Sunday, May 19, 2013

Milk Tart Profiterole Challenge for World Baking Day

I hadn’t even heard of World Baking Day until Colleen shared her stunning milk tart cake in stages on Facebook the other day. The idea is to choose one of a 100 recipes, submitted by foodies all over the world, and bake something just a little way outside your comfort zone on the 19th May.

Never having made choux pastry before, and having  already seen Candice’s scrumptious looking blog post with the recipe, I picked her South African take on profiteroles, with a milk tart custard filling. The recipe was ranked number 79 in the difficulty stakes, but I was up for it!  I mentioned the challenge to a few friends and they responded with  an “Oh yeah, we made profiteroles at school”, which made it sound like it must be a doddle. But as I’d never made them at school or anywhere else, I thought it could still count as a challenge. And I was right!

The first batch of dough in my shiny new Le Creuset pan

This morning I launched confidently into the pastry making and achieved a respectable looking dough, which I proudly piped through a home-made piping bag (a corner cut off a freezer bag) into nice even swirls on the baking tray.

First attempt at piping went well

Into the oven they went, but when I peeped into the oven after 20 minutes my confidence faltered. They hadn’t risen at all, but were already golden brown. Stress! I tweeted frantically and consulted  my Anne Willan Readers Digest cooking bible, to find two things I’d done wrong. The water had boiled before the butter was melted. And the dough hadn’t really been glossy before I piped it. I put the blame squarely on my scales, which are of the approximate ball park persuasion and had obviously delivered too much flour.

Sorry, soggy unrisen profiteroles

Wiser by two mistakes so far, I discarded the first sorry, soggy batch and plunged back into the fray. This time I checked the dough for glossiness and added more egg, the scales still being over-generous with the flour.

Now we have the right gloss on the second batch

And  this time when I peeped in to the oven at the 20 minute mark I was rewarded with nicely rounded puffs of pastry, maybe a little too golden but definitely puffy. Yay!! After 10 more minutes they were done enough to poke holes in their bottoms to release the steam and put them back in to dry.

Not perfect but definitely edible

Relieved that things were looking up, I turned my mind to the milk tart filling. Milk on to heat, eggs beaten with sugar, flour and cornflour added. The milk took advantage of my back being turned for a minute (Tweeting distraction)to froth over, but I caught it just in time and foiled its evil intent. It was poured over the egg mix, whisked to a smooth custard and then put back in the pan to thicken, stirring all the time. Now I stirred constantly, I really did, but the sauce still managed to turn into lumps on me, so I took it off the heat, whisked madly and eventually put it through the sieve to get rid of the worst lumps. Rather than risking it back on the heat again, I reckoned it was thick enough and hoped it would set more as it cooled. Spices and vanilla were added and I left it to cool.

Meanwhile the rest of the meal was to be a braai, conveniently leaving most of the work to my husband, but I still had to spice the chicken wings and boil potatoes. Flurry of spices, potatoes thrown into pot, stove lit. Done.

Now there was just the chocolate ganache to do. Candice had made a white chocolate sauce, but I’m a dark chocolate fiend and reckoned that I could just substitute that. I brought the cream to the boil, poured it over the broken chocolate pieces and stirred madly to be rewarded with  lovely glossy sauce. Perfect first time... or so I thought.

The milk tart custard meanwhile had cooled but was still slightly too runny, so I tried chilling it in the freezer for five minutes and then turned my mind to assembling the profiteroles. Pastry cases, check. Cream filling, check, chocolate ganache at room temperature... errr ... panic, the smooth glossy sauce had gone lumpy and grainy as it cooled.

By now I was past expecting perfection and was going for edible. I tried heating it again over a pot of hot water, but that just added to the disaster as it began to separate. Never mind, it still tasted good and chocolaty. So I got out another freezer bag to pipe the filling into the cases, half-filled them and plonked them firmly onto the plate so the filling wouldn’t dribble out again, squidged a dollop of melted dark chocolate over the top and congratulated myself on a morning well spent. If we learn from our mistakes, it was definitely a steep learning curve.

The verdict of the family: they really liked them and had two each, but reckoned I could have used a cheaper and sweeter dark chocolate or even milk chocolate. Lindt 70% is too good for chocolate sauce it seems!

Disclaimer: All troubles and travails were entirely of my own creation and nothing whatsoever to do with  Candice’s recipe which is just as it should be. I’m going to try it again from scratch another day, now I’ve got over the first few choux pastry hurdles.

Thanks to all on Twitter who came through with helpful suggestions and encouragement!

Milk tart profiteroles served up to family with cream

Lessons I learned
  1. I need more accurate scales. The relative quantities of flour, eggs and liquid are even more crucial than in most baking techniques. I think my second batch could be improved on further by getting it more exact.
  2. Making lumpy custard is easier than you think. A lower heat would have been better and more controlled.
  3. I need to research making chocolate sauce with dark chocolate for next time. I would have loved to see these with a luscious glossy coating of chocolate.
  4. It’s OK to chuck it all out and start again.
  5. I should wear an apron more often - sticky custard piped all over T-shirt!

  6. The braai was perfect, the autumn day even better for a lovely family lunch on the stoep


  1. I have a special whisk to ensure lump free sauces and custards! Good luck second time around Kit :)

  2. Thanks, Tandy, I'll definitely be making these again. Is it a regular whisk or a special little one? I've made plenty of sauces before without lumps before, but this one got away from me!


Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!