Friday, July 14, 2017

Boston Cream Pie - the rematch

As some of you may remember, back at the end of April/beginning of May, I tried to make a Boston Cream Pie on the recommendation of a friend and reader. (The first of those two posts is here; the second is here.)

I'll save you the trouble of going back and reading all the way through both of those (though - the photos are pretty-ish) and let you know that the final product was a tad underwhelming.

So I immediately set to work searching cookbooks for a better version. And - since the person who had originally spurred on my attempts is in town this week - I decided it was time to try again.

This time, I broke out The Best Recipe cookbook, which is from the America's Test Kitchen people, who also put out Cook's Illustrated magazine.


I'm not going to lie. I'm a little leery of some their recipes. They can veer wildly from deceptively simple to way-too-detailed (I encountered both of these while working on this cake). But the one thing they do have going for them is tons of testing - so the recipes will honestly produce good results almost every time if you follow their directions.

I was happy to see the name of the first half of this recipe (the part we'll be going through today), though - it gave me a bit of hope:




After all, who doesn't love to be told that a recipe is "foolproof"?

So, with ingredients gathered... I set out on my second attempt at Boston Cream Pie...

Why yes, there are two different kinds of flour in that picture! How observant of you!
Before really getting into the cooking, I got to do some arts and crafts. You see, the recipe calls for greasing your pans, and then lining them with parchment circles. But, since we seldom actually do this (I don't often use round cake pans, and when I do I typically grease-and-flour), we don't have any of those on hand. We do, however, have a Costco-sized roll of parchment paper, so I got out the roll and my handy scissors and set to work making a circle-type liner.

First, I verified what size the pan was.
Then I cut squares of parchment that were just a hair smaller than the pan.
Then I folded it in the same way that you fold paper to make an eight-pointed paper snowflake. (Does everyone know how to do that? I remember being very confused by it when I was a little kid. 
Minor problem: If you get too carried away with the snowflake cutting, you end up with a pan liner that really won't do you much good.
Luckily, I was able to restrain myself for the second one (and the third one).
You still grease the bottom of the pan, even though it's going to be lined. This is so the parchment won't stick.
Yippee! Two non-snowflake-lined nine-inch pans!
Okay. Now on to the actual baking.
I think we have a sifter, though I'm not sure where it is. So this is the dry ingredients all being whisked together.
This is the milk and butter being heated/melted. Such a tiny little saucepan.
Now we're talking! Egg whites in the mixer, whole eggs (and extra whites) in a bowl, and dry ingredients hanging out near the blender (which has nothing to do with this recipe).

This is where some things started to get a bit weird.
Action shot!
For instance: The amount of time it took for the eggs to reach soft peaks seemed longer than usual (not sure what was up with that), and the recipe calls for one-quarter cup of sugar, but you actually use it in two portions (three tablespoons at a time) - and I kind of wish it had just said "3 tablespoons" twice, so I hadn't scooped out a quarter cup and then had to try to scoop out the tablespoons out of that.
Eventually, though, I had my soft-peak egg whites and was ready to move on to the rest.

This is one of those places where you really need to read the full recipe. It talks about beating the eggs and sugar until they are "very thick and a pale yellow color." Now, I don't know about you, but when I mix sugar and egg together, it tends to turn yellow pretty fast - and get really thick at the same time.

But the recipe goes on to say "about 5 minutes." So I went with the recipe. And, yes, it was eventually very pale yellow - and even thickened up more than I expected it to.

Alright. We have progress. And it was time to slam everything into the same bowl. Very carefully.
Can you see the two different colors of the eggs?
You see, the flour mixture is kind of heavy. And you've just spent ten minutes or so trying to get your eggs all light and airy (and, yet, thick), so you don't want to just drop the flour in and flatten it all. 

I won't lie: I laughed when I read the very precise "fold 12 times... fold 8 times" for this step and the next one. 
It kind of looks like a tiny, inverted, double boiler.
Remember our poor little saucepan? Well... It needed to be covered and kept warm (really - how much more like a street urchin can it be?), and we don't have a lid for it. So I covered it with a small bowl. 

You're supposed to make a "well" in one area of the batter, and then pour in the dairy mixture. But - um - it's a liquid. How do you make a well in a liquid? I ended up with a kind of "fast-closing crease" and decided to go with it.
No-well, No-well...
I'm probably as surprised as anyone that another eight "folds" actually seemed to get us where we needed to be:

Into the pan and oven we go with our "foolproof sponge."
Do they look even? I can never tell if they're even. Especially when I'm holding a bowl in one hand and a spatula in the other and just trying not to drop everything on the counter.
Just a hair over the prescribed time, they looked like this: 

Contrary to the recipe, they didn't really feel "firm" - but they did have a nice spring to them when I touched them. So I figured they were good to go.

Until...
Okay. You're supposed to run a knife around the edge to loosen it from the pan. And I did. But the knife bumped against the parchment and kind of gouged into the cake layers. (Yes, both of them. I cannot believe I did it to both cakes. >sigh<)

Following their directions, I inverted a plate onto the pan, covered it with a towel, and then...

Flipped that bad boy out of the pan in one swift bam on the counter.

Moment of truth: peeling the parchment off the bottom and hoping it comes off without any issues. 
Some of the light spots are actually caused by the parchment insulating the cake from the direct heat of the pan. I think this is another reason that greasing the pan is so important - it helps to conduct the heat.
From pan to plate, and then from plate to cooling rack:

And, yes, the whole parchment-lined-pan thing really did its job. Just look at the difference between the sides (just greased) and the bottom (greased and parchment-ed). 

I realize that this is a really horribly mean place to leave off, but it's already almost three dozen photos, and my laptop isn't quite sure what to do with me.

Next week we'll make the pastry cream (spoiler alert: there's booze in it!) and the chocolate glaze (spoiler alert: you get to figure out what it means for something - other than a first date - to be "tepid"), and put the whole thing together!

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See what can happen if you send me a recipe idea? (And - even better - what happens if you send me a recipe idea and then come to visit!?) Let me know if there's something you want me to try, and I'll see if I can work it up into a blog post (or four).

1 comment:

Robin said...

So excited about another recipe! But had to admit, I zipped through the pictures before reading...and was a little puzzled by the snowflake! lol