Boston Cream Pie Made In Connecticut

This is a Boston Cream Pie made in Connecticut.  Is this against the law?  Let’s hope not, because I don’t think I look good in stripes.  I liked this recipe, I really did.  People ate it, which is always a good sign.  I’m going to make it again, but the next time, I’m going to do one thing different.  I’m saying this up front.  It’s not to turn you off, but I’m saying it because I believe recipes that interest you should always be made and then modified to be even better the next time you make it.  So many people make a recipe and if it is not perfect the first time, they never make it again.  I like to make things and then jot notes on what was good and what was not good and then think the recipe through and modify ingredients or cooking times so that it is even better the next time I make it.  Most times my modifications are good ones.  Sometimes not, but that’s the fun of cooking in my opinion.  OK, so let me break this recipe down for you and tell you what was great and what I’m going to modify the next time I make it.

The cake itself is really made in four parts:  the pastry cream, the cake, the chocolate ganache frosting and the assembly.  I loved making the pastry cream (my first time) and the taste was fantastic.  Light and creamy with a hint of vanilla.  The chocolate ganache frosting was also delicious.  It was the standard ganache recipe where you use chocolate and heavy cream.  What could be wrong with this combination?  Assembly was really easy so that is always a plus.  It was the cake.  The yellow cake was good, but not great.  It was a little too dense and not as flavorful as I would have liked.  The next time I make this, I’m going to try to find a different yellow cake recipe, even if I have to go the Duncan Hines route (I can hear the gasps and screams now from my true foodie readers).  If I can get the cake to be more moist and a little sweeter, this recipe goes from good to great.  No doubt about it.  I’m going to walk through the recipe as written and tell you what I used and what I did during my first attempt.  Please make this cake.  It’s worth the effort and I hope I haven’t talked you out of giving it a try…just modify.  Did I just make a new saying?  “Give it a try…just modify”.  Who knew I could be this clever?

Ingredients:

FOR THE CAKE

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 cup safflower oil, plus more for pans
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream

FOR THE PASTRY CREAM

  • 5 large eggs: 1 whole egg plus 4 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk, scalded
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

FOR CHOCOLATE TOPPING

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

FOR THE CAKE:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Oil and flour two 8-inch round cake pans.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a large bowl, whisk together the oil and sugar.  Whisk in eggs and vanilla.  Alternately add in flour mixture and sour cream, beginning and ending with flour.  Divide batter between pans.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, until cakes pull away from the side of the pan.  Cool in pans for 10 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

FOR THE PASTRY CREAM:  In a large bowl, lightly beat the egg and yolks together.  Add the sugar, a little at a time.  Continue beating until mixture falls in ribbons when the beater is lifted, about 5 minutes.  Mix in the flour.  Begin to add the milk, a little at a time.  Add a little milk and then let it mix well until you add a little more.  The worst thing you can do is add too much and end up with scrambled eggs on your hands.  Transfer the mixture to a saucepan.  Boil gently over medium heat, cooking and whisking until the mixture thickens, 10 minutes.   Strain the mixture though a fine sieve into a large bowl.  Stir in the vanilla.  Press plastic wrap over the surface.  Cool for at least 1 hour.  To chill cream quickly, place bowl over a bowl of ice and stir until cooled.

FOR THE CHOCOLATE TOPPING:  Place chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Pour cream over chocolate and leave undisturbed 1 minute. Stir completely and allow to cool until it turns into a frosting consistency.  It is really shiny and runny in the beginning.  I place mine in the refrigerator and keep checking on it until it is the right consistency for frosting.

ASSEMBLY:  Slice off the domed top of one cake to level.  Hollow out 1/2-inch depth with fingers, leaving a 1/2-inch border from the edge.  Place cake on a plate or cake stand.  Fill with the pastry cream.  It’s okay for cream to spill a bit over edges.

Top with the second cake, dome side up.  Swirl the chocolate topping over the cake.  Chill until ready to serve.

Don’t let my cake warning scare you on this.  It is a great dessert….I mean who makes a Boston Cream Pie anymore?  Surprise them all with this little creation.  Again, I am going to do this cake again after I find another yellow cake recipe.  It’s worth a repeat.  Let us know how you liked it.  What great dessert recipes do you have that you modified after your first try?

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words – Winter Anyone?

This is a Winter picture from February.  Remember when we all said we couldn’t wait until the Winter was over and Summer would get here?  After yesterday’s 103 degree scorcher, I’m sure I wouldn’t mind sitting out in the cold for an hour or two.  Weather seems to be the number one thing that you can always complain about…it’s always either too hot or too cold.  Yesterday, absolutely too hot…way too hot.  What has the weather been like in your neck of the woods?

Friday Dance Party – Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) With Katy Perry

This is another edition of Friday Dance Party on Acorns On Glen.  It’s the time where we give thanks for another week of living.  We give thanks for making it through and for being able to celebrate this fact.  How do we celebrate another week of living?  We dance.  So take a moment and be proud of the fact that you’re here and you’ve made it to another Friday.  Not only you, but your family and friends as well.  So, to that end, are you alive this Friday?  Have you given thanks for this?

Good, now let’s dance.

Every Summer has its own song.  You know, that one song that speaks for that one particular Summer season.  When you hear it, you immediately identify it with what you did that certain Summer, where you went on vacation that certain Summer, who you were dating, what you were drinking, etc.  I was reading Billboard.com and actually found a list of the top songs of Summer by year.  Reading through the list brought back memories and also made me realize that I’m not getting any younger.  The songs were ranked on each track’s performance on the Billboard Hot 100 chart during the Summer.  So here’s the list for the last ten years, just to refresh your memory:

  • 2000 – Bent by Matchbook Twenty – I must have been in a coma because I don’t even remember this song.  Where the hell was I?
  • 2001 – Let Me Blow Ya Mind by Eve featuring Gwen Stefani – Nothing bad ever comes from Gwen.
  • 2002 – Hot in Here by Nelly
  • 2003 – Crazy In Love by Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z – Danced to this one and thought I was hot and that I had all the moves until I saw a video of myself and realized I was an old man who had too much to drink and wasn’t very good at all.  Love her!
  • 2004 –  Confessions Part II by Usher
  • 2005 – We Belong Together by Mariah Carey – Listened to this one so much that when I hear it now I sort of cringe.
  • 2006 – Promiscuous – Nelly Furtado featuring Timbaland – Still love this one and listen to it all the time.
  • 2007 – Umbrella by Rihanna featuring Jay-Z – Still to this day I will belt ‘Brella, brella, brella’ for no known reason.
  • 2008 – I Kissed A Girl – Katy Perry
  • 2009 – I Gotta Feeling by the Black Eyed Peas – Will.I.Am is what Martko1964 Wants.2.B
  • 2010 – California Girls by Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg

So what will be the song of Summer 2011?  I am putting my vote in now for ‘Last Friday Night’ by Katy Perry.  Yes, this would give her three Summer titles, but this song is what Summer is all about.  Letting go and having some fun.  She also has quite the cast of characters in this video, including Kenny G.  What can be bad about that?  So enjoy the rest of your Summer and let loose to this little T.G.I.F. goodie.  You made it through another week and deserve to celebrate.  Does anyone even wear retainers like this anymore?  What do you think the song of Summer 2011 will be?

More What’s Blooming – A Virtual Garden Tour

This is a shot that I can’t even believe I took.  Even with temperatures stuck in the high 80s and many times in the 90s, a dragonfly still has the energy to fly over and enjoy the bloom of a butterfly bush in our front yard.  Even better, the dragonfly waited around long enough for me to get a couple of shots with my camera.  It doesn’t usually happen like this for me when I’m out taking photos.  Most things fly away faster than I can aim, focus and snap a picture.  Yes, Summer is here.  Temperatures are high, rain is scarce and there is a lot of humidity.  That doesn’t mean that flowers and plants aren’t blooming here on Glen Road.  To the contrary, a number of plants are in full bloom even with the harsh conditions.  So we hope you take a few minutes and enjoy a virtual garden tour of what’s blooming in our garden right now.  Here is what is happening:

We hope you liked our little virtual garden tour.  It is amazing that there can be so many blooms given the temperatures we have been dealing with here in Connecticut.  It just goes to show you that there is always a flower of some sort for every season.  All of the plants in this tour require very little water and still show off a dynamic and beautiful display of blooms.  What, if anything, is blooming in your neck of the woods given the hot temperatures we have been having?

A Toad’s House Or Did We Buy Some Bad Real Estate?

This is a toad house.  Have you ever heard of such a thing?  Neither had we until someone commented on Acorns On Glen that I should buy this guy a house.  Remember our little half-inch toad friend?

So we are told that these little guys like a house built for them that they can live under and not worry about predators likes snakes to eat them up during the night.  We guess we understand…who wouldn’t like a house built for them when they are born or when they get married?  Even more, would you like to get eaten during the night by a snake?  The little ceramic houses also protect them from the elements….sun, rain, etc.

So if all thing go according to plan, we should have a toad or two living in the two apartments that we constructed in a very short amount of time….one in the back yard and one in the front yard.  This is what we hope our happy toad family looks like in their new home.  Think ‘Extreme Makeover, Home Edition’ for toads.

Let us know….good idea or a huge rip-off?  Each house cost $13…not a huge investment and if it is successful, how great would it be to see where our toads live and be able to point it out to all of our city friends.  If it doesn’t work, can’t you buy plastic toads at the garden supply store and try to trick all your friends into believing they are real?  We’ll keep you posted on how they are received by the toad community.  I’m off to buy an ab cruncher and a few knives off the television.  Aren’t they guaranteed for success as well….just like the toad houses?  What do you think….will toads move in or will we have a vacancy all the rest of the Summer?

Clams And Sausage In Parsley Sauce With An Anna Pump Shout Out

This is a dish from one of my favorite chefs and one of my favorite cookbooks of all time.  It is clams and sausage in parsley sauce over linguine by Anna Pump.  I’ve written about Anna Pump before.  Anna has never had a television show that I know of and I don’t think her cookbooks have made her millions of dollars, but her and her store in the Hamptons, ‘Loaves and Fishes’, have inspired so many people to make great food using simple and fresh ingredients.  She has inspired people like Ina Garten and Martha Stewart, who both have taken her philosophies to the masses.  In 1985, she wrote ‘The Loaves and Fishes Cookbook’ and I have loved using it since the day I bought it.  There are a lot of cookbooks out there, but Anna Pump’s cookbook is one where you can feel how much she loves food and cooking.  A lot of cookbooks are printed to make the author lots of money.  Anna’s is not that type of cookbook.  You can read it and tell that she has a deep and true love for the art of food.  She is the rare type where the mission is the food and whatever comes after that is secondary.  If she published or not, if she became famous or not, it doesn’t matter.  The craft comes first and this craft is the art of making great food.  The only other chef I can think of with this same philosophy is Julia Child.

I love the idea of mixing clams with sausage.  This recipe is somewhere between a paella and a pasta dish with seafood.  The sauce starts out very pale and reddens up after the addition of the chorizo sausage.  The sausage also adds a little heat to the recipe which is another thing I like.  Don’t get me wrong…this is not over-the-top hot, but just enough kick to make it interesting.  The parsley is also a nice addition.  I always use Italian flat-leaf parsley because I think it is less bitter than the curly variety.  The recipe below is modified from the original.  I use less clams, onions, red pepper and parsley than the original.  I just think the original will make too much food.  For example, the original says to use 6 dozen littleneck clams…that seems like a lot to me.  Try making this recipe….it’s like a delicious beach clambake in your own dining room.

Ingredients:

  • 3 dozen littleneck clams
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups peeled and finely chopped onion
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/4 cups clam juice (can be found in a bottle in the supermarket)
  • 1 cup dry white wine (I used a Chardonnay)
  • 1 1/2 cups minced Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 3 cups sliced chorizo sausages
  • 2 pounds linguine

Directions:

Scrub the clams and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan.  Saute the onion, garlic and red peppers for 5 minutes over low heat.  Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables.  Stir to mix well.  Add the clam juice, wine, parsley and hot red pepper flakes.  Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil.  Simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the sausage and the clams.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Simmer just until the clams open.  This will take no more than 5 to 10 minutes.

Place cooked linguine in a large pasta bowl and empty clams and sauce over the top.  Serve immediately.

This meal is easy because it doesn’t require a lot of side dishes to round it out.  We ate it with just a green salad on the side.  How easy is that?  This dish has so much flavor.  I was so happy how it turned out, but then again, Anna Pump’s recipes never seem to disappoint me.  Give this dish a try, and if you like it, go find some more Anna Pump recipes.  She is a really talented chef and worthy of the recognition.  What favorite chefs do you go back to time and time again that you would like to tell us about on Acorns On Glen?

Roasted Eggplant Caponata

This is a roasted eggplant caponata that we used as an appetizer last night when we had friends over for dinner.  It is an old Italian favorite our Brooklyn Italian Grandmother told me.  Although she had never made it, she told me that it was her sister-in-law’s specialty, so the pressure was on when I announced that I was going to make it.  There were a couple of questions about the recipe (“What, no celery?” and “She never used pine nuts.”), but the end result from Notorious B.I.G. was a huge thumbs up.  To me, that meant this eggplant recipe was a keeper.  It is one of those make ahead recipes because the longer you hold off on serving it, the more time the flavors have to mix and meld together.  You can absolutely make this a day ahead and keep it in the refrigerator until time to serve.  I served it along with some plain and multi-grain pita chips, but use your imagination.  Since it is a dip, we could have used regular chips, bagel chips, vegetables to accompany it.  It’s really up to what you are in the mood for when you serve it.  Try this recipe…the flavors are incredible together and by the empty container that was there at the end of the night, it was a hit.  As well, remember that it comes with the Notorious B.I.G.’s seal of approval.  Here’s how you make it.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant (1 1/2 pounds)
  • Olive oil
  • 4 ounces jarred roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1/2 cup large green olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 large cloves minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.  Place the whole eggplant on the pan, prick with a fork in several places (you don’t want an exploding eggplant in your oven) and rub with olive oil.

Roast for 50 minutes, until the eggplant is very soft when pierced with a knife.  Set aside to cool.

Halve the eggplant, peel, and discard the skin.  Place the eggplant, peppers and olives in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until coarsely chopped.

Pour into a mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saute pan.  Add the onion and red pepper flakes and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, until the onion is lightly browned.  Add the garlic, cook for 1 minute, and add to the eggplant mixture.

Add the parsley, pine nuts, lemon juice, capers, tomato paste, vinegar, salt and pepper and mix.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to develop.  Taste for seasonings and serve at room temperature.

It’s great having friends over for dinner and even better when you can serve them something new and delicious.  Our roasted eggplant caponata did just that.  It was the perfect start to a fun evening.  Well, the eggplant and a few glasses of wine were the start to a fun evening.  You get my drift.  Give it a try.  What do you like to serve as an appetizer at your dinner parties?