From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...While I know my family and friends look forward to dessert, I'm decidedly ambivalent about it. I enjoy vaguely sweet breakfast breads and coffee cakes far more than the more elaborate creations usually served at the end of a meal. I made an dacquoise for a friend's birthday today. It was a lovely, time consuming creation that I know she'll enjoy it, but while I was working on the meringue layers, I started to think about the simpler American desserts that I think have more universal appeal. Apple, cherry, blueberry, pecan and pumpkin pies came to mind. As did soft strawberry ice cream and strawberry or peach short cakes. And while any any cook worth her salt should be able to whip up a vanilla or chocolate layer cake in the blink of an eye, the list would be incomplete if gingerbread, apple crisp, lemon meringue and Boston cream pie were not also included. Most of these desserts are made regularly, but Boston cream pie is starting to go the way of the dodo and is disappearing from the American table.
Boston cream pie is actually a cake that is filled with a custard or cream filling and covered with a chocolate glaze. Cake pans were not regular features of early American kitchens, so cake batter was baked in pie pans and the resulting cake was called a pie. For some cakes the name pie stuck. Boston cream pie is an updated version of the early American dish called pudding-cake pie, so when the Parker House Hotel in Boston first served this cake, they named it Boston cream pie. A French chef, hired for the opening of the hotel, is credited with making the version of pudding-cake pie that became famous. It hasn't changed much over the years. While it is a three step process, this is not a difficult dessert to make. I would like to make one suggestion that I think will make the cake a standout. Brush the layers with dark rum before it is assembled and those at your table will really sing your praise, especially if you use a lot of rum. There are many recipes for this cake, but this is the one I like to use on a regular basis. Here's how this cake is made.
Boston Cream Pie...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Saveur magazine
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
1-1/2 cups flour, plus more for pan
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and reserved
6 egg yolks
1-1/2 cups milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces 60% bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1) To prepare cake: Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan; set aside. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl; set aside. In another bowl, beat butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed of a hand mixer until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each, until smooth. Alternately add dry ingredients and buttermilk in 3 batches, beginning and ending with dry ingredients; beat until just combined. Pour into pan; smooth top with a rubber spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes, and then invert onto a wire rack; let cool completely.
2) To make filling: While cake bakes, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt, and vanilla seeds in a large saucepan; add yolks, and whisk until smooth. Stir in milk, and place pan over medium heat; cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and add butter one cube at a time, whisking until smooth; stir in vanilla extract. Transfer pudding to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap; chill until firmed, at least 2 hours.
3) To make glaze: Place chocolate in a bowl. Bring cream to a boil in a 1-qt. saucepan over high heat; pour over chocolate and let sit for 1 minute. Slowly stir chocolate and cream until smooth and shiny; set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
4) To assemble cream pie: Using a serrated knife, split cake horizontally into two layers so that top layer is slightly smaller than bottom. Spread chilled pudding over cut side of bottom layer and cover with top layer; pour chocolate glaze evenly over cake, letting it drip down the side of the cake. Refrigerate cake until glaze is set, at least 30 minutes. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Yield: 10 servings.
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