Monday, April 22, 2013

Boston Cream Pie









A week ago, my cell phone vibrated in my pocket while I was teaching my preschool class. When I had a moment, I looked at the screen, only to discover the news about a bombs going off at the Boston Marathon. My mouth dropped open in disbelief.




From 1992 to 2009, I lived in the Boston area. I walked the city’s streets enjoying the historic architecture. I visited the wonderful museums numerous times. I ate cannolis in the North End and Italian food on Cambridge Street. I bought books in Harvard Square and sailed on a schooner in Boston Harbor. I cheered for the sports teams and even wrote about the food served at Fenway Park, complete with a behind
the scenes tour.

I was heartbroken that a city I love was going through such pain on a day that traditionally is filled with celebration and holiday revelry.

What do food writers do to cope with sadness? They cook, of course, and then write about it. I wanted to make something to honor Boston, so I decided to make one of my favorite desserts, the Boston Cream Pie. It also happens to be the official dessert of Massachusetts.

This sweet treat is actually a cake, not a pie. It originated at the Parker House Hotel (now the Omni Parker House Hotel) in 1856, though earlier versions have been around since colonial times. The dessert has
three components—two layers of sponge cake filled with a vanilla pastry cream and topped with a chocolate glaze.

A perfect dessert to sooth frazzled nerves and chase away the bad-news blues.

Boston Cream Pie

Adapted from The King Arthur Four Baker’s Companion and CooksIllustrated.com.

Note: Be sure to make the pastry cream first so it can chill while you make the cake and glaze.

For the pastry cream:
1/2 cup cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into four pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the cake:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk

For the chocolate glaze:
1/2 cup cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
4 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the pastry cream: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream and milk to just a
simmer. While waiting, in a medium bowl, whisk together the yolks, sugar, and salt. Then whisk in the flour until well mixed. Take the milk-cream mixture off the heat and poor 1/2 cup into the egg mixture, whisking all the time, to temper the eggs. Then whisk the egg mixture into the saucepan with the milk-cream mixture.

Place the saucepan back on medium heat and whisk while it thickens for 1 minute. Turn down the heat to medium-low and continue to whisk for 8 more minutes. Then bring the heat back up to medium and whisk until bubbles pop on the surface, about another minute. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter until it melts and is blended into the mixture. Whisk in the vanilla.

Strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl. Press plastic wrap gently onto the surface of the cream to cover, and then refrigerate until needed.

To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch cake pan that is at least 2-inches deep. (I used a springform pan.) Place a parchment paper ring in the bottom and butter the paper. Then dust the pan lightly with flour and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch and baking powder. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, blend together the sugar, butter, salt and flavorings until fluffy. Add the oil, and then the eggs, one at a time, and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy. Beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture, then half the milk, another 1/3 of the flour, the rest of the milk, and the rest of the flour. Beat until well combined, about 2 minutes.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow the cake to cook in the pan for 15 minutes, and then remove the cake from the pan to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

To make the glaze: Place the cream and corn syrup into a small sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat, add the chocolate and salt, and stir until the chocolate melts and the glaze is smooth. Stir in the vanilla and set aside. The glaze will remain fluid until needed, just do not refrigerate.

To build the cake: With a large serrated knife, slice the cake in half horizontally. Place the bottom half on a cake place, cut side up. Scoop the pastry cream into the middle and spread out almost to the edge of the cake. Place the top half of the cake, cut side down, on top of the pastry cream. Pour the glaze over the top, allowing it to spill over the edge of the cake and drip down the sides. Refrigerate for a few minutes to set the glaze. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. 

No comments: