6B: Custards and Bavarians

In this class we made fillings to go with the extra meringues we made in week 5 and turned out two cakes.

The history of custards—no surprise—is long and complicated. Ancient Roman cooks recognized the binding properties of eggs; they made savory custards that included cheeses and meats and sweet custards that included nuts and honey. Custard as we know it dates to the Middle Ages, when it was eaten alone or used as a filling for pies, tarts, and pastries; in fact, originally, custard meant “to be encased in a crust.”

Custards using eggs were made in America and Europe. In England, Alfred Bird invented a custard made without eggs and using cornstarch as a thickener. He made this for his wife, who was allergic to eggs. When he realized the commercial value of his invention, he started a company, Bird’s Custard Company, which produced a powdered version. People liked it because, having no eggs, it didn’t curdle. (Bird later invented baking powder, which is baking soda plus an acid salt and cornstarch.) By the end of the 19th century, custard was promoted as a health food and marketed for its nutritional value for elderly persons and children. These versions contained arrowroot, instead of cornstarch, as the health-promoting ingredient.

There are two main types of custard: baked and stirred. Baked custards are made with whole eggs and are cooked in the oven, often in a water bath. Crème brûlée and flan are obviouslybaked custards. Soufflé, bread pudding, and pumpkin pie filling are also baked custards. Crème brûlée has lots of fat, so it’s creamy; flan has less fat, so it’s stiffer and can be molded. Flan is the most widely made custard in the world; similar recipes exist in Asia, Europe, and pretty much everywhere else.

Stirred custards are made with whole eggs or with yolks and are cooked on the stove, often in a water bath. Stirred custards vary in richness and consistency, but they are creamy and pourable and can be used as sauces. Crème anglaise is a stirred custard; English trifle is stirred custard served in a dish with cake and pieces of fruit. Curd fillings (such as lemon curd) are stirred custards.

The two cakes in this class used the meringue layers we stored for future use in 5A: Meringues. That was a good thing, because the cakes had components with components.

The Brazilian cake is assembled in a ring lined with ladyfinger. Inside that is stacked a layer of dacquoise, a layer of coffee bavarian cream, another layer of dacquoise, and a layer of chocolate mousse, and the whole thing is topped with coffee glaze.

First we made ladyfinger batter and spread that on parchment, ready to decorate.

Spreading ladyfinger batter onto parchment

Spreading ladyfinger batter onto parchment

There are two ways to decorate ladyfinger batter: with texture or with color. Jaimie and I wanted to try using a comb for texture.

Ladyfinger striated with a large cake comb

Ladyfinger striated with a large cake comb

The other group wanted to make a pattern with pâte décor.

Ladyfinger decorated with pâte décor

Ladyfinger decorated with pâte décor

Then we made coffee bavarian cream, white chocolate mousse, and coffee glaze.

Coffee bavarian cream

Coffee bavarian cream

We lined cake rings with strips of the ladyfinger and cut layers of dacquoise to fit.

Cutting a layer of dacquoise to fit into the lined cake ring

Cutting a layer of dacquoise to fit into the lined cake ring

That got topped with a layer of coffee bavarian cream.

A layer of coffee bavarian cream is piped onto the layer of dacquoise

A layer of coffee bavarian cream is piped onto the layer of dacquoise

Then another layer of dacquoise.

Another layer of dacquoise

Another layer of dacquoise

Then a layer of white chocolate mousse, which I didn’t get a photo of, and the whole thing went into the freezer to chill. When it came out, we applied a layer of coffee glaze and put it back in the freezer to set some more.

Glazed Brazilian cake

Glazed Brazilian cake

Finally, we heated the cake rings with torches, lifted off the rings, and voilà!

Brazilian cake, done

Brazilian cake, done

And here’s the crumb view.

Brazilian cake: the crumb view

Brazilian cake: the crumb view

We also made a Ruche cake, also called beehive cake. This one is assembled in a metal bowl instead of a ring. The layers are baked meringue, honey mousse, dacquoise, and lemon chibouste. All that is surrounded with lemon mousse and fresh meringue. To make the lemon mousse, we started by making lemon curd.

Whisking lemon curd

Whisking lemon curd

Then we whipped heavy cream and added it to the lemon curd to make lemon mousse. We lined a metal bowl with a layer of that, which went into the freezer. Then we made chibouste, which is pastry cream lightened with (in this case) Italian meringue. That got folded into the rest of the lemon mousse.

Then we made a honey mousse, which starts with a crème anglaise to which gelatin is added. While that cooled, we made another Italian meringue but using honey instead of sugar syrup. That got folded into the crème anglaise mousse base to make honey mousse. Then we made another enormous batch of Italian meringue, Chef Sharon made us some white chocolate honecombs (melted white chocolate brushed onto mini  bubble wrap and cooled), and Jay decorated some marzipan bees for us.

We got out the bowls lined with lemon mousse and started assembling the cake: some lemon chibouste, a layer of dacquoise, some honey mousse, and a base of baked meringue. Back into the freezer that went. When it had set, we torched the bowl to loosen it and try to get it out.

Torching the bowl to loosen the Ruche cake

Torching the bowl to loosen the Ruche cake

We had to use bowl scrapers to get it out of the bowl and onto the cake rounds.

Scraping the Ruche cake out of the bowl

Scraping the Ruche cake out of the bowl

We smoothed the lemon mousse so we had a nice round dome.

Smoothing the lemon mousse

Smoothing the lemon mousse

We piped Italian meringue over the cakes to give the impression of a beehive.

Chef Sharon demonstrates how to pipe Italian meringue onto the Ruche cake

Chef Sharon demonstrates how to pipe Italian meringue onto the Ruche cake

Then we torched the meringue.

Chef Sharon demonstrates how to torch the meringue

Chef Sharon demonstrates how to torch the meringue

We decorated our beehives with pieces of the white chocolate honeycomb and the marzipan bees.

At long last, the finished Ruche cake

At long last, the finished Ruche cake

And the crumb view:

Ruche cake: the crumb view

Ruche cake: the crumb view

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About linguina

For most of my life I've loved to read and to make stuff. My mother says I taught myself to read when I was 4, and I never looked back. I also liked fooling around in the kitchen, but my mother wasn't really into cooking, so I learned a lot of that on my own, too. My sister and I had the Betty Crocker New Boys and Girls Cookbook (1965), and naturally I had to make the Enchanted Castle Cake. I learned how to bake bread when I was 14, and I bought a copy of the Joy of Cooking when I was 17. My aunt and uncle gave me Mastering the Art of French Cooking for my 19th birthday, and the first thing I made was soufflé. I've always been more of a baker than a cook, though. When our niece used to visit us during her breaks from college, she'd get me to show her some cooking things (including soufflé, of course!), but I kept having to tell her, "This is just how I do it. I have no idea if it's the right way." Finally, I took a basic cooking class, and that changed my life. After that class, I signed up for a 4-day baking class at King Arthur Flour. That's when I knew I was really a baker. Now I'm taking the professional pastry program at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. With this training, I'll become a pastry chef.
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