After last week’s melt-down (yeah, I’m always going to use that pun for that), I felt more confident going into this week’s challenge. This week I just had bake a custard tart, which was the signature challenge on GBBS Season 1 Episode 5: Pies and Tarts.
I figured, how could a custard tart be that hard compared to a Baked Alaska, which seems to defy the very laws of nature by asking me to put ice cream into an oven?
I thought this was going to be a breeze.
And I got cocky about it. Sorta like this:
But, as it so often happens when I get a bit “too big for my britches”, the universe steps in and is like —
So yeah, you know right off the bat this bake isn’t going to go according to plan, which is a bummer because I really thought I had this one.
This week, I made a bit of a change from my normal routine and instead of using the recipes on the GBBS website, I used a recipe for a Royal Raspberry Tart from the “Baking with Mary Berry: Cakes, Cookies, Pies, and Pastries from the British Queen of Baking” cookbook.
Man, I just read the blurb for the book on Amazon and it says it is “A sweet and savory collection of more than 100 foolproof recipes”. Welp, I guess, I proved them wrong, because, this fool botched a custard tart. (No offense to Mary Berry though, the fault is all mine, as you will soon see for yourself.)
But, in the beginning, all was going well. The first thing I had to do was make a simple dough with flour, chilled butter and about 2 tbsps cold water. I put the flour in a large bowl; added the cubed, cold butter and rubbed it with my fingertips until the dough resembled fine bread crumbs.
Then I had to add in a bit of water so I could turn that into “a soft, pliable dough”. Mary told me to add 2 tbsps. I added more like 3 or 3 1/2.
That made this little dough ball, which I then had to cover in plastic wrap and let chill in the fridge for about a half hour.
Remember that “let it chill in the fridge for about a half hour” part? That bit is key. This recipe isn’t very complicated in terms of ingredients or processes, but you did have to be very precise on your timings. And was I precise on my timings?
So yeah, that’s going to become a problem later. For now though, my dough ball was literally and figuratively chilling in the fridge and I was about to start making my custard.
For the record, I’ve never made custard in my life and the only custard I’ve ever eaten is of the frozen variety, so yeah, I wasn’t really sure what I was going for, but I just followed Mary’s directions.
First I had to combine some sugar, cornstarch and gelatin in a saucepan. Then, in a bowl I had to whisk together 2 large eggs, one large egg yolk, milk and a bit of vanilla. I dumped this into my saucepan and let it sit for “five minutes to soften the gelatin slightly.”
Then came the tedious part. I had to cook this over low heat until it thickened and coated a spoon well, or for about 20 minutes. After about four minutes of dedicated stirring, I basically just had one thought running through my head for the next 16 minutes…
But eventually the custard did thicken, you know because of science and stuff, and it looked like this.
So, like Mary instructed, I dumped my cooked custard into a large bowl, cooled it and then covered it and put it in the fridge. I was supposed to leave it there until “the mixture mounds slightly when dropped from a spoon” or about an hour.
I would leave it in for, well, longer than an hour, and that’s where the problems started. Well, actually the problems started before that.
They started with the dough.
Remember how I was just supposed to have the dough in the fridge for a half hour? I had it in there longer than that, because, I’m pretty sure I put it in the fridge for a half hour, THEN started making the custard, which if you’re doing the math, means that my dough had been in the fridge for more like an hour.
So when I took the dough out and tried to roll it on a lightly-floured surface as instructed, it was basically as hard as a rock. It was too chilled. So, I let it set out on the counter for a bit, maybe 20 minutes or something, I don’t know. I lost track, because I was being oddly flippant with the math on this, because-
Anyway, here at least, math wasn’t worthless. It was sort of a big deal. It’s kind of a big part of baking in general, and this recipe in particular, which would cause me more trouble really soon.
Eventually the dough did soften up enough so that I could roll it out. I always put waxed paper over my dough when I roll it, because otherwise, no matter how much I flour my dang rolling pin, the dough sticks to it and I get all crabby about it. So, waxed paper to the recuse.
I swear to you I know my basic shapes, but if you look at the picture on the left, you’d be certain I’d never seen a circle in my life. I have, I just can’t make one out of dough apparently.
From there, I used my rolled dough to line the bottom of a 11-inch loose-bottomed, fluted tart pan. Mary had actually told me to use a 10-inch one, but I couldn’t find one of those. Again, I completely disregarded numbers, because I’m sort of a badass. (Yeah, I just implied making a custard tart in the wrong-sized pan is badass. I have a low bar for badass.)
Mary’s cookbook has a helpful tip for lining tart pans though, whether you’re using the correct-sized pan or not. Just wrap your dough loosely around your rolling pin and then gently unroll it over the pan. Easy peasy.
Now, here’s where things get a bit messed up again, time-wise.
I had to chill this dough again for about 30 minutes before I baked it. Then I had to preheat my oven to 400 F, prick the base of my dough, bake it for 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 350 F, and then bake it for another 30 minutes.
My custard had been in the fridge this whole time. If you’re keeping track (which I wasn’t) that means my custard has been chilling during the time I waited for my dough to soften, during the time I was rolling the dough, during the time I was chilling my dough again, and during the time I was baking my dough. That’s way longer than the hour or so Mary told me to leave it in there.
This is important because at this point, while the tart was baking I guess, I was supposed to whip up heavy whipping cream until it formed stiff peaks and then use a rubber spatula or wire whisk to fold that into my custard, which is, if you remember, supposed to “mound slightly when dropped from a spoon.”
Except when I took my custard out of the fridge, it definitely did not mound slightly when dropped from a spoon.” It was set. It was totally set.
I probably should have expected this because, well, it had been in the fridge way longer than Mary told me to have it in the fridge, and it did have gelatin in it which is wont to set, because that’s what it’s supposed to do.
But, yeah, my only excuse is this: I’m not a temperature expert.
So, at this point, I could have done what would have been the wise thing and made a whole new batch of custard, but I didn’t do that, because, again, this blog is called: “Sometimes I Bake Mistakes” not “Sometimes I Make the Hard Choice Which Turns out to Be the Right Choice Because I’m Calm, Cool and Collected Like That.”
But, instead of making the right choice, I just mixed my whipped cream into the custard anyway, essentially breaking up my set custard as I did so. Which, not surprisingly, turned it into a whip-cream-like mousse with a bunch of small chunks of set custard mixed in. It looked like this:
It looked awful. Like mashed potatoes where you just leave some of the chunks of potato in it because you can’t be bothered to mash them up well. I should have known it would look this bad when I started mixing in the whipped cream to the mostly-set gelatin, but I wasn’t expecting this.
It looked bad, guys. Bad. But Mary now told me to put it in the fridge for another hour until the custard (now with the mixed-in whipped cream) was totally set. So I did, even though, at this point, that seemed sort of pointless.
But then, I remembered the raspberries. I was supposed to cover the whole thing with raspberries and I figured that would go a long way to covering up my bits of too-set custard.
Frankly, if I wouldn’t have told you about the custard chunks, you might not have even noticed them. But the point of this whole blog is for me to be open and honest about my screw-ups so I can learn from them and so you can laugh at them, and visa versa.
(Plus, on a totally unrelated note, I did not have enough raspberries to totally cover up my messed-up tart.)
Anyway, here’s my finished custard tart. It looks a bit weird because of the chunks of custard, but the raspberries cover things up fairly well. Just focus on the raspberries.
On the plus side is it actually tasted good, even if it was a bit ugly.
Next week, I’ll move on to the technical challenge of Season 1 Episode 5 – mini pear pies.
For this challenge I will have to poach pears and cover them with rough puff pastry. I’m not at all excited about this, because, for one, I don’t like pears. And two, even the GBBS contestants had a hard time with this one. So yeah, I’m not exactly looking forward to it.
But, so as not to leave this blog post on a downer note, I just want to say thanks to everybody who has followed “Sometimes I Bake Mistakes Blog” on Facebook. You’re the best! Yay for you guys!
FYI: you can also follow the blog by email by clicking the handy “Follow” button on the right-hand side of the page. That way, you can be notified by email whenever I make a new post…even if it’s just about pears.
Anyway, until next week. Laters.