I’ll admit it: I’m not that fond of eating pastry. A good pie, I’ll definitely go for – but most of the time the pastry is soggy or the filling is disgusting. However, I’ve learned that I absolutely love making pastry, so this morning I made pastry cups using a sweet shortcrust pastry (from Making Dough), coffee pastry cream (from How to Bake Everything), chocolate ganache (also from How to Bake Everything), and toffee bits (courtesy of Hershey’s and my local grocery store).
First, I left my frozen butter out on the counter so that it would soften before I made the pastry. In the mean time, I made the coffee pastry cream (also known as custard)!
I’m not that experienced with custard. Frankly, it’s hard. It shouldn’t be hard, but it just is. However, I followed the instructions and prayed, and it turned out alright. Custard is made by slowly cooking egg yolks (or eggs) and cream over a lower heat until the mixture (which, in my case, also had sugar, espresso powder, and corn starch) thickens into a pipe-able or spreadable cream.
(A quick shout-out to corn starch: it’s a miracle thickener, I love it, and I totally recommend using it in frosting when you don’t want a super-sugary taste.)
My pastry cream was…okay. My problem was that I used a too-small bowl when beating the cream and eggs together, and so I didn’t fully combine the two ingredients because I was afraid of spilling. (I’ll own up to it: I was too lazy to find a larger bowl.) Alas, my pastry cream ended up having lumps of egg in it (cooked egg, which was amazing to see after realizing that all my homemade ice cream was made with uncooked, too-thin custard). Since the lumps were small and didn’t detract from taste, I decided that I could still use the custard (thank goodness, as I didn’t really have enough heavy cream to do the custard again) and put the bowl in the fridge to thicken.
Next, I made the chocolate ganache, so it too could thicken in the fridge while I made the pastry. Basically, I heated the cream in the microwave and added chocolate, stirring until it became thicker, glossy, and smooth. But – and there’s always a but – I put my chocolate into the cream in one thick block. Which was a bad idea, because it prevented me from stirring. So when, of course, I tried to break the chocolate into smaller pieces, chocolate and cream went flying! It was almost cool, except for the fact that the chocolate stained my favorite fleece jacket.
After adding some more chocolate, the ganache went smoothly and was super-shiny before going into the fridge.
Finally, I made the pastry by pinching my (finally) soft butter so as to combine it with the flour mixture. Then I added an egg and kneaded the mixture prior to letting the dough rest for an hour in the fridge.
I was supposed to make one large tart with the pastry, but I felt like making smaller servings (who doesn’t love desserts in miniature?). Hence, I made 11 mini-tarts by creating pastry cups. Because I have yet to figure out how to use a rolling pin, I pressed the pastry into the muffin cups with my fingers, built up the sides, and filled in the gaps (probably overworking the dough in the process). Then I chilled the pastry again before baking for about 15 minutes.
When I pulled the pastry cups out of the muffin pan (which was easy, because I had lined the cups with a parchment-paper-cross, so that the pastry was sure to come out), I found this:
See the gaps in the lower right hand corner? That was on the bottom of every pastry cup. I deduced that this happened because the parchment paper kind of scrunched up while I pressed in the pastry, and…you can see the result!
To be honest, I just laughed. A lot. I still think it’s absolutely hilarious.
After the pastry cooled for 10 minutes or so, I filled each mini-tart with pastry cream and spread ganache on the top.
Then I decided I wanted a garnish, and being too tired to shave some chocolate, I just placed some toffee bits on top of each pastry cup and declared them finished.
Rating? Probably 6/10 or 7/10. It was tasty, and I loved the coffee flavor with the sweetness of the chocolate and the crisp crunch of the pastry (I think I did a great job on the pastry because it was so crispy). So, all in all, a good experiment and a success!
(Note: It takes something phenomenal to make a baked good that’s an 8, 9, or 10 out of 10 on my scale, so the 7/10 means that the pastry cups were definitely good!)