Saturday, March 12, 2011

You have now made a Bavarian cream

I haven’t stopped making pastries but I am discovering how undisciplined and/or distracted I am when it comes to writing the blog. I have it all in my head (along with several others) and tell myself “as soon as I…make dinner, empty my e-mail inbox, take out the trash, finish this week’s lesson plan…” and then it’s bedtime. Would it be cheating if I write several in one session and then post them one day at a time?

The penultimate pastry was the Tarte Bavaroise au Chocolat, aka Chocolate Bavarian Tart. I’d skipped over this to make the nut tarts for two reasons. One, the photo in the book wasn’t very appealing; the rather pale chocolate cream is completely covered with crème Chantilly (sweetened whipped cream) which I imagined would be cloying.

Two, the chocolate Bavarian cream called for gelatin sheets. Only once have I tried making something with gelatin — panna cotta — with a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated that had a long explanation about weighing gelatin and how the gelling power from one brand to the next was different, and my panna cotta remained panna liquida.  I’ve never seen gelatin sheets in Italy so I was also intimidated by the conversion process, however simply it was explained in the book.  But I couldn’t just skip the Chocolate Bavarian Tart.  Call me crazy but I decided to make it for a chocolate-loving friend’s birthday party, use powdered gelatin, and decorate the top with less crème Chantilly.

Perhaps the authors know that gelatin is intimidating or have often witnessed it's high failure rate because  the paragraph which explains the process ends with “you have now made a Bavarian cream.” And I had.

I’ve found in cooking, often the first time I make something, it comes out perfect but I’m then overly confident and perhaps a bit less precise the second time. It comes out but not as well as the first time. Knowing this about myself, I’ve been guarding against unmerited confidence, following the recipes with attention and so far, so good. While the pastry crust was baking, and I’d successfully made the chocolate Bavarian cream, I moved on to the crème Chantilly. I put the whipping cream in the stand mixer and, as instructed, whipped it to frothy then added the confectioners’ sugar, leaving it to whip itself into stiff peaks while I washed up some dishes. I glanced over after a few minutes but it was grainy so I upped the speed and let it whip some more, watching this time as it seemed to be taking too long. Some liquid started forming in the bottom of the mixing bowl and the cream began to yellow and instead of stiffening into peaks, I watched as it stiffened into…butter. YIKES! I had little time left to finish before the birthday party lunch. Luckily, the café down the street sells whipping cream, and they’re open Sunday morning. I rushed out, glowered at the cashier as she tranquilly chatted with the customer in front of me, rushed home and made sweetened whip cream my way: adding the sugar when the peaks have already formed. I plopped it into a pastry bag , decorated the top and here it is.

Oh, and to avoid cloying sweetness, I followed the authors’ suggestion of sealing the crust by brushing melted chocolate over it then pouring the Bavarian cream in. The bittersweet chocolate contrasted perfectly with the sweet Bavarian and Chantilly creams. I need to practice decorating but the birthday boy was happy.

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