Monday, February 27, 2006

Baking Extravaganza

Yesterday, I baked away. I made two chocolate-apricot tarts for the dinner club, and profiteroles for fun. It was interesting, but for all that work I'm disappointed in the outcome.

The profiteroles were unlike anything I've made before. It's the first time I've ever had to pipe and of course I don't have the right tools. Instead I used a ziplock bag like the people on the food network except I was missing a tip. The recipe came from The Silver Spoon Cookbook. I like the cookbook, but the directions can be vague. I think they lose some in the translation.

Baked profiteroles

They didn't puff up as much as I thought. I'm not sure if that was my error because of the way I made the dough or if I just didn't make the mounds high enough. I kind of wish the cookbook had pictures, so I could tell if I'm heading the right direction.

I also made a custard to fill the profiteroles with. I thought it'd be more interesting than just whipped cream like the recipe called for. The cookbook just said milk and we only drink skim, so that's what I used. The custard was lacking and I think it's because there wasn't enough fat. It was just missing some richness that I think whole milk would have given it. That was my error. Sometimes skim milk will work in things. I made a bechamel sauce with skim milk for a lasagna and it was really good. However, I don't think skim is an adequate substitute for baking.

Anyway, I used a chopstick to poke a small hole into the profiterole and then piped in the custard. I really could have used a tip to steady the custard. Then I used some of the chocolate ganache from the tarts, and dipped the profiteroles.

The finished product

Mr. Cupcake and I weren't super thrilled with the outcome. He thought it wasn't sweet or rich enough, and I agreed. I want to buy a proper baking book like Baking Illustrated from the Cooks Illustrated people, so I can learn more techniques.

The other thing I made was two chocolate-apricot tarts. I made the dough the night before and let it sit in the fridge. When I went to roll it out, it was incredibly stiff and hard. I didn't have enough muscle to flatten it out, so Mr. Cupcake came to the rescue.

This recipe was also vague. It said use a heart shaped tart pan, but didn't give any indication how big. I ended up buying two normal sized tart pans because a heart shaped one would only be used once, plus I doubt I could find one. I figured two tarts would be good because it's better to have too much than too little. There's an apricot layer made with apricot sauce and powered sugar melted together, and then the chocolate ganache was poured on top. Well, it turns out we had too little ingredients with the first batch, so we had to double and triple up for each tart. I had to eyeball it because of the limited ingredients, but if we had only followed the recipe there would have been very little filling. It was also hard because the chocolate ganache had to be poured at the perfect temperature, so there were timing constraints. Here's the finished product:

Notice the shell pulled away from the pan during baking. Grrrrr.

We served one from the fridge and one room temperature. The tart from fridge had rock solid chocolate, while the room temperature tart had a much better texture. I also felt there was too much chocolate. It would have been better if the chocolate had a thinner layer instead. Oh well. I think people liked it, but who knows? I wasn't all that impressed. It's not something I'd make again. However, I would like to work on making better crusts. It's really hard to find that perfect balance because pastry dough can't be worked very much otherwise it won't have that light, flakiness too it. Maybe another day.

Poor Mr. Cupcake was so sick last night after the cooking club dinner. It's the sickest I've ever seen him, and we've been together for a long time. I'm not sure if he had food poisoning or some kind of virus. He's better today, but still feeling pretty awful. I haven't checked to see if anyone else was sick from the dinner. Hopefully he'll feel better for our dinner on Wednesday. I'm still looking to post my first euphoric food review, so maybe this will be it. I also decided I'm going to bake some chocolate cupcakes, and pipe them with a real tip. After making what I felt were disappointments, I need to make something good so I can massage my baking ego a little bit. Then I'll move on to something more challenging again.

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