Boston Cream Pie is Not Pie

Posted on April 17, 2011

Here are some highlights from the week’s kitchen time.

Cake For No Occasion

I made a Boston Cream Pie yesterday, sparking much in-home debate about what exactly a Boston Cream Pie is.

Me:  I’m getting the cake layers in the oven for  the Boston Cream Pie.

Another (who shall remain nameless):  Growing up, our Boston Cream Pie was a chocolate pudding pie in a graham cracker crust, topped with a piping of whipped cream.

Me:  Huh?  That’s no Boston Cream Pie; that’s a Chocolate Cream Pie.  Which is something else altogether.  Everyone in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts knows a Boston Cream Pie is not a pie, but a cake.

Another (remaining nameless):  I’m just saying, that’s what we knew as Boston Cream Pie.

Debate, including incredulous protestations on my part (along the lines of “you’ve got to be kidding” and “seriously?” and other pithy lines I’m not so proud of), ensued.

But, seriously, Boston Cream Pie is not pie.  It is cake.  Created in the pastry kitchens of the historic Parker House Hotel, the Boston Cream Pie is a classic and classically unchangeable – specifically, golden cake layers filled with pastry cream and topped with a chocolate glaze.  If you’d like to make one, bake two 9-inch layers of your favorite butter cake, cool them, then fill the layers with a generous amount of the same pastry cream (also cooled) I used in my rum cake, and top it with this spreadable Chocolate Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp. corn syrup (keeps the glaze pliable and spreadable)
  • 8 ounces semi or bittersweet (70%) chocolate, chopped

Bring the cream and corn syrup to a boil.  Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate.  Let this sit for a few (up to 5) minutes, then stir well with a rubber scraper until chocolate and cream are incorporated and the glaze is smooth and glossy.  Spread over the top only of the filled cake layers, leaving the side unadorned.

Preserving Lemons, Fingers Crossed

Recently, at Rendezvous Central Square, I ordered a starter course of scallops with preserved lemons.  Rendezvous’s chef-owner, Steve Johnson, features western Mediterranean/Moroccan flavors, so one will often find gems like these preserved lemons on his menu.

Shortly after that dinner, with a taste for the softened, salty citrus peel on my tongue, I found myself with a few Meyer lemons on hand and decided to give preserving them a try.  Since Steve Johnson learned some of his Mediterranean techniques from Paula Wolfert’s 1973 cookbook, Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco, I thought I couldn’t go wrong following suit, but using another Wolfert book, World of Food.

This is a method for a fairly quick preserve of lemons – not the quickest version, but considerably condensed from the more traditional method of salt packing and resting cut lemons for weeks – and one that yields a decent product.  Once the lemons completed their stay in the lemon juice/kosher salt soak, we slivered the peel and added the pieces to pasta tossed with toasted bread crumbs, capers, and garlic, then topped with seared sea scallops.  At the same meal, we also threw a few pieces of minced peel in with some quickly wilted spinach.  Bright lemon led the day.  So delicious.

Seven Day Preserved Lemons

(adapted from Paula Wolfert’s World of Food)

  • 2 ripe lemons (I used Meyer lemons; you may use any lemon. They should be large and thin-skinned. Let lemons ripen in the counter for a few days if they feel hard and unyieldingly thick-skinned.)
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil

Scrub the lemons and dry well.  Cut each into 8 wedges.  Toss these with the salt in a bowl and then pack salt and lemon wedges into a very clean (run through the dishwasher) pint glass jar with a plastic coated lid.  Pour the lemon juice over the wedges and salt.  Close the jar tightly and let the lemons ripen at room temperature for seven days, shaking the jar once each day to distribute the salt and juice.  After seven days, open the jar and add the olive oil to the top.  Re-cover and store in the fridge.  Use as needed in any dish that calls for intense citrus flavor.  To use in your cooking, remove pulp from the peel and discard.

Rinse the peel and chop as desired.

Preserved lemons will keep in the jar, refrigerated, up to 6 months.

A Cookbook Find

(cookbook photo)

You may have sampled jars of Sarabeth Levine’s Legendary Spreadable Fruits, but didn’t know she is also an accomplished baker and pastry chef.  You will now.  Her new cookbook, Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, an oversized, coffee table-worthy Rizzoli production, documents her thirty years’ worth of experience in the world of  flour, yeast, ovens, and – yes – fruit.  I’d buy this book for the House Bread and Pumpkin Muffin recipes alone.  Both work, and are excellent.

(cookbook photo)

I especially love her extensive notes.  She’s not afraid to tell you to knead your bread dough in a stand mixer because it will, very practically, get the job done.

(cookbook photo)

©2011  Jane A. Ward