This month's Daring Bakers Challenge was to make Bostini Cream Pie (chosen by Mary at Alpineberry), an orangey, chiffony twist on your regular Boston Cream Pie. It involved home-made custard heavily laden with cream, which we in the A&N home don't really eat since dairy like that doesn't make us feel our best. When we were invited to a friend's for Sunday lunch, and that same friend dared me (yes, dared me) to make the dessert for the day, the Bostini Cream Pie seemed the perfect thing to make - I could off-load some of that dairy onto others, and the existence of a baking dare seemed to flow with the spirit of what the Daring Bakers are about.
I was very proud of how I earned my orange zest: the day before making the cake, I had a fresh orange juice from a local cafe and in a flash of inspiration, asked for the rinds as a donation which they were more than happy to give me (the man next to me tried to then haggle some 'disused bacon' for his dog, but he was less successful). In shopping for the rest of the ingredients, Mr. A&N kept acting like a little devil on my shoulder, trying to discourage me from buying the milk and cream and making the custard as I ought to ('Just buy the powdered stuff - you can use soy milk and no one will ever know...'). I knew I could alter the recipe to go non-dairy if I could find a decent substitute, but I couldn't really find any and knew that powdered custard certainly didn't fall into that category. I stood firm, repeating the no-undue-changes-to-the-recipe rule of the group again (and again, and eventually just ignoring Mr. A&N) and finally reminded him that he wasn't obliged to eat the cake.
And so to the cake making. I decided to make one large pie rather than 8 smaller ramekins-full, mostly for ease of traveling but also because I wanted to actually see the layers resting on top of each other rather than have them hidden inside a small dish. I made the cake-part first since I would put the custard to cool in the same tin; I had it all perfectly timed so that I would be bringing the custard to the boil just as the cake came out of the oven.
I was very proud of myself, from the free orange rinds to the precision-timing to the tidy mis en place I set up. The peaking of the eggs for the chiffon went well, the folding the whites into the batter did too (although folding is always slightly curious to me, as if I'm tricking the batter into thinking I'm not over-mixing it. With each gentle turning over of the spatula, mentally whispering to it 'It's ok, see? I'm not really stirring. There - that was gentle, wasn't it?'). Mr. A&N came into the kitchen at this point to see how I was doing.
"It's pretty easy this month" I said. And then I did the worst possible thing I could do. I laughed in the face of this challenge.
I had become over-confident.
Civilizations have been doomed for smiting the gods in such a way, and like the great societies of old I was about to suffer my fall after all that pride.
The cake went in and around the 20 minute mark I began the custard. I took the cake out at 25 minutes as the recipe called for, and it had risen beautifully but didn't spring back under my fingers as it ought; it made more of a sighing noise. The top was browning, but I stuck it in for another 10 minutes. I finished the custard, and again took the cake out. Touching it produced still more sighing but also a gentle springing. I was worried about the top getting too brown so I decided it was probably done and let it sit on the side. A few minutes passed and as I went to take the tin away from the cake, I saw that it had fallen and that a crater had grown in the center, revealing a very raw interior.
And it finally made sense: the recipe had called for 8 smaller servings, baked for 25 minutes. I had made one large serving but didn't think of increasing the cooking time.
The cake went back in the oven which by now had been off for 10 minutes. It cooked for another 30 minutes until it really did spring back to the touch. Only now, it wasn't so risen. It was fairly flat, and dense looking. Prying a piece of outer skin off revealed it to be chewy rather than light. From triumph to tragedy in a few easy steps.
The custard tasted fine and I put it into the cake tin (cake now removed) to set. Before leaving for my friend's place, I removed the custard from the fridge and set the cake on top. At this point, I discovered the cake had shrunk event further, and that the spring-form cake tin hadn't been entirely even-bottomed when I put it together. The custard hadn't leaked, but it was clear that when the cream pie was placed on a plate, it would be tilting to the side in a Pisa-like fashion.
The list of woes was complete after arriving at my friend's (with sad pie in tow) and in preparing to make the chocolate sauce I discovered that the only butter they had in the house was salted. Cue slightly-salty chocolate sauce, poured on top of the leaning flattened tower of pie.
My Bostini Cream Pie could have been more of a disaster, but only just. True, everyone had a slice, and some of the men went back for seconds. But coming close to producing a good result helped me to see just how much better the pie could have been. I look forward to reading about all the other Daring Bakers and their successes, and living vicariously through their chatter about how delicious their pies were. Bostini and I clearly aren't meant to be close bed-fellows, but that shouldn't dissuade anyone else from trying it.
Bostini Cream Pie (from Donna Scala & Kurtis Baguley of Bistro Don Giovanni and Scala's Bistro)
(makes 8 generous servings)
Custard (Pastry Cream)
- 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 (or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract)
- 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
- 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/rapeseed 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
- 8 ounces semi or bittersweet chocolate
- 8 ounces unsalted butter
- 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.
- Preheat the oven to 325°F.
- Spray 8 molds with nonstick cooking spray. You may use 7-ounce custard cups, oven-proof 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. (note: If you're making fewer than 8 molds, you will need to increase the cooking time. My one large Bostini took 50-60 minutes to bake)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.