Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My first attempt as a Daring Baker. . .

October this year is a very special month - not only is it the month of my birthday, it's also the month of my first attempt as a Daring Baker. So, I made the Bostini Cream Pie for a small birthday celebration with Jasmin and Irene - both of whom are October babies too.

I really wouldn't say this was a good attempt. . .I mean, I've done better (even though I'm no expert baker). This cake is basically composed of three parts - a custard base, sponge cake layer, and finally topped off with chocolate sauce. I decided in the end to make one large cake rather than small-sized dainty desserts, because a) I wondered if it could stand as an actual cake, and b) I needed an actual birthday cake.
That Sunday (21 Oct) was terribly busy to begin with (fortunately, it was the Labour Day weekend). I started the day giving a presentation in the morning, literally dashed off to yumcha lunch, then dashed home to make the cake. I was hatching the plan at the back of my mind the whole time on the way home - I would make the first two layers at home, then make the chocolate sauce at Jasmin's house.

The sponge cake recipe is really a keeper. Sponge cake is normally a real challenge for me, but this turned out really well. But I screwed up the custard - I did follow the recipe, but I'm sure I mismeasured the cornstarch. It was just too stiff, and while it did chill quickly, it started sweating in the fridge.

Undaunted, I packed it all up in a cake box, dashed off downtown and hoped for the best.
At Jasmin's house (and we were joined by David and his fiancee), I made the chocolate sauce. Now, the chocolate sauce I TOTALLY screwed up, even though it clearly is the simplest part of the whole deal. Just two ingredients - what could go wrong?

Me: "Jasmin, do you have any butter at home?"
Jasmin: "Yes I do!"

As it turned out, the "butter" lovely Jasmin had was some sort of a butter spread. Neither she nor I knew that fake butter wouldn't work in a chocolate sauce. So, the "sauce", as I stirred the pot of chocolate plus fake butter, became a sort of oily black crumby muck. Weird. That's a lesson learnt, but what chemistry was responsible for this oily black product is still unknown to me.

So, I poured it out and was forced to improvise (I hope I'm not going to be denounced by the DBBs!). I was by then totally focussed on making the sauce work - "The sauce will work, dammit!" -while the bunch merrily chatted away in the dining room. I tore through the fridge, found some Yellow milk (skim), and snatched at that. I still had some Whittaker's chocolate left, and thankfully, I actually made a fairly respectable chocolate sauce out of that.

The creation was not satisfactory, but nothing, absolutely NOTHING, could get me down that day. ;) Objectively, the custard was just too heavy (in hindsight, that was how the cake could hold together), but in this recipe, frankly it just won't do. It made the cake rather heavy and too rich.

But who cares about objective evaluation right? Life, as well as food, is all about the qualitative.
Irene and Jasmin gasped when they first bit into the cake, and loved it. They ent back for seconds, and Jasmin had a third (and happily accepted the remaining 1/5 of the cake when the day ended). We washed it down with some sparkling wine - somehow that seemed to go together - and we spent the rest of the afternoon talking up a storm. And man, did we talk! The cake definitely fuelled our conversation about all kinds of cuisines.

So, the cake may not have been exactly a baking triumph, but it certainly was a triumphant day altogether!

And if anyone's actually keen on trying the recipe out, here it is:

Bostini Cream Pie
(from Donna Scala & Kurtis Baguley of Bistro Don Giovanni and Scala's Bistro)

Custard: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

Chiffon Cake:
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

Chocolate Glaze:
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.

To assemble:
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.


Jen Yu said...

Yup, chocolate can be a finicky girlfriend... ;) But I think you did fabulously considering the time constraints and the limited ingredients at hand - it looks terrific. Job well done!

jen at use real butter

marias23 said...

Congrats on completing the DB challenge! And happy happy birthday, dear :)

creampuff said...

Congratulations on completing your first Daring Baker challenge!

Tartelette said...

Congrats on your challenge! I admire you for keeping at it given the circumstances of the day! great job!

Deborah said...

Happy belated birthday!! And even though it didn't come together as you had hoped, it still looks good!

Baking Soda said...

My chocolate sauce wasn't what I expected of it either. Anyhoo, loved the crimped cake and raise the glasses on completing the challenge!

Dolores said...

Happy happy birthday! And congratulations on a successful first challenge -- the fact that you kept going and kept a positive attitude PROVES you belong as a daring baker!

Inne said...

well done on your first DB challenge! Your chocolate sauce looks great (and don't worry, I totally cheated with my custard and haven't yet had a ticking off)

Quellia said...

Belated Happy Birthday!
Well done getting the challenge done.

Gabi said...

Congrats on your 1st DB challenge- just remember chocolate loves real playmates and you'll be fine- :)
Happy belated Birthday too.

Peabody said...

I love the presentation...very clever.

Yenping said...

Gosh, I am obviously not the best blog comments maintainer. Only after posting the Buche post did I notice that there have been 11 comments to my first DBB attempt. :)

I guess being part of this underground baking posse is going to change me for the better in more ways than one. :D