Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Daring Bakers: Bostini Cream Pie

My freshman effort for The Daring Bakers a came in the midst of one of the most hectic time periods in recent memory for me. In the past six weeks, both computers blew up, the printer won't work, our furnace wouldn't turn on because the thermostat failed, our water heater wouldn't heat water, we are having electrical problems, and a faucet less than a year old had to be replaced. And these are just some of the things that have gone wrong. My computer still won't read some CDs, or download software properly. I apologize for the poor photography; never great to begin with, I don't have the use of software to clean it up a bit.
In the midst of this insanity, I dove into my first effort for the Daring Bakers: Bostini Cream Pie (not a typo). Mary, from Alpineberry chose this dessert for the month of October (follow the link to her site for the original recipe). One of the neat things about the Daring Bakers is that people pick things that I might never try on my own, and this recipe is an example. An incredibly rich pastry cream or custard, topped with a light and airy orange-scented chiffon cake, drizzled with semisweet chocolate at the end. I would describe this dessert as a symphony: each element, while tasty by itself, is elevated to new heights in combination with other parts of the dessert. Actually, pastry cream doesn't need any help. Ever. I had to stop myself from eating it by the spoonful!
I tweaked the recipe a bit by halving it, more or less, and it turned out just fine. There's just so much cream custard and chocolate that I consider safe to have around the house. I also baked the cake in a jellyroll pan, and used a biscuit cutter to cut out rounds for the dessert.
Check out the Daring Bakers' Blogroll for all the masterpieces!
Bostini Cream Pies
(from Donna Scala & Kurtis Baguley of Bistro Don Giovanni and Scala’s Bistro)
To prepare the custard
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1-1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 large egg, lightly beaten
4 egg yolks
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 of a vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
5 oz. sugar

Mix together the milk and cornstarch in a bowl until smooth, then add to the eggs and mix well.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the cream, vanilla bean, vanilla seeds, and sugar on medium heat. As soon as it comes to the boil, remove from the heat.
Temper the eggs by adding the hot cream mixture gradually, a little at a time, to the egg mixture while whisking all the time. When the egg mixture is warm, add it to the cream in the saucepan and return the pot to a medium heat. Cook until the mixture thickens so that it coats the back of a spoon. For me, this happened within seconds, so watch it like a hawk.
Remove the custard from the heat and pour through a sieve and into a bowl. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on top of the custard to prevent the formation of a "skin," and refrigerate for several hours.
To prepare the chiffon cake
3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup canola oil
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 Tbsp. grated orange zest
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
5 egg whites
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and line a half sheet (jellyroll) pan with parchment, and then grease the parchment. Don't skip the greasing of the parchment - you want to be able to actually remove the parchment from your cake!

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the oil, egg yolks, orange juice, orange zest, and vanilla. Stir until smooth, but do not over mix.

Beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter. I recommend taking a third of the egg whites and mixing them rather vigorously into the batter, then gently folding in the remaining whites.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes. The cake is done when it springs back lightly after being pressed with your finger. It will be a soft golden color.

Let cool on a wire rack before unmolding. Gently turn the cake over onto a cutting board or another piece of parchment or wax paper, and carefully peel off the parchment. Cut the cake as desired (I used round biscuit cutters).

To prepare the chocolate glaze
You can make as much or as little of this as you like, as there are only two ingredients and they are in a one-to-one ratio. While you can prepare the other parts of the cake, prepare the glaze right before serving.
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces unsalted butter

In a small pan or the microwave (if you use the latter, err on the side of caution and don't burn your chocolate!), melt the butter and chocolate. Strain through a sieve if needed (I didn't need to).
To plate
Place the custard on the bottom, top with the sponge cake, and drizzle or drown the cake with the chocolate glaze. Enjoy!


Monday, October 22, 2007

Baking Dorie's Chocolate Muffins

These are for you if: (1) you love chocolate, (2) would like to find an excuse to eat it for breakfast, and (3) don't like baked goods that are too sweet. I definitely like chocolate, and have a fondness for muffins that don't make my teeth ache from too much sugar, so I thought I'd give these a try. I uploaded the photos before my entire computer crashed, so I have something to blog about!

The pros: a tender crumb, moist, crunchy top, and they freeze well. The cons: I will definitely switch to semisweet chocolate next time (they need it), and double wrap these muffins if you freeze them, or they pick up every flavor in the freezer.

I used Scharffen Berger bittersweet chocolate:

I made a couple of adaptations: I added 1.5 teaspoons of espresso coffee crystals to augment the chocolate flavor, and I sprinkled turbinado sugar on top of the muffins before baking.

Chocolate Chocolate-Chunk Muffins
Adapted from Dorie Greespan's Baking, From My Home to Yours

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate (next time I'll use semisweet), coarsely chopped
2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted (I used Droste brand)
1 1/2 teaspoons espresso coffee crystals
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling
Center a rack in the oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter or spray a 12- slot muffin pan, or line with muffin liners. Place pan on a baking sheet.
Melt butter and half the chopped chocolate in a bowl over simmering water (or in the microwave). Add the coffee crystals and stir to dissolve. Take off heat and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, egg, and vanilla together until well combined.
Pour the buttermilk mixture and the chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients. Mix gently but quickly to blend, but do not over mix as this will toughen the muffins. A few lumps are OK! Stir in the remaining chopped chocolate.
Divide batter among the muffin tins. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a thin skewer inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Cool pan on a rack for 5 minutes before removing muffins from pan.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

System Failure!

Well, our computer has blown up. Literally. Master Chow "smelled something funny," then "the whole system shut down," and he "saw whisps of smoke."

We're getting a Mac. If Microsoft were a vampire, I'd drive a stake through it's cold, cold heart.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Chimichurri and Skirt Steak

I've been meaning to post about chimichurri (an Argentine salsa), so I dug through my photos, and here it is.

A recipe for chimichurri is going to vary from family to family, and everyone believes that the variation that they grew up with is the best one out there. I'm no different - I used to sneak in the kitchen and eat this stuff with a spoon while my mom was out back, grilling the steak. There are three "secrets" to good chimichurri, in my opinion: (1) use fresh ingredients, (2) don't use a food processor, as it makes the whole mixture rather bitter, and (3) loosen up and adjust the ingredients to suit your tastes! So, I present you with my family's chimichurri recipe, but keep in mind that it is only a guideline, and even I adjust quantities every time I make this.

1 cup loosely packed fresh flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup fresh oregano
4-6 plump garlic cloves
a pinch of dried red hot peppers (unlike Mexican food, Argentine food generally is not "hot")
kosher salt to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2-3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

Finely chop the parsley, oregano, and garlic. Combine with all the other ingredients and adjust the amounts until you like how it tastes. You can add more vinegar and olive oil until you get the consistency of a thick soup. This will make enough to marinate the meat, but you won't have any extra to serve with the meat on the side, so if you want more chimichurri, at least double the recipe.

Rub over the skirt steaks (about 2 pounds) and marinate for a few hours. When ready to grill the meat, clean off the marinade (you don't want the garlic to burn), and grill quickly, usually only a couple minutes on each side. Serve with more chimichurri.