Thursday, June 27, 2013

American Baking Competition: Custards, Souffles, and Meringues

Those Georgia ads at the end of every episode are hideous. But, the show isn't exactly wonderful, either. This episode was a little more advanced, in that the foods created aren't items that people in every home across America bake. Sure, cookies and pies can be difficult, but most people can manage these without incident. Custards, souffles, and meringues are definitely stepping it up a notch! I know that I was intimidated, and would likely have performed poorly in this areas. I've made two meringue desserts to my recollection, neither of which would have qualified as a "layered creation." I've made several items that included a custard component, but only one which really turned out magnificently... fortunately, I now know that my flaw was likely a failure to stir enough to prevent it from getting too eggy. I've never actually made a souffle, but it's been on my list for a while... Regardless, I was interested in watching the bakers, but I can't say I'm really pulling for anyone, which makes the experience less exciting. What about you, any competitors strike your fancy?

Remaining Contestants:
Brian, 43, advertising executive who works from home. He's a gym rat and was recently injured so he is currently using crutches.
Darlene, 51, project manager from Georgia.
Effie, 40, attorney from Tennessee. Born in Israel to a Palestine father and a Persian mother. Her husband loves custard, but she's used to baking without eggs for her child.
Elaine, retired university administrator with a large family including great grandkids.
, 44, homemaker from Pickens, SC. Has kids ages 22 and 18.
James, 26, photographer from Morristown, IN.

The American Baking Competition "Desserts" (S01E05): Custard tips: You must constantly stir as the eggs are added to the warm liquids. Use a water bath to bake them evenly. Souffle tips: Make sure you have really stiff egg whites. Consider making a parchment paper collar for a nice rise

The Signature Bake
: In 90 minutes, bake eight custards - sweet or savory. [I wish more contestants had chosen savory!]
Brian makes Mexican Jalapeno and Chorizo Custard. They look dry and are overcooked. [I wasn't wow-ed by them, either.]
Darlene makes Vanilla Custard with Coconut Cookie Crumb. They're beautiful and delicious.
Effie makes Lime Pots de Creme with blackberry and caramel sauces. They are very undercooked, though the flavor is good. [I'm surprised they were even tried! Raw egg is terrible for you, isn't it?].
Elaine makes Crab and Corn Custard. Great flavor but it's too moist, curdling the egg.
Francine makes Dreamsicle Custard. The tops aren't ideal-looking, and the flavor is eggy and grainy.
James makes Caramel Espresso (two of his favorite flavors) Custard topped with Whipped Cream and Candied Lace. They don't have enough time to cool, so the whipped cream melted. The custard has a nice texture and the flavor is great, though the presentation sucks.
The Technical Bake: Bake a chocolate souffle in 1 hour, 45 minutes. Because they must be judges quickly, the start times are staggered. [I'm guessing by like half an hour.]
Brian starts. He's made a few before but isn't an expert, and second-guesses how much liquid should be in the recipe. He also takes it out to check on it and it falls, plus it wasn't mixed properly.
Francine is second, and she worries because souffles never work out for her. Hers is beautiful but could have been lighter.
Elaine starts next. She has made souffles before and knows what she's doing, resulting in a very tall and delicious souffle, though it is underbaked.
Darlene has only done a cheese souffle in the past, but her chocolate souffle is beautiful and tastes good.
James has hardly even seen a souffle. [yikes!] But, the color and flavor are is great. 
Effie forgets to add sugar to hers, so it winds up raw inside and very bitter. [I agreed with the judges... she should still have presented the best product possible!]
The worst souffle is Brian's, followed by Effie's. James's was the best, then Elaine's.

The Showstopper Bake: In five hours, make a layered dessert using meringue as a major component. [I might have even needed an example of what they were going for with that description!]  
Brian does an Almond Meringue Cake with Orange Buttercream Frosting. [sounds interesting.] The look is okay, the meringue taste is hidden, and the item isn't "a showstopper."
Darlene does a Chocolate Meringue Cake. The look is okay and the flavor is good.  
Effie does a Hazelnut Meringue Creation with Chocolate Ganache and Vanilla Buttercream. [lovely look, see below!] The presentation is gorgeous and the flavors are good.
Elaine does a Nutty Mergingue Stack with Dark Chocolate Buttercream. She didn't have a meringue recipe with her so she has to go outside the box. [you have to wonder how varied the recipes are that the bakers brought...] It's called too simple, and the flavor isn't special.  
does a Raspberry Lemon & Meringue Chiffon Cake. It's a messy presentation, but the flavors are great.
James does a Pavlova & Lemon Cake with Berries. He thinks it's too tall so he disassembles it to trim the layers. [that really looked like a bad idea!] This causes him to not have enough time to finish the icing, so the presentation is hideous. It's overbaked, dry, has no flavor, and every component is off. [that really sucks.]

The Final Results: Darlene and Francine are near the top going in, and Darlene wins, with Francine close behind. The baker sent home is Effie, who had two poor bakes but one good bake, compared to Brian's two "completed" bake.
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