Love and Pastry Cream

September 15, 2009 at 9:39 pm 55 comments

I’d like to clear something up – not everything goes according to plan. In fact, I probably endure more angst and heartbreak in the kitchen than in my high school. Sure there’s homecoming coming up and some share of senior year drama, but really, it’s all minor compared to some of the disasters that come out of my oven.

I’ve had meltdowns in the kitchen. Lie-on-the-kitchen-floor, seriously-consider-smashing-plates, cry-and never-want-to-get-up meltdowns. Some of the mistakes have been simply frustrating, like the Daring Baker milanos that just did not want to be oval shaped. Some have been so meaningless that I shrugged, threw out the inedible bits, and moved on. Some have been genuinely funny, like the blueberry corn pancakes I made for breakfast (see above photo) where in the end I stopped putting blueberries in because honestly, why waste blueberries on awful pancakes?

But my worst baking failures, the most bitter disappointments, have all somehow been father related. My very first ambitious project was for my dad’s birthday a few years ago. I tackled a triple mousse chocolate cake which… well, five hours passed and all I had for my effort was a sticky, teetering pile of dishes and a failed mousse that could only be described as a waste of ingredients.

For father’s day, I knew I wanted to make eclairs. Although my dad is a great cook he isn’t a huge fan of baking, but he has always baked to make my birthday special. One year, he made large chocolate eclairs for every girl at my party. Before and since then, I’ve always loved his eclairs. I’d never made pate a choux or pastry cream before but figured it couldn’t be that difficult. Oh, boy.

The first time I overbaked the eclairs and the pastry cream was eggy and rubbery. You’d think that anything with milk, cream, butter, eggs, sugar, and vanilla would be wonderful – but now, I know better. The morning of, I decided my overdone eclairs wouldn’t cut it and tried again. This time, scared, I underbaked them. I didn’t have time to make more pastry cream, and the chocolate glaze… I don’t know how I ruined chocolate glaze, but there was too much corn syrup and it had the consistency of gloop. Dad tried to scrape some up with a spatula, but it slid right off. That stuff could make pans nonstick, if you could get it to stick to the pan.

For dad’s birthday this weekend, I was determined to get it right. I was going to make Boston Cream Pie, one of his childhood favorites. I would get pastry cream and chocolate glaze right, or die trying. I decided to go with a sponge cake instead of yellow cake for a lighter pie, and simply crossed my fingers.

Maybe I’d stocked up on good karma, or maybe I really have learned a thing or two, but somehow, it all went according to plan. The sponge cake was light and spongy, the pastry cream was sweet and creamy and rich, and the chocolate glaze was perfectly shiny and thick. When Dad came into the kitchen and dipped a finger in the pastry cream, I held my breath. “Pretty good,” he said, and I felt it would all be okay. When he’d finished his first slice before I’d cut my own, I knew it was more than okay – it was great.

I’d like to give a shout out to my dad, who will probably be the first and last person to read this post. He checks my blog more often than I do; he has always supported me in baking. Even when I break 18 eggs or serve him gross blueberry pancakes (which, by the way, he ate) he supports me.  He was the only person I told when I got my very first comment on this blog, and he kept me going even when I thought I was going no where. He is the first person I bounce Daring Baker ideas off of at the beginning of each month and, okay, his ideas are usually better than mine.

I have wanted to write this post since Father’s Day and it’s a shame I had no dessert to write about then. But at the moment there is no Boston Cream Pie left, as he took the last “slice” (about a third of the whole thing) last night. As he closed the refrigerator door he commented, “Leftover pastry cream and ganache… sounds like you should make eclairs.”

Happy birthday dad, I love you!

It’s been a while since my last post and it’s because of school. Even though senior year comes with a lot of freedom and independence, it’s still extremely busy. And I have some fantastic exciting news that I’m dying to share with you, but I think I’ll save it for another day for now… :) Thanks for staying with me!

Most recipes say that boston cream pie is best the day it’s assembled. I liked my first slice the best, since the cake was the lightest and fluffiest. But dad liked the cake better after an overnight sit in the fridge. The cake became denser, the pastry cream was cold, and the chocolate glaze had become much thicker. Your preference!

Basic Sponge Cake
Makes two 8″ or 9″ cakes
From Fresh from the Oven

1/2 cup cake flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease two 8-or-9-inch cake pans and cover pan bottoms with rounds of parchment paper.

Whisk/sieve the flours, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside. Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan over low heat until the butter melts. Take the sauce pan off the heat and add in vanilla extract; keep the mixture covered and warm.

Separate the eggs, placing the whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or a large mixing bowl if using a hand mixer or whisk) and reserving the yolks in a small bowl. Beat the whites on high speed until foamy. Gradually add 6 tablespoons of the sugar and the cream of tartar and continue to beat the whites to soft, moist peaks. If using a standing mixer transfer the beaten egg whites to a large bowl and add the egg yolks to the standing mixer bowl (you don’t need to clean the bowl).

Beat the egg yolks with the remaining 6 tablespoons sugar on medium-high speed until the mixture is very thick and turns a pale lemon color, about 5 minutes. Add in the beaten egg whites to the yolks, but do not mix.

Sprinkle/sieve the flour mixture over the egg whites and mix on low speed for 10 seconds. Remove the bowl from the mixer, make a well in one side of the batter and pour the melted butter mixture into the bowl. Fold gently with a large rubber spatula until the batter shows no trace of flour and the whites and yolks are evenly mixed, about 8 strokes. Also make sure that you have incorporated the butter into the mixture. There should not be visible grease/oil as you pour the mixture into the cake pans.

Immediately pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake until the cake tops are light brown and feel firm and spring back when touched, about 16 to 18 minutes for 9-inch cake pans and 20 to 22 minutes for 8-inch cake pans.

Cool completely on racks. Run a thin knife around the inside of the cake pans and then invert them onto the racks (or onto cardboard rounds or tart pan bottoms) to release the cakes from the pans. Remove the parchment paper.

Pastry Cream
Makes lots of leftovers
From The Omni Parker House

1 tbsp butter
2 cups whole milk
2 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
3 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
6 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Bring butter, milk, and cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Meanwhile, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and eggs in a mixing bowl and whip until ribbons form.

When the milk mixture reaches boiling point, whisk in the egg mixture. Boil for one minute, then transfer and strain into another bowl. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and chill, preferably overnight. Once thoroughly chilled, whisk in vanilla extract until smooth.

Chocolate Glaze

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp butter

Bring cream and butter to a boil over medium heat, then pour over chocolate. Sit 3-5 minutes, then stir to combine.

To Assemble: Level cooled sponge cakes if necessary. Spread pastry cream in a thick layer on one cake, then top with the second. Pour cooled, thickened chocolate glaze on top and serve. Keep in fridge.

Printer Friendly Version – Boston Cream Pie

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55 Comments Add your own

  • 1. justcloud review  |  November 4, 2014 at 12:27 am

    Looks delicious ! I will show it to my girlfriend and ask her to do it for me! lol. love your recipe ! thanks

    Reply

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Elissa Bernstein



I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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