Sunday, May 4, 2014

Chocolate cream pie

Chocolate cream pie

I took a new job fairly recently, and I was excited to have some new coworkers to bake for. In fact, since I work in a small department now, I thought that maybe I'd bake something for each coworker's birthday. So nonchalantly, I asked all of them one day what their favorite birthday cake was. What I didn't really expect was "I don't really like cake." But alright, my husband's like that... pie, then, that should be fine, right? Well, no, not for my boss, who said that he doesn't like pie unless it has a non-fruity filling, like pumpkin pie or pudding pie. And oh, he really likes pudding.

Thank goodness for Baking Illustrated. It seldom lets me down, so despite the fact that I'd never tried to make chocolate cream pie before, I went for it. It's entirely scratch-made except for the cookies in the crust -- I would've made those, too, but the recipe said not to, that using whole Oreos was actually the best bet.

I have to say, this came out pretty damned good. The only thing I did wrong, really, was that I was so concerned about getting the crumbs to go up the sides of the pan that the bottom crust ended up a bit too thin -- but the filling was just firm enough to serve without that being an issue. It was delicious. And best of all, my boss was so thrilled that I'd made it for him that he literally did his happy dance -- that kinda made my whole week right there. :) (It did mean, though, that I didn't get a nice photo of the pie sliced, 'cause he massacred it pretty quickly. :) )

Chocolate Cream Pie
From Baking Illustrated

16 whole Oreos
2 tbsp melted butter

2 1/2 c half-and-half
Pinch of salt
1/3 c sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
6 egg yolks, room temperature
6 tbsp cold butter, cut into chunks
6 oz semisweet chocolate, cut or broken into chunks
1 oz unsweetened chocolate, cut or broken into chunks
1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 c heavy cream, cold
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Pulse the Oreos in a food processor until broken up, then process until the crumbs are uniformly fine.
2. Pour the crumbs into a bowl, then pour in the melted butter and combine thoroughly with your fingers. Press crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of a pie plate.
3. Chill the crust for 20 minutes to firm up the crumbs, then bake at 350 degrees until fragrant and set, about 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
4. In a saucepan, bring the half-and-half, salt, and 3 tbsp of the sugar to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
5. While that's coming to a simmer, combine the rest of the sugar and the cornstarch in a small bowl. Then, in a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks thoroughly, about 30 seconds. When the half-and-half mixture is near a simmer, sprinkle the cornstarch mixture over the egg yolks and whisk until the mixture is glossy and the sugar has begun to dissolve.
6. Slowly drizzle about a half-cup of the hot half-and-half over the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Continue to slowly whisk in the half-and-half until the egg mixture is warm, then slowly whisk this mixture back into the pan. Return the pan to a simmer, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thickened and glossy and bubbles start to form and burst on the surface.
7. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter until incorporated; then, whisk in the chocolates and whisk until fully combined. Whisk in the vanilla, then immediately pour the mixture into a mesh strainer that has been set over a bowl.
8. Scrape the strained filling into the crust, smooth out the top with a spatula, then place a piece of plastic wrap over the top of the pie, pressing it down so it makes direct contact with the filling.
9. Chill until firm, at least 3 hours.
10. Whip the cream and sugar to soft peaks, then add the vanilla. Continue to whip at high speed to barely stiff peaks. Spread over the pie. Top with chocolate shavings if desired. Serve immediately.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Hummingbird cake

Slice of cake

Sometimes, life gets in the way of blogging, and sometimes, it just drives a big ol' truck full of bricks in front of you and says "uh-uh, nope, nice try, maybe later." That's certainly been true lately -- I did a bunch of baking in the second half of April, but I could barely fit in the baking, let alone the writing about it, around preparations for our big trip so my husband could run the Big Sur Marathon. But we got it all done, and we made it out there, and he did it, hurray!!! ...And then I brought back the West Coast Plague, so I've been in bed most of the week.

But anyway, enough about that, 'cause you're not here to read about me. You want to know about cake. I made this cake for Easter, having never ever eaten hummingbird cake before, let alone made one. It came out pretty good, though -- it's a lot like banana-nut bread, except in a lighter cake form, with cream-cheese frosting, and with occasional bites that are extra-sweet-and-yummy from the pineapple (it's subtle, but it's in there). I don't have a lot of reasons to make a layer cake, but I'd certainly keep this one in the rotation -- it was a nice chance of pace from the usual chocolate or vanilla.

Cake Cut cake

Hummingbird Cake
From Cook's Country

16 oz canned crushed pineapple in juice
3 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
2 c sugar
3 eggs
1 c vegetable oil
4 overripe bananas, mashed
1 1/2 c chopped pecans
2 tsp vanilla

20 tbsp butter, softened
5 c confectioners' sugar
2 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
20 oz cream cheese, cut into chunks
1/2 c chopped pecans

1. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.
2. Over a saucepan, drain the pineapple well in a mesh strainer. Cook the juice over medium heat until reduced to a third of a cup and set aside.
3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
4. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs. Whisk in the oil. Stir in the bananas, pecans, vanilla, pineapple and pineapple juice. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined.
5. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans. Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes, until toothpicks come out clean. Let cool in pans on racks for 20 minutes, then de-pan and cool completely.
6. Beat together the butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla and salt until smooth, scraping down the bowl as needed. Beat in the cream cheese a bit at a time, then beat for a couple of minutes, until thoroughly combined.
7. Level off the cake layers with a large serrated knife if necessary, then frost. Top with remaining chopped pecans.