29 January 2011

First time's a charm

I've never seriously thought about going to pastry school—it's always been a pie-in-the-sky idea for an idyllic early retirement after some happy accident left me independently wealthy. I've always known that I don't have the temperament to be a chef, and pastry is no exception.

Sometimes, though, a glance in the window of a particularly talented baker will make me stop, jaw dropped, and wonder why I never went to pastry school, who came up with such a lovely creation, where I can go to learn how to make that.

In fact, I had that exact experience just a few weeks ago—wandering through a local Korean market, I stopped at the French-style bakery to ogle the lovely cakes and entremets. How lovely, I thought—I wonder if I could make one of those at home?

blood orange-caramel entremet

The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro.
She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.

Considering my first attempt at the design on the cake as a learning experience, I simply piped silly designs on the cake. In the future, I may go for a more ... elegant design.

Entremets are traditionally filled with mousse, custard, or bavarian cream of some sort, and traditionally is layered with several fillings of different colors, making a lovely presentation once cut into.

The flavor of this dish is unparalleled. A thick layer of caramel bavarois was allowed to set, then covered in a thin layer of rich, buttery blood orange cream. A thin layer of blood orange gelée was then poured over the top to set.

I was hesitant to try caramel with blood orange, despite the many recipes I see combining them. The flavor of blood orange is perfect by itself: sweet, berry-stained, and the tiniest bit tart. I took the plunge, however, and I was not disappointed. The caramel custard layered with the blood orange cream made for an elegant and complex final product.


The whole process of making an entremet takes a lot of time—between preparing the different parts and allowing them to set before proceeding, it's a good day in the kitchen. I will provide the additional recipes soon, but in the meantime ... have some bavarian cream. Use the bavarois to fill cream puffs or just pour into individual serving dishes to set.

caramel custard

Caramel Bavarian Cream
Do note that once refrigerated, the cooled custard goes from "just barely beginning to thicken" to "completely set" in a matter of a few minutes. Once you noticed the custard thickening, whisk vigorously to even the temperature and check every minute. You want to add the whipped cream as soon as it is thick enough to fold easily, and before the custard solidifies.

¾ cup granulated sugar
½ (2 standard envelopes) ounce gelatin
2 ½ cups milk
7 egg yolks
pinch salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups heavy cream

Have the milk measured out and the gelatin in a small bowl. Whisk the yolks in a medium bowl and set aside.

Place the sugar in a large, heavy, light-bottomed pot (this will make it easy to see the sugar caramelize). Place the pot over medium to medium-high heat and cook the caramel to a deep amber shade (check out this fantastic tutorial if you are not accustomed to making caramel).

As soon as the caramel is deep amber but before it begins to smoke and burn (I use my nose more than my eyes at this point; you can convince yourself that the caramel is "too brown" when it still doesn't have much flavor, but you will smell before the caramel begins to burn and turn acrid), pour in the milk, stirring carefully. The mixture will bubble up and steam furiously, so keep your face well away and use a long-handled spoon to protect yourself from spit and steam.

With the heat on medium, stir until any petrified bits of caramel have dissolved. Add 3 tablespoons cold water to the gelatin and stir. Let the gelatin absorb the water, then stir it into the milk.

When the milk is hot but not boiling, temper the egg yolks: while whisking the yolks rapidly, slowly pour a cup or so of the hot milk into the eggs. Return the pot to the heat and whisk the eggs in carefully; add a pinch of salt. Lower the heat slightly and cook until the custard coats the back of a spoon and leaves a clear line when you run your finger through it, 10-15 minutes.

Transfer the custard to a large bowl and mix in the vanilla. Cool to tepid at room temperature (You can use an ice bath if you are in the kitchen to stir it regularly), then refrigerate until just beginning to thicken. The amount of time this takes will vary wildly depending on the temperature of your house and refrigerator—set your timer to five minutes, stir well, and check the temperature until it begins to cool.

When the custard is almost thick enough, Pour the cream into a cool bowl and whip until it just holds stiff peaks. Remove the custard from the refrigerator and stir briskly. Stir in about a third of the whipped cream to loosen, then fold in the remaining cream. Pour into prepared entremet mold, individual serving dishes, or a big bowl; press a layer of plastic wrap over the surface of the custard and let chill until firm.

Serves 8-12


  1. it looks very delicious! maybe you should just give the pastry school a try... it can't be a mistake, can it?

  2. Looks great, you did a fantastic job!

  3. Great job on the challenge! I love the pattern you piped and am very intrigued by the caramel & blood orange flavour combination... looks like I'm going to have to give that a try one of these days. :)

  4. Beautiful! I love the designs, the color, the filling, the topping... everything is just gorgeous!

  5. When I saw the picture on the forum, I thought your piping was beautiful, and not silly at all. I love blood oranges and agree that they're perfect as they are, but caramel and orange really is a fantastic combination. Great work!

  6. Thanks to all of you!

    Cat, pastry school might still be on the list for a post-retirement career ... we'll see.

    Thanks, Robyn, Renata, and Mary!

    EKR, The nice thing about the entremet for experimenting with flavors is that you can eat each element separately if you're not happy with how they turn out.

  7. Oh wow, I love the combination of your flavors and the cake looks beautiful!

  8. This looks fabulous!

  9. Impressive! I'm in a definite blood orange mood lately. 'Tis the season.

  10. Beautiful! I love the colors and the pattern! Wish I could see it from the inside!