Vanilla is under-appreciated in the dessert world. I understand the importance of using a good quality vanilla, but it always co-stars, never stars. Vanilla maybe the standard flavor to gauge a brand of ice cream, but when was the last time you had a dish?
Something recently pushed me to actually take a new path, and to try more than simply adding a small amount of vanilla in a supporting role to elevate a dessert.
I recently got a goodie box from Nielsen Massey that included vanilla paste and Tahitian vanilla—neither had I used before. I asked my FB peeps for suggestions of what I should make to test the vanilla paste, and boy did I get tons of enthusiastic ideas. They ranged from pound cakes to ice creams, and it took me awhile to decide on something I really wanted to make.
Boston Cream Pie has been one of my favorite desserts, ever since I tasted the one from Flour. With this recipe, I can test the vanilla paste in the cake, as well as the pastry cream. A hint of it even goes in the chocolate glaze, as well. I’m so glad I did this experiment and the consensus was an overwhelming thumbs up from M and my friends.
Boston Cream Pie
recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
yield: one 9-inch cake
2 cups half-and-half
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
Pinch fine sea salt
1/4 cup (1-1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into four pieces
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla paste or pure vanilla extract
1. Heat half-and-half in medium saucepan over medium heat until just simmering. Meanwhile, whisk yolks, sugar, and salt in medium bowl until smooth. Add flour to yolk mixture and whisk until incorporated. Remove half-and-half from heat and, whisking constantly, slowly add half-and-half to yolk mixture to temper. Whisking constantly, return tempered yolk mixture to saucepan.
2. Return saucepan to medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens slightly, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to simmer, whisking constantly, 5-6 minutes.
3. Increase heat to medium and cook, whisking vigorously, until bubbles burst on surface, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat; whisk in butter and vanilla until butter is melted and incorporated. Strain pastry cream through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl. Press lightly greased parchment paper directly on surface and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.
1-1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup whole milk
6 tablespoons (3 ounces/3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 -1/2 teaspoons vanilla paste or pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs, room temperature
1-1/2 cups (10-1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325℉. Lightly grease two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. Heat milk and butter in small saucepan over low heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat, add vanilla, and cover to keep warm.
2. In stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip eggs and sugar at high speed until light and airy, about 5 minutes. Remove mixer bowl from stand. Add hot milk mixture and whisk by hand until incorporated. Add dry ingredients and whisk until incorporated.
3. Working quickly, divide batter evenly between prepared pans. Bake until tops are light brown and toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean, 18-20 minutes.
4. Transfer cakes to wire rack and cool completely in pan, about 1 hour. Run small knife around edge of pans, then invert cakes onto wire rack. Carefully remove parchment, then reinvert cakes.
1. Place one cake round on large plate. Whisk pastry cream briefly, then spoon onto center of cake. Using offset spatula, spread evenly to cake edge. Place second layer on pastry cream, bottom side up, making sure layers line up properly. Press lightly on top of cake to level. Refrigerate cake while preparing glaze.
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla paste or pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1. Bring cream and corn syrup to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and add vanilla, espresso (if use) and chocolate. Whisk gently until smooth, 30 seconds. Let stand, whisking occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes.
2. Pour glaze onto center of cake. Use offset spatula to spread glaze to edge of cake, letting excess drip decoratively down sides. Chill finished cake 2 hours before slicing. Cake may be made one day ahead.serving.