce, aka Pip in the City, chose cinnamon/sticky buns for the September DB challenge!   She went with a recipe, which you can see here, from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  The recipe gives instructions for making a cinnamon-swirled dough that can be customized into either basic cinnamon buns with a white fondant glaze or sticky buns with a caramel/nut topping.

sticky buns

We could pick either variation (cinnamon or sticky), but why make one when you can make both?  I thought they would be a great weekend breakfast, but I didn’t want to wake up at 4:00 AM on Saturday to start the long dough making and proofing process.  The recipe says that unbaked, formed buns can be retarded for up to two days in the refrigerator, and since I’ve successfully employed this method with other types of bread dough, I thought I’d make this my plan of attack.

On Friday evening, I made the dough (using mostly AP flour combined with about 1/2 cup of bread flour) and gave it it’s first rise.  The dough really a cinch to make, and once risen, was beautifully silky smooth and easy to roll up with cinnamon sugar and form into large buns.  Half of my rolls were put, just as they were, into a baking dish for cinnamon buns.  The other half were put into a separate dish slathered with a sugar, butter and pecan mixture that would bake up into a gooey sticky bun topping.  (In other words, I prepared the recipe through Step 4 of the instructions.)  Then they both when into the refrigerator for a good night’s rest.

On Saturday morning I pulled out the cinnamon buns to come to room temperature and proof for a couple hours before baking.  On Sunday morning I did the same thing with the unbaked sticky buns.  I admit that I did get up early both days to do this!

cinnamon buns-- insides

The baked and slightly cooled cinnamon buns got a healthy drizzle of powdered sugar and milk glaze, flavored with a vanilla.  The warm sticky buns were turned out to reveal a buttery caramel topping.  Both variations were great with a cup of coffee, but which were better?  I’d say the sticky buns.  The cinnamon rolls were a bit dry inside, but with the sticky buns, the topping oozed into the dough, eliminating any dryness problem there.

sticky buns-- insides

I don’t make this kind of thing often (my real buns don’t need this kind of breakfast every week), but when I do, I normally make a sort of hybrid variation of the two…I make a cinnamon swirl using brown sugar instead of granulated and add chopped nuts to it.  The brown sugar makes the cinnamon buns bake up caramely and gooey on the inside.  Then the baked buns are frosted with a heaping amount of glaze.  I’d like to retry Reinhart’s dough recipe using that filling.

Thanks for a great challenge Marce, and if you want to see some more hot buns, be sure to visit the ever-expanding Daring Bakers’ Blogroll!

DB whisk

Daring Bakers in August: Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart

August 29, 2007 at 4:56 pm | Posted in daring bakers, groups, pies & tarts, sweet things | 49 Comments

milk chocolate and caramel tarts

I was just a lil’ bit excited to see that for this month’s Daring Bakers’ challenge, our co-hosts Veronica and Patricia chose a milk chocolate and caramel tart from Eric Kayser’s book Sweet and Savory Tarts.  Not only do I love chocolate and caramel (who doesn’t, really?), I love making tarts, especially when they have a few different components like this one.  And, although we were warned from the get-go that the directions were sparse and we’d have to read between the lines, at least there would be no fiddling around with agar-agar like last time

The first part of the recipe to tackle was the pastry dough.  The recipe described it as a “chocolate shortbread pastry,” flavored with cocoa powder, ground hazelnuts and cinnamon.  Some bakers who tried out the recipe early in the month found the cinnamon to be overwhelming, and it was later deemed optional by the Veronica and Patricia.  I followed these bakers’ advice and opted out of the cinnamon in my batch.  I chose to make my dough in the KitchenAid (with the paddle attachment), rather than in the food processor.  It just seemed less messy, and came together easily in the mixer.

After my dough had an overnight rest in the fridge, I found it to be quite malleable and very easy to work with.  The dough really didn’t resemble shortbread though, and neither the finished product, but it did bake up nice and crisp.  I decided to go the mini route and used my 3.5″ fluted tartlette pans to form the shells.  I docked them well and blind baked them with beans, thanks to the advice of those bakers who had made the recipe early on.  Even though they were small, my shells did take several minutes longer to bake than the recipe stated.  And I had to be more careful than I would have liked removing the parchment and beans from the baked shells, because the dough wanted badly to stick to the parchment.  With a little patience though, everything was fine.  I made eight little tartlettes and put the extra unbaked dough in the freezer for another time.

The next step was to make the caramel layer hidden in the middle of the tart.  I must admit here that I only made a half-batch of caramel, since I didn’t make the big 10″ tart.  R and I can’t finish a whole tart ourselves, but I promise I was true to the ingredients, techniques and proportions.  Our co-hosts did give us a choice when it came to the caramel: while the recipe called for using the dry technique, we could switch that to a wet caramel if we were more confident with the wet method.  I have actually made an unusual amount of caramel sauce in my time, and am comfortable with both ways, so I went ahead with the dry version before adding butter and cream.  I took it to the edge of dark-but-not-burned, so it would be a bit more flavorful and wouldn’t cause a toothache in combination with the milk chocolate.  (To make a dry caramel, I add the sugar in stages, starting with just enough to cover the bottom of the pan.  When that melts and begins to color, I add a little more.) To the cooled caramel base, eggs and flour were added so it would set up into a soft but firm candy-like layer in the oven, rather than remain an oozy sauce.

Once again, the caramel in my little tarts had to spend about five minutes longer in the oven than the recipe stated to set up.  I baked them until the caramel looked well set around the edges and was no longer jiggly in the center.  After cooling down on the counter for about 30 minutes, I popped them in the fridge to thoroughly set for a few hours and charged on with the caramel decorations.

I was hoping to do sugar curls or something fun, but I made this recipe during a patch of rainy days here in Sydney.  Humidity and sugarwork are archenemies, so my experiments were just a sticky mess.  I resorted to the basic caramel fragments suggested in the recipe, but even they stuck together in little clumps after I broke them up.  I liked them though…they looked like sparkly jewels.

milk chocolate and caramel tarts

For the last step before decoration (and eating!), I made the “chocolate mousse” layer.  It was just melted milk chocolate folded together with whipped cream.  I just had to be sure to let the chocolate cool to about body temperature before combining, so it wouldn’t melt the cream.  I used Green & Black’s organic milk chocolate.  They claim to use more cocoa solids than other brands, making it a “darker” milk chocolate.  I had never tried it, but as a dark chocolate freak, I was interested in finding something a little less sweet.  As luck would have it, it was also on sale!

milk chocolate and caramel tarts

Eight mini tarts equals four days of dessert for R and me, so I made scaled back amounts of the mousse as well…just enough to fill two each day.  After piling on the mousse and letting the tarts chill for a bit, it was time to decorate and try.  Boy, were they good…almost like a candy bar, but not too sweet.  I tried to get fairly equal layers of caramel and chocolate, and was really surprised by how nicely the tarts cut.  All in all, I’d say this one’s a keeper, and it wasn’t even too complicated– thanks Veronica and Patricia!  I am interested in trying it with dark chocolate though…

You can find the recipe here or here.  If you’re nosey like I am, check out the Daring Bakers’ Blogroll to see how everyone else attacked this month’s challenge!

DB whisk

Daring Bakers in July: Strawberry Mirror Cake

July 30, 2007 at 3:43 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, daring bakers, groups, sweet things | 50 Comments

strawberry mirror cake

Sometimes when a challenge is thrown my way, I shake my Magic 8 Ball to predict the outcome.  But here, I think I’ll take a cue from the Queen in Snow White: “Mirror, mirror on the wall.  Will I skate through my first Daring Bakers challenge, or will I fall?”

Yes, that’s right.  I’m now a whisk-wielding member of Daring Bakers.  For months I’ve read about the escapades of this group, and I’m very pleased to be able to display the logo myself.  Isn’t she cute?

DB whisk

Our hostess of the month, Peabody from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, had us tackle a strawberry mirror cake.  I’ve actually made a similar cake once before (in culinary school…I think we called it “fruit mousse miroir”), so I was reasonably familiar with its components– sponge cake Bavarian cream and gelée.  I knew that gelatin is what makes this cake possible, but I don’t eat red meat, so I also do my best to avoid gelatin.  One of the hard and fast rules of DB membership is that you must make the recipe the way it is written, and resist the urge to tinker and tweak.  An exception is allowed for food allergies or strong aversions, so the green-light was given to use agar-agar as a gelatin substitute.

Armed with my agar powder, a whole bunch of eggs and several baskets of surprisingly nice-looking winter strawberries, I set out to make the cake.

strawberry prep

I started by making the sponge cake, which was easy and really delicious.  I had a fair amount of scrap left over, so I stuck it in the freezer where it is waiting to be reincarnated, possibly as a trifle….mmm.

From there, however, things took a turn for the difficult.  I had never actually used agar-agar before, and really had no idea how.  I did some reading on the subject, but perhaps too much, because I wound up confused.  You can substitute powdered agar-agar for powdered gelatin in equal amounts, but strawberries are acidic, so they might require more agar…you need to boil it, but it sets at room temperature, blah blah blah.  What did I get myself into?

In terms of dissolving the agar-agar in boiling liquid, I did what I thought was best without altering the amount of liquid in the recipe (that was my real concern with using the stuff).  Everything looked the way it was supposed to, which was a good sign.  So I crossed my fingers and slid the cake tin in the fridge for a nice long rest.  When I popped the cake out of the tin, I couldn’t believe how big it looked on the stand–with only two of us in the house, I’m used to just making little six-inchers.  It was quite shiny and splendid in all its red and pink glory, and I could actually see a bit of my reflection on the surface!

strawberry mirror cake

It’s not all about looks here, though.  What’s inside counts, too.  I knew I had to bite the bullet and cut the cake, and I was nervous.  The Bavarian cream was a bit softly set, but held up fine.  Sadly though, it had a bit of a pasty texture that I wasn’t too fond of.  I know that had nothing to do with the original recipe.  It was the fault of the agar, or more likely, the fault of the person using the agar.

strawberry mirror cake

I’m not too keen to blindly experiment with agar-agar again anytime soon, but I have a packet in my pantry in case the urge surfaces.  I am a Daring Baker now, after all. 

To see how the other DB members tackled this assignment, visit the Daring Bakers’ Blogroll.  And if you know of any worthwhile books with recipes designed specifically for agar-agar, or if you’ve had good luck with any of the Kosher gelatins available, please let me know!

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