Category Archives: Pies and Tarts

Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 15: Tower of Pies

I decided to bake my way through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS for short) and write about it. Don’t know much about GBBS? No worries. Check out my first blog in this series to learn more about the show and about why I decided to do this, for better or for worse (so far, mostly worse).

***

So this week I was supposed to make a  tower of pies that was at least three tiers and included three different types of pie.

And, I did. Technically. Kind of.

But not really.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

I did make three different kinds of pies and I made one of those kinds of pie into a four-tiered tower.

My tower was just significantly smaller than the towers made by the GBBS contestants. And, also, I took about three weeks to make all of my pies, when they made all of theirs in one afternoon.

I did this for a few reasons. Number one, because, time-wise I just didn’t have a whole day to devote to pie-making this month.

Yeah, I know, it shouldn’t take me all day to make three pies. But, in case it wasn’t clear by now, I have no idea what I’m doing so it very well may have taken me a whole day.

Number two, three pies are just too many pies for me to have around the house at once. That’s a lot of pie for two people to eat.

And, yeah, okay, I could share. But sometimes you’re leery of sharing something you baked when you have absolutely no idea if you got it right.

Like “Hey everyone, come over here and eat this stuff I made. It may be awful, but just eat it anyways and don’t be a jerk about it.”

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Photo Credit: Giphy

But, of course, I did make people eat them anyway and they were very generous about them even though the pies didn’t warrant it.

(It pays to be friends with nice people who lie to you sometimes when you need it.)

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Okay, anyway, on to the pies.

This time, I took a break from the British and went very American with my pies. I used three pie recipes from Ree Drummond, a.k.a. the Pioneer Woman. They were from two Pioneer Woman cookbooks I already owned – The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays and The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime.

From Holidays I used her Pecan Pie recipe and her Caramel Apple Pie recipe. Both of these recipes use her Perfect Pie Crust recipe from the same cookbook.

From her Dinnertime cookbook, I made her Individual Chicken Pot Pies. (I then, very briefly, made these individual chicken pot pies into a pie tower. More on that later.)

Let’s start with the pecan pie. I’ve never made a pecan pie in my life. I’ve also never eaten a pecan pie. So I had no idea what I was doing with this one.

In a way, this was a relief, because I knew whatever I made, it would be the single greatest pecan pie I’d ever made in my life.

(It would, by this logic, also be the worst, but I decided not to focus on that.)

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Photo credit: Giphy

Anyhoo, here’s some pics of the pie in progress.

As you can see, I didn’t make any huge mistakes here. It was a baking breakthrough!

And naturally, I did a dance in celebration.

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Photo credit: Giphy

Let’s just ignore the fact that pecan pie is actually pretty easy to make and all I did was make a pie crust, mix a few ingredients in a bowl and then dump that mixture and some pecans into a crust.

This may have been a bad pie for me to start out with because it gave me a very inflated sense of self-confidence in my pie baking skills. Because, it actually ended up looking like a pecan pie. (I think)

See, look.

Then, I made the Caramel Apple Pie which sounds delicious, but wasn’t as delicious thanks to my poor execution and way too much caramel.

I just said “too much caramel” which is something I never thought I’d say. But seriously just look at this.

See that pic at the end? That’s supposed to be a drizzle of caramel. A drizzle.

I don’t know if my store-bought caramel sauce was too thin, or if I just put it on the pie when the pie was still too warm, but my pie looked like it had been hit by a caramel thunderstorm not a caramel drizzle.

My friends who I forced to eat it were very nice about it, but, again it was possible they were just being nice. (You can never tell with these people. They’re crafty like that.)

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Photo credit: Giphy

Then for my pièce de résistance – my pie tower – I used my individual chicken pot pies.

These were made from a pie crust the Pioneer Woman calls “All-Butter Pie Crust.” It has three whole sticks of butter in it. Three! Just in the crust! It was insane. If for some reason, you want to raise your cholesterol, eat this.

All in all, this bake was pretty easy. The only problem I had was I’d accidentally bought the wrong size of pot pie pans online and then I was too lazy to return them and try again. The ones the Pioneer Woman uses in her recipe are deeper so they can take more of the filling. Mine were smaller so I had lots of filling left over. Like a whole bunch.

That picture toward the bottom right is all of the leftover filling.

But aside from having a bunch of leftover filling, I was pretty psyched about how these bad boys turned out.

Because they did not have soggy bottoms (which our judge Mary Berry would have hated) and they were solid enough that I could actually stack them. Into a tower. Like this:

Pie Tower

Tada!

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Now, this tower may have only lasted for a few seconds while I took a picture of it before I got scared and took it apart. But it was still there. Ever so briefly. Like a gosh-darn double-rainbow or a freakin’ shooting star.

And it had me feeling really, really good about myself.

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Photo Courtesy: Giphy

So, all in all, this bake challenge wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, because, well, I sort of cheated. (Which always makes things easier.) But, it was also easier than I thought it would be because I actually got better at making pie crusts. As in, I learned something guys! Which was sort of the whole point of all this.

Next time, I’ll start learning about European cakes because I’ll move into Episode 6’s Continental Cakes episode.

This is going to be tough. Really though. I have to make stuff like this.

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Photo courtesy: BBC

But, thankfully, I’ll get to start out making just a yeast-leaven cake, which I’ve also never done before. But, heck, I’d never made a pie tower before this week either, so who knows what I can bake up?

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Photo Courtesy: Giphy

Probably something wonderful (or, something wonderfully terrible). Either way, I’ll blog about it. So catch you next time. It’s either gonna be great or awful.

P.S. A special thanks to Sugar Bear (you know who you are) for the caster sugar which will help me bake like a real Brit.

P.P.S. Sharing is cool, guys. If you know some people who may like the blog, please share this post or let people know about the Facebook page. Your friends will either like it, or they’ll think it’s dumb, but since they’re your friends, they’ll probably be nice about it either way. So, share it, if you feel like it, no pressure.

P.P.P.S. Just in case this wasn’t clear. Ree Drummond, a.k.a. the Pioneer Woman, is a gosh-darned cooking and baking genius, so any problems with the recipes are due to my execution and not anything she did. She’s the best.

Until next time.

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Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 14: Mini Pear Pies

I decided to bake my way through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS for short) and write about it. Don’t know much about GBBS? No worries. Check out my first blog in this series to learn more about the show and about why I decided to do this, for better or for worse (so far, mostly worse).

***

So, I wasn’t looking forward to this one…

This week I had to make Mini Pear Pies which were the technical challenge in the GBBS’ season 1 episode 5.

There are a lot of reasons I put off doing this challenge.

For one, I don’t like pears.

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Charlie gets it.

Second, this recipe calls for me to wrap up pears in pastry and I’m definitely a pastry newbie.

Third, when I watched the GBBS contestants make this on the show, even they screwed up. Like a lot. Even my favorite contestant, Richard the builder, botched this one. And it is literally his job to construct things – even if they are pastry-wrapped pears.

So trust me when I say, I did not go into this one with much confidence. Truth be told  though, I don’t go into most things with much confidence (thanks to general pessimism and more specific anxiety).

But, hey, sometimes pessimism and anxiety are proved wrong – and this week, they were proved wrong by pears.

Because this week went WAY BETTER than I expected, even if things weren’t looking so hot in the beginning

The first thing I had to do was make a “rough puff pastry” by putting some flour in a bowl and then grating frozen butter and lard into it. Yeah, I had to grate butter and lard. It was gross. Here’s a picture of the aftermath.

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My husband got me these kitchen gloves so I don’t cut myself or, in this case, accidentally grate my greasy fingers off.  They’re pretty cool. 

Anyway, then the recipe called for me to “use a knife to coat the butter and lard in the flour”. This seemed like a very weird instruction to me, so basically I just mixed the flour and butter/lard mixture up with a knife like I would have with a spoon. It was weird, and also I don’t think it worked very well.

Then, after it was “mixed”, I had to add in 120-150 ml. cold water and mix it until it formed a firm dough.

Here’s a little thing about me, I always add too much water right away, instead of starting with the smaller amount and then working up as necessary. This may be a character flaw and it’s certainly bad for dough-making.

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Sad, wet dough. Not “firm dough” like the recipe calls for.

Thankfully, flour came to the rescue of my sad, wet dough.

I was supposed to roll the pastry dough out into a rectangle on a floured work surface, so to combat my too-wet dough, I used a very floured work surface. That seemed to help with the dough’s consistency.

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Sad, wet dough looking slightly less sad and wet.

Then I had to make my dough into a rectangle and fold the top third of that rectangle down and then fold the bottom third of that rectangle up and over the top third I just folded, then turn the whole thing 90 degrees or a quarter turn and repeat the rolling and folding all over again.

This sounded very complicated to me the first time I read it and I was like uh…

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But, then I read it again, and it made sense so I did what the recipe said and created this little, folded dough masterpiece.

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You really can’t see the folds from this angle. I should have taken the pic from the other side. Oh, well. Let me assure you, the folds are on point.

I had to put my dough parcel in the fridge for 20 minutes and after it was chilled, I had to take it out of the fridge and repeat the “rolling, folding and chilling” process two more times.

That meant this dough took more than an hour to make if you think about it. And, for once, I actually thought about it. Unlike last week’s timing disaster, this week, I actually read the whole recipe through and thought about how to time things correctly. I learned something ya’ll.

Yay me!  Imaginary mic drop in celebration of this baking break-through:

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Photo credit: Giphy

 

I started on the second step of the bake while my dough was chilling the second time.

At this point, I had to poach some pears. (I keep typing “pouch” not “poach” by default, which makes me laugh because I think of kangaroos smuggling pears in their pouch.) Anyhoo, on to poaching not pouching.

I had to peel the pears, keeping the stems intact and then make a poaching syrup. Which yeah, I had never done before, but it didn’t sound too bad. I thought:

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Photo credit: Giphy

And I was right…sort of.

To make the syrup, I just had to dump a bunch of sugar into a large saucepan with water, white wine, some cinnamon sticks and the zest of one orange. I had to slowly bring this to a boil and stir it until the sugar dissolved. Then I had to boil it for three more minutes.

Just in case you were wondering, yes, this did smell absolutely amazing. If I couldn’t think of much better uses for wine, I would just boil this syrup on my stove all the time simply for the smell of it.

But, like I said, there are better uses for wine:

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Photo credit: Giphy

Anyway, when those three minutes were up, I added my peeled pears to the pot, brought the syrup back to a boil and then simmered and cooked the pears in the syrup for 15 minutes.

I removed the pears from the syrup with a slotted spoon and set them aside to cool. Later, I’d use a small spoon to remove their core (but I kept the stem, because that’s important later to make them look pretty, plus, it was a handy handle).

I had to return the remaining syrup to the heat and boil it rapidly for 10 to 15 minutes or until “the volume of the liquid is reduced by half and the syrup is thick.” Then I had to set it aside to cool too.

I’m terrible at cooking things until they are thick. Ordinarily, I get bored and give up cooking whatever I’m cooking while it’s still very thin, because of well, boredom and general impatience.

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Me waiting for anything longer than 10 minutes. Photo credit: Giphy

So yeah, I usually I give up on thickening things way before they are actually thick. This time, wanting to avoid the same fate, I did what a lot of people do when they try to address a mistake — I over-corrected.

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Photo credit: Giphy

More on that later…

For now, let’s get back to the dough.

After it was rolled, folded and chilled those three times, I rolled it out again into the shape of a very long, rectangle about 2 feet long by 8 inches wide. My dough was not supposed to be more than a 1/4 of an inch thick.

Watching the show, I’d seen the pitfalls of having pastry that was too thick, so again I over-corrected. My dough was thin, very thin.

In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have taken a picture of this almost-white dough, on my almost-white counter. You can’t really see anything. Just trust me here, the dough is thin and despite me using a ruler, my strips are somewhat less than straight.

Now, after my pears and my syrup had cooled, it was time for the hard part – wrapping my strips of pastry around the pears. I wasn’t looking forward to this bit. But, naturally, I was totally calm about it.

 

 

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Don’t like the “F” word? Pretend Michael said “Poaching”. It’s even funnier. Photo credit: Giphy

So, at this point I was supposed to brush my pears with a bit of the cooled sugar syrup I made earlier.

Then starting from the bottom of the pear, I was supposed to press and adhere a strip of pastry and wrap it around the pear. According to the recipe, it would take me about three strips of pastry to cover each pear.

I really should have taken a picture of this process, but I’ll be real with you, I was focusing on mummifying some pears and not on taking pictures of the process, so let’s just assume I looked like this as I was doing it:

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Don’t mind me. I’m totally fine over here. Photo credit: Giphy

 

Anyway, I ran into a couple problems. Remember how I said I over-corrected on my poaching syrup? I wasn’t kidding. I was supposed to make a syrup, but what I created was more like jelly.

 

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Jelly. Not Syrup.

The bad thing about this was, it was really hard to brush on my pears. The good thing about this was, this stuff was like glue, baby. The pastry strips were not coming off once I stuck them on.

So eventually after a long time wrapping pears, I ended up with something that looked like this:

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I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty damn proud of these babies at this point.

So my wrapped pears may have not been the neatest ones in town, but they looked far better than I had expected. I even bothered to make the little leaves on top, like the recipe told me to.

 

The weirdest thing about the recipe at this point though, was my pastry dough. I had way too much dough left over:

 

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Yeah, after I wrapped my pears, I had this much pastry dough leftover. This probably isn’t a good thing.

Anyway, after I’d made my little dough leaves and stuck them on with my poaching syrup (or in my case, poaching super glue) I had to brush my covered pears in egg wash and sprinkle on some sugar.

 

Then I was supposed to put them in the oven at 400 F for about 25 to 30 minutes. But after 30 minutes, mine totally weren’t done at all, because my oven is a jerk.

This is what I would say to my oven, if I didn’t realize it was crazy to talk to my oven:

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After more like 40 to 45 minutes, my pears were pleasingly golden brown so I took them out of oven and let them cool for 10 to 15 minutes like the recipe told me to.

And, yeah, they looked pretty damn awesome.

Naturally, I did a bit of this in celebration:

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Photo credit: Giphy

And they tasted okay too, I suppose, if you like pear. But as I mentioned, I don’t. Pears are pointless.

I’m happy to be moving away from pears next week when my challenge is to make a towering collection of pies.

Yeah, you read that right. I said a “towering collection of pies.”

 

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Photo credit: Giphy

That should be…interesting.

P.S. If you want to see the results of that bake, or if you just want to see a bunch of GBBS memes, consider liking my Facebook page: “Sometimes I Bake Mistakes Blog.”

And, as for all of you who have done that already, you’re the freaking best! Here’s a picture of Professor McGonagall applauding you, because you’re just that awesome.

Way to go, you!

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Photo credit: Giphy

 

 

Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 13: Custard Tart

Last week in my attempt to bake my way through The Great British Baking Show (GBBS), I made a spectacularly bad Baked Alaska.

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:

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Photo credit: Giphy

But, as it so often happens when I get a bit “too big for my britches”, the universe steps in and is like —

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Photo credit: Giphy

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.

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One day, I will take a photo without getting a shadow of me taking the photo in the photo. Today, is not that day.

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?

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Photo credit: Giphy

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…

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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-

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This was the one time in the history of the universe that Leslie Knope was wrong. Except for that one time when she got a perm. She shouldn’t have done that. (Yes, I know she’s fictional.)

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.

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Tada! My dough is in a tart pan. And a shadow of my phone is in the dough. Just ignore that…

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.

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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.

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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.

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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. tumblr_ofdjl16Dld1vvi3bvo1_400

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.

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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.

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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!

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Photo credit: Giphy

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.

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Seriously go watch “Moone Boy” on Hulu.