Saturday, October 18, 2014

Boston Cream Pie

October is the birthday month for my son, the time when rain comes more frequently, leaves are changing color, and the air is chillier.  This year he's turning 13 years old and yes, life would never be the same again in our household! :)  He's actually a good kid, a tender-hearted boy with a penchant for math, Dominion and Minecraft games, along with the usual occasional forgetfulness and silliness.  I'm just hoping that my husband will survive this whole development age without going batty. 

When I asked him what kind of birthday cake would he want, his answer was donuts.  That's like his number one answer for a birthday cake; why did I even bother to ask? :)  But I coaxed him to agree to have a Boston cream pie instead.  My persuasion was that this cake was like a vanilla-custard filled donut with chocolate frosting; yeah, you'd like it, I begged.  It didn't take long for him to agree to have this instead; it's not that hard to decide anyway, he likes almost anything I make for him.  I digress.

Anyway, this is my kind of cake as well.  I like the custard filling in the middle to be creamy and with just enough sweetness, the cake tender, and the chocolate glaze, a bit bitter in contrast to the filling. I think everyone agreed with my choice since this cake was gone in two days.  

This recipe is from my favorite cake book, The Cake Book by Tish Boyle.  I've always get good results from it and I like the flavors presented in the recipes throughout the book.  

Boston Cream Pie

Makes one 9-inch cake, serving 10

Vanilla Custard Filling:
3 egg yolks
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup heavy cream

Hot Milk Sponge Cake, recipe follows
Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze, recipe follows

Make the filling:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the yolks, sugar, and cornstarch; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a gentle boil.  Remove the pan from the heat and whisk about ⅓ cup of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.  Return the entire mixture to the saucepan, place over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil, whisking constantly.  Continue to boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute.  Remove the pan from the heat, scrape the bottom of the pan with a spatula and whisk until smooth.  Whisk in the butter until melted.

Immediately strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl.  Whisk in the vanilla extract.  Cover the surface of the custard with plastic wrap, and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for 2 hours, or until well chilled.

Assemble the cake:
Using a long serrated knife, cut the cake horizontally in half to make 2 layers.

Transfer the custard filling to the bowl of an electric mixer.  Add the ¼ cup heavy cream and, using the whisk attachment, beat the mixture at high speed until it is light and forms sot peaks, about 1 minutes.

Save the smooth bottom layer for the top of the cake, and place the remaining cake layer cut side up on a serving plate.  Scrape the filling onto the layer and, using a small offset metal spatula, spread it into an even layer. Top with the other cake layer, cut side down.

Glaze the cake:
Pour the warm glaze over the top of the cake, allowing some of it to drizzle down the sides.  Serve the cake immediately, or refrigerate.

Hot Milk Sponge Cake

Makes one 9-inch cake, serving 8

1 ½ cups, sifted cake flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
3 large eggs, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F.  Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch cake pan.  Dust the pan with flour.

Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt two times.  Set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the milk and butter and heat over medium heat just until the butter is melted.  Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the eggs at high speed until blended, about 1 minute.  Gradually add the sugar and vanilla extract and beat until pale and tripled in volume, about 6 minutes.

Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the egg mixture and gently fold it in with a rubber spatula.  Repeat with the remaining flour mixture in two more additions.

Reheat the milk mixture to just under a boil.  Add it all at once to the egg mixture and gently fold it in.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake fro 20 to 25 minutes, until it springs back when lightly touched and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Run a paring knife around the edge of the pan and invert the cake onto the wire rack.  Reinvert the cake, so that it is right side up, and cool completely.

Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze

Makes ⅔ cup

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
⅓ cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the chocolate in the bowl of a food processor and process just until finely ground.  (Leave the chocolate in the processor.)

In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil.  Remove from the heat and add the chocolate to the pan.  Stir until the chocolate is completely melted and the glaze is smooth.  Stir in the vanilla extract. Leave to cool for a minute or two, it will be ready for glazing the cake.

Source:  The Cake Book by Tish Boyle

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Apple Strata

A breakfast dish that I like to make is strata.  It is a good way to use up day-old bread with some things from the pantry or fridge and perhaps produce.  Everything is assembled the night before and baking it in the morning would take about an hour before it is ready to be consumed.  I don't know why, but I like custardy dish for breakfast; it gives me warm and fuzzy feeling.  And especially with a cooler weather forecast for the rest of the week, one needs to make this quite often.

Apple Strata

Serves 4 to 6

6 slices day-old sourdough bread, cubed, divided
4 ounces cream cheese, cubed
1 apple, peeled and chopped
½ cup raisins 
6 large eggs
1 ¼ cups whole milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
Dash of ground nutmeg
Confectioners' sugar or maple syrup for topping

Place half the bread cubes in a lightly sprayed or oiled 8-by-11 ½-inch baking dish.  Distribute cream cheese cubes over bread cubes.  Top with apples and raisins, and cover with remaining bread cubes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.  Pour over bread mixture in dish.  Be sure bread is completely covered.  Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375F.  Bring strata to room temperature before baking.  Bake, uncovered, until set, 50 to 55 minutes.  Let stand for 10 minutes.  Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar, or pass maple syrup at the table.  Cut into squares and serve.

Source:  The Big Book of Breakfast by Maryana Vollstedt