Thursday, December 1, 2016

Tips and Tricks from School - Creams and Fillings

Pastry cream is a common cream used in many desserts, it's a stirred custard made with egg yolk, sugar and milked, thickened with flour or corn starch.

I used to make pastry cream for fruit tarts but I didn't know what's tempering egg technique and didn't aware it's so important for producing a smooth and shiny without lumps  product.   For those baking classes that I attended in community center many years back, most of the trainers only focused on practical, there was very little explanation of why they had to do the step in that particular way.  Hence, if we didn't follow the instruction or miss out some steps, we could fail miserable and I experienced it often.  The good thing about attending formal training  is we learn the theory, understand each baking technique and have a chef to share his experience and guide us along.

This week, beside sauces, we learned creams and fillings.  We made pandan custard cream for pandan custard tart, pastry cream and chicken filling for chicken pie.

We grumbled about the poor recipes as all the products didn't turnout tasty.  Our chef reiterated that we should focus on acquiring the techniques, understand the theory and beef up knowledge instead.  I do agree as there are many good recipes around , once we have mastered the skills, we definitely will be able to make good product.
Here are the takeaway from our lessons on creams and fillings:

  • Egg is the main thickening agent in the custard, the coagulation of proteins cause the thickening.
  • Flour or corn starch is the main thickening agent in pastry cream.
  • Always stir continuously to prevent curdling.
  • Tempering of egg is to avoid it from setting while cooking the sauce, i.e. small portion of heated milk is gradually and gently stirred into the yolks first before cooking them over heat.  
  • Do not cook to boil ( not>88*C), once steam occurs,  remove from the heat 
  • Good quality of custard or pastry cream should be smooth, shiny and should coat the back of the spoon.  Shouldn't have any noticeable bits of cooked egg.
  • Once the custard or pastry cream is cooked, it's should cool under an ice bath as eggs are high protein food, it can get contaminated fast. Don't expose to temperature danger zone too long.

Below is the Pandan Custard Tart with custard cream (using egg tempering technique) recipe for easy reference.

Mealy dough
200g plain flour (sifted), 5g salt, 25g sugar, 
100g cold butter (cube)
60g egg, 2ml vanilla essence (premix)
10ml water

Preheat the oven at 160*C. 
1. In a medium bowl, add flour, salt, sugar.  Mix well.  
2. Rub in butter together till crumb. (don’t overwork)
3. Add in egg vanilla mixture, rub with 50% of butter batter (step 2) till combined.  
4. Add water to the remaining butter batter, then mix back to egg batter (step 3), knead gently till well mix. (don’t overwork the dough)
5. Cover with cling film and chill for an hour before use.
6. Take 30g of the dough, roll into a round shape and press onto the tart mold. Remove the excess for better shape.
7. Cover with cling film and chill the tart for15 mins.
8. Blind bake at 160*C for ?? mins.  And set aside.
9. Pipe in custard sauce and bake at 160*C for 30-40 mins.

Pandan Custard
120g egg yolk, 55g custard powder, 3g vanilla essence (premix)
500g milk, drop pandan paste, 110g sugar

Custard Method:
1. In a bowl, whisk egg yolk, custard powder and vanilla essence till well blended. Set aside.
2. In a sauce pot,  add milk, pandan paste and sugar in, stir with spatula on MED-LOW heat till 80*C (steaming stage).  Remove from heat.
3. Pour ½ of the hot milk mixture into egg yolk mixture, stir well and then pour back to remaining hot milk, mix well.   (standby thermometer). 
4. Return to heat, continue tempering by stirring the mixture with spatula.  Insert thermometer and when it hits 60*C, remove from heat.  Continue to stir.
5. Strained the custard into a bowl and cool down with ice water bath.

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