Holiday Baking Triumphs & Disasters

This isn’t so much a post as a request for submissions from anyone who might have experienced either one during Easter or Passover. Geek Lady made the excellent suggestion since she had a little of both over the weekend. Post-holiday posts like this might make a good tradition here on Joe Pastry, but let’s see how this one goes first. Make any submissions via the email link on the upper left and I’ll put ’em up! Feel free to include supplemental comments if desired…though keep them on the short side if you will!

First up we have reader Ashley’s tarta Pascualina which looks flawless:

I created a Tarta Pascualina and, though I ran into a lot of “I don’t have the right ingredients!” problems, the pie turned our perfectly. Pie crust used to be my one baking kryptonite, and I’m happy to officially say I’ve conquered it.

Woohoo! Next up is Geek Lady with some serious Easter bread and a professional-grade lamb cake:

She writes:

The first triumph is my always reliable Bread of Easter Brightness, which is a brioche-y sort of bread flavored with cardamom, inspired by Greek lambropsomo, but is my own recipe developed from the vague description on Wikipedia. I am strictly forbidden by my family to change anything.

The second triumph is my Baptism cake baked in a lamb mold. Last year was the first year I tried, and the head fell off. This year, I defy Cake Wrecks itself to mock it. Baptism cake is really Italian cream cake, but in our house it is especially for baptisms and Easter. I haven’t blogged this recipe yet, but I intend to, now that I know that it makes a delicious AND sturdy lamb cake.

Reader Kitty writes:

My best ever fail was deciding I wanted to make biscuits as a teen, and oh hey, I think I have the ingredients. Never baked before, I’d just watched cooking shows and promptly forgot any ratio/amounts. I mixed flour with…. stuff. the results were not pretty and put me off baking/cooking forever because I didn’t think I had it in me.

Also, forgot to clean out fat from a remarkably leaky cheesecake bake (the butter in the crust)
Next time I turned the oven on, I think I was going to bake fries… I saw a fire, and dazed, told my bf of the time…Umm… fire… in the oven.. In a complete and monotone/ uninterested voice. haha…

Next up is Chris from down under. Check these out!

He writes:

Howdy doody from Down Under! Attached are pics of the orange caramel entremet I made for Easter sunday lunch and the chocolate goodies I made for the kidlets. For a sense of scale, the ‘body’ egg for the figurines was 15cm (6 inches) long 🙂

The entremet consisted of an almond sponge base, topped with roasted pistachio nut and caramelised puffed rice in hazelnut praline, surrounded by orange mousse with a caramel creme brulee layer, covered with a dark chocolate glaze.

Um…incredible. Next reader Dave rebounded from a failure with a brilliant improvisation:

After a failed attempt at my first pâté a choux, I had a successful batch of eclairs, so a friend suggested trying Paris-Brest. Last week I made the praline paste and began the plan to bake one up for my son’s Easter Egg Hunt/luncheon on Sunday.

And then this from reader Rebecca:

Alas, one success does not a master make! The batter did not rise as huge as my second try. So, plan B! The Bee Sting was an easy make, and the praline paste got added to the pastry cream (ala Paris-Brest) and it was a magnificent success!

I baked 2 pies for Easter dinner: a lemon meringue (from RLB’s Pie and Pastry Bible) and this crazy easy chocolate pie: I’ve made both, multiple times before and nary a problem. For some reason this year, neither pie set properly. The lemon filling was ran out of the crust in a thick puddle. I also over-whipped the meringue so it was dry. Not good.. not good at all.

On the triumphs side, the roast beef was fantastic and the dinner rolls I made were perfect. I’m going to have to try the lemon meringue pie again next week, just to prove to myself that I haven’t lost my touch. 🙂

Reader Evan writes:

Success: Made Cooks Illustrated’s individual fallen chocolate cakes. For want of the proper size of ramekin, I used a buttered jumbo sized muffin tin, and to make it totally Passover safe I replaced the small bit of flour with xanthan gum. Result: souffle-like chocolate cakes in about 10 minutes of hands on time, including washing the mixing bowl. Good chocolate (Valhrona) seemed to help here.

Failure: red wine ice cream: reduce 2/3 of a bottle of wine, add sugar, egg yolks, cream, touch of xanthan and unreduced wine to help stabilize and keep scoopable, respectively. Cook sous vide 85C for about 40 minutes, then chill overnight and churn. Result: flavor is okay, but too sweet and without the richness of the original wine. Texture is quite offputting, rather grainy. I chose 85C following ChefSteps, but I wonder if that created some egg protein coagulation.

Woohoo! And…doh! For what it’s worth I’ve never had a red wine ice cream I liked. It’s one of those ideas that sounds good when you hear it, then…blech. And a nice improvisation on the cakes!

Keep them coming!

25 thoughts on “Holiday Baking Triumphs & Disasters”

  1. I’m not going to supply a picture, but I DID have a successful first pass at croquembouche, so thank you! I did a couple of modifications – #1, I use white whole wheat flour almost exclusively, so I ended up with 5 eggs per batch for the choux; #2, I used Chantilly Cream instead of pastry cream for the filling; #3, my choux puffs were a little larger than I intended originally (wow, did they go crazy), so it was a bit ‘craggier’ than I thought it was going to be. But it was delicious, and highly regarded by the family. 🙂

    So thank you!

    1. Fabulous, Roger! I was wondering about that over the weekend. Nice to know everything came off so well! I trust there will be many more croques in your future!

      – Joe

      1. I don’t know about ‘many more’, but it will certainly be part of the ‘special occasion rotation’!

  2. Hello Joe and Happy Easter to you! I did your chocolate babka for Easter brunch and it was a hit. I baked two loaves and the first one disappeared in seconds. The other one I had it in the kitchen and it was so good, one of my guests stole a whole piece of it (the top one with the streusel, grrrrrr). Now I have the bottom part w/o streusel. I did some more baking (no knead rye bread and challah) and it was also good (not from your website 🙁 ). I love your website, lots of useful information, so far I have tried a few of your recipes, all great (given that I live at 8,600 ft above sea level, I am still learning to adjust the ingredients / heat to compensate for the high altitude, so sometimes things do not work as well).

    1. Wait…someone shaved the streusel-covered top off your babka?? Don’t invite that guy back again, whoever he is.

      Glad to hear the rest went well…my recipes or not! Easter is a team effort! 😉

      Cheers and thanks for the message,

      – Joe

  3. We didn’t have any candy this year so I made a Bombe aux Trois Chocolats from Julia Child’s recipe. It was the second I have ever done, I made one for my moms birthday 30 years ago. It is fabulous but a serious load to eat. Everyone raved about how good it was but it can be over powering. A lot of putzy work to assemble but not a difficult desert.

    1. Wow. I’ve never even heard of that. I’d better not tell Mrs. Pastry or she’ll want one tomorrow.

      Glad to hear it went well and was well received!

      – Joe

  4. It was a long weekend of lamination for me. A whole kilo of butter was sacrificed in the name of deliciousness. After church on Good Friday, brunch consisted of croissant-based delights – regular, chocolate, and cinnamon (paired with coffee, of course). The second half of the dough disappeared on Saturday in a similar manner. This morning it was Danishes, with cinnamon and chocolate varieties on offer for Mrs Youngster’s mothers’ group, and chocolate coffee cake for my poor colleagues returning to work after a four-day weekend. As for pictures? Do you really think there was enough time to get a picture before the hordes descended armed with (butter) knives and vats of berry jam? As brave as I am, I could not bring myself to fighting off the hungry mob for something as trivial as a photograph.

    1. Mrs Youngster has since informed me that the dog sneaked in the back door while everyone was outside and stole one of the Danishes for himself. Oh the humanity! (I cant blame him though, they’re delicious)

      1. Oof. Yes in an apartment I once occupied I passed a dog in a corridor carrying a loaf of my warm bread. He’d snuck in and out a back entrance and helped himself. It’s a form of flattery, still….

    2. Yeah you don’t want to stand between a crowd and some fresh-baked hand-laminated pastry. A very bad place to be. And indeed I did recognize that asking for photos after the fact wasn’t exactly fair. I’ll try to plan ahead next time. Well done though, youngster! Glad to hear about all the successes!

      – Joe

      1. I guess I’m young enough that whipping out my smartphone for pictures of what I’m making is just a habit. It didn’t even occur to me that people might not take pictures of their pastries! I didn’t take pictures of that cancerous pie though – too depressing.

        1. I totally understand, GL. Readers keep asking for more photos of my disasters. I try to oblige, but oh Lord is it hard…

  5. We were making poppyseed bread for Easter like my mother in law had done for years. The sweet bread dough was raising for the first time and my daughter started to make the poppyseed filling. She put the poppyseeds, sugar, egg yolks and milk in a saucepan on medium and got distracted. There is still a quarter inch of ‘caramelized filling’ still stuck in my saucepan. We used the filling not burnt and called it smoked poppyseed bread.

    1. It’s all about the marketing, isn’t it Simone? Set the right expectations and everyone’s happy!

      Well done!

      – Joe

  6. Ashley, I love your Tarta Pasqualina! I’ve always wanted to try one, but I would be probably be the only one to eat it. Is it an old family recipe?

  7. I made the Pan de Romerino since I’ve always been disappointed in Hot Cross Buns as they never tasted as good as they looked. These little herbed gems are something I plan to make all year round as they are fabulous!! I served them with an antipasto platter of meats, cheeses and grilled vegetables and they were perfect. They are also incredible for sandwiches. Bread baking was my favorite pastime during the recent polar vortex, but I had a few issues with the loaves falling. I have since learned that rapid rise is not the same as instant yeast and the Rosemary Buns were absolutely perfect in texture and appearance – especially due to your bun rolling tutorial.

    1. Great to hear they worked so well for you, Linda!

      As for those “mouse houses” you seem to be getting…make sure you abuse the dough a little bit in the shaping step if they’re leavened with commercial yeast (punch it). Pop those overly large bubbles so they don’t rise to the top and cause trouble!

      Cheers and so glad you liked pan de ramerino!

      – Joe

  8. Reader Rebecca I tried to copy and paste the addy for the crazy easy chocolate pie, but I didn’t see it on that doodle page?? Could you post the recipe. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  9. Ahh, I can only drool over these pictures and descriptions… Participated in paddling marathon in Saturday, so no chance of baking projects at all. Luckily, my mom took over at least egg painting, so I can share her success in this project, as this year all eggs came out really beautiful
    Only onion skins for base color, some hibiscus tea and greens from garden and forest, and nice surprises when unwrapping eggs after boiling!

    1. Gorgeous! I’ve always been curious to try some of those traditional dyes. Your mother is very talented, Antuanete. Mrs. Pastry will want to do these next year after seeming the photo!


      – Joe

      1. Thanks, my mother will be proud! And don’t hesitate to write me and e-mail to get some tips and tricks about traditional dyeing if necessary!

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