Boston Cream Pie and Two New Books

Being a member of a cooking forum (ChefTalk.com) has its benefits. Considering the fact that there are both professional chefs and home cooks, and everything in between, it’s a great place to learn. Through ChefTalk, I learned about two books that a number of the pros claimed should be in every home cook’s library. Both are by the same author, Shirley O. Corriher, a biochemist by training and occupation. They are BakeWise and CookWise. When a number of chefs tell you the same thing, you buy the books. So I did. I’m not sorry; both books contain a wealth of information that includes a lot of the science behind why a recipe works and what difference different ingredients will make in your finished product.

Then, another cooking forum I’m on in Ravelry, Cooking From Scratch, decided to start a monthly Bake Along. The first recipe, for the month of March is Boston Cream Pie, a cake that brings back memories for me. A recipe by Tori Avey was posted as the recipe to follow but I really wanted to try the Boston Cream Pie recipe in BakeWise. It’s a completely different method of baking a cake than I have ever seen, and even incorporates whipped cream (yes, whipped).

Because of copyright issues, I can’t post the recipe here but I can tell you that the entire recipe uses 10 eggs in total, five yolks for the custard, three yolks and two whole eggs for the cake, and rum. ┬áThe recipe in BakeWise uses Shirley’s recipe for Magnificent ┬áMoist Golden Cake filled with custard from scratch and topped with a double glazing of velvety chocolate ganache.

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First step – the custard filling

After reading the recipe through a couple of times, I anticipated that it would be a fairly long and involved process to complete this cake. In reality, that’s not the case at all. I made the custard first and, while it was cooling outside, I made the cake. As long as you have all the ingredients ready to go, the cake comes together quickly. As I said, the cake method is one I’d never seen before and I’ve baked a lot of cakes. It starts with adding the sugar to the mixing bowl, then pouring in simmering water and blending until the sugar dissolves. At that point, the butter and flavourings are added (in this case, vanilla and rum). After these ingredients are well mixed in, the flour is added in three parts and only then are the eggs mixed in, by hand, and the batter is finished off with the addition of whipped cream. And it worked!

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Just out of the oven

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Cooling

While it was in the oven, I put the ingredients for the ganache together and held it in a bowl over a pan of hot water over the element above the oven. It stayed fluid long enough over the residual heat from the oven long enough for the cake and custard to cool completely. I assembled the cake just before dinner and we had a piece for dessert. Oh my!

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Apparently, anything that drips onto the plate is fair game for anyone to sample

Honestly, this cake is delicious! The hint of rum flavouring in the cake is barely noticeable but still there. The custard pops with vanilla flavouring and the ganache… well, it’s ganache, people. What’s not to love. John was thrilled with it but is even more convinced I’m trying to kill him, with baked goods as my weapon of choice.

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If you can get your hands on Bakewise, whether you buy it or borrow it, I can heartily recommend this recipe. I’ll definitely be baking this cake again.

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And Then, There’s Swiss

In what is beginning to feel like a never-ending quest for perfection, I’ve realized that there is a third method for making French macarons. When I made the Grapefruit Macarons, I didn’t realize that they used this method, also called the Swiss Meringue Macarons. The difference in this method is that the egg whites and sugar are mixed together, then heated au bain marie (double boiler method) until the sugar has melted and incorporated into the whites, then beaten to stiff peaks before adding the icing sugar and almond.

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Perspective does strange things… my whisk is NOT that long and skinny. Honest!

In doing even more reading, I found that this method is the least well known of the three but is more stable than the French method and more delicate than the Italian method. Of course, you know that I had to give it another go, right? I’m stubborn that way.

I found a couple of online pdfs, one from Chef Joseph Cumm, and another from Chef Ryan Zimmer; both recipes are similar in their ratios. This time, I’m following Chef Joseph’s recipe. I’ll be adding red powdered food colouring to the batter and will be filling them with a raspberry chocolate ganache (already made and cooling). His pdf even has a troubleshooting guide at the end.

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The tops are a little rough looking; I probably should have whizzed the almonds and icing sugar before running them through the sieve but I like to live dangerously. Coming out of the oven, the shells are very fragile and I wasn’t, apparently, very careful.

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Once I let them cool, they were better. I learned a little “trick” on one of the (many) videos I watched – push the bottoms in a bit. It gives more room for filling and pushes the insides up to the top, helping to fill in the hollows.

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I filled these with dark chocolate raspberry ganache.

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I’m not sure how long I can wait before trying these. I have to say, making macarons can be a bit confusing. In everything I’ve read, there’s been conflicting information. The oven’s too hot. The oven’s too cool. The meringue is over beaten. The meringue is under beaten. The macaronage isn’t processed enough. The macaronage is processed too much.

Will I ever reach macaron perfection? Does it really matter? No matter how they look, they still taste the same. Will I keep making them? Oh yeah. As often as I have over the past few weeks? I don’t think so.

But I WILL keep researching.

 

Valentine’s Day

Ah, Valentine’s Day, the day that one of my co-workers calls “Singles Awareness Day”. Yes, she’s single. That surprises me, actually. She’s smart, she’s funny… kind of like my daughter… who’s also single. However, I digress.

I’m not a huge holiday celebrator; never have been, never will be. I do like having an excuse to make things, though. Especially when those “things” are sweet, yummy, and, let’s face it, pretty. Macarons fit the bill perfectly.

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(Yeah, I know, I’m on a macaron kick. No one around here is complaining… except John; he’s convinced I’m trying to kill him, with sugar as my weapon of choice. Now that I’ve got it down, though, I’m having fun! And that’s all that matters, doesn’t it?)

I wanted to make some heart shaped macarons flavoured with raspberries. I went hunting, by foot and by phone, for freeze dried raspberries in this town. I couldn’t find any. I’ve ordered some on Amazon but they won’t arrive until the end of next week. I did, however, find freeze dried pomegranates. They also have that nice, tangy, fruity flavour I was looking for.

When I found a recipe for red, white, and blue (raspberry, banana, and blueberry) macarons, using the Italian method, I printed it up and compared it to other macaron recipes.

Ok, this is where I digress again.

Remember in my last post, I wrote about the formula for macarons? Well, in my searching, I’ve realized that there are about four main formulas (or is that formulae?). There’s the Syrup & Tang formula that I used to make the Coffee Kahlua macarons last weekend. There are three others: Annie’s Eats, Mercotte, and Not So Humble Pie. They’re all similar but all vary slightly in the percentages but not by much. In my spreadsheet, I’ve taken all four ratios and averaged them out. The averages are: 1 (being the egg whites); 1.33 almond flour; 1.33 icing sugar; 1.53 white sugar; .35 water.

The recipe I used for the Pomegranate macarons is the exact ratio of the Annie’s Eats formula (1; 1.23; 1.23; 1.37; 33). Incidentally, the only measurement that is consistent across the board is the water at 33%.

For the macarons, I ground up the freeze dried pomegranates and ran them through the sifter with the icing sugar and almonds; I also added a little red gel colour to get the pink I was looking for. I also made a pomegranate curd and made a small batch of French buttercream, using more ground pomegranates as colour and flavour.

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The batter was piped on to parchment paper using a heart template. Everything went well but…. I still have hollows. (insert frown here)

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Ah well, I’m not going to make them over just because I have hollows. After drizzling half the hearts with white chocolate ganache and filling with a dollop of curd and buttecream, I think they look perfect for Valentine’s Day.

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Now, what will we have for dinner?