August 6th is the anniversary of Hiroshima, the day after Marilyn Monroe's death day (8/5/62), and the day before Philippe Petit walked on a tightrope between the Twin Towers in 1974. I also happens to be the birthday of three people I know: My dad's (a milestone age was reached), Amy's husband's Gareth's, and Steve's birthday (also a milestone age). While I was not able to celebrate with Dad or Amy & Gareth, I did celebrate with Steve here in Brooklyn. I invited a few friends to join up at Clover Club for cocktails after work and then we went out to dinner to Chestnut. After that, we came back to the apartment for dessert - Boston Cream Pie.
A couple weeks ago, I asked Steve what sweet he wanted for his birthday and he immediately selected BCP. I've never made a BCP, but good ol' America's Test Kitchen has a recipe for it in their Family Baking Book. While none of the individual components were difficult to make, the total prep time for this cake is long - try 6 hours. Make the cake. Let cool at least 2 hours. Make the pastry cream. Chill in refrigerator 2 hours. Make the glaze. Let that sit 20 minutes before using. Assemble cake. Chill for 2 hours before serving.
Needless to say, I started this creation around 9:30 yesterday morning. Made the cakes first. Beautiful "foolproof" sponge cakes. I weighed the cake pans as I filled them to get evenly distributed batter. When Steve made my birthday cake back in April, I sorta teased him about getting too precise when he weighed the batter between the pans. But as I stood in the kitchen yesterday trying to eyeball the evenness of the batter, I realized he was smart to weigh it. So I got the scale out. The recipe said the cakes should brown a little bit but to remove them from the oven if they pass the toothpick test. My cakes didn't brown at all but passed the test so I pulled them. After I removed them from the pans, I then worried they weren't baked enough.
Since the cakes only have to bake for about 12 minutes, I wasn't able to really start on the pastry cream while they baked. After separating eggs, and prepping the ingredients, the cream came together perfectly. EXCEPT when I broke a cardinal rule of baking - I turned my back on the stove. My two cups of milk were in the saucier coming to a simmer. As any cook knows, milk will look like it's not doing anything for quite a while and then very quickly reach that simmering point. Well, when I turned back to the stove, my milk was just about ready to boil over the edge of the pot. So I ended up with scalded milk. Since I didn't have more milk, I had to use it. I could definitely taste the scalded milk in the cream but hoped that once the cake was put together, the other flavors would cover that taste up.
After the cream was chilling, I cleaned up the gargantuan pile of dishes I had created during these two steps. Then I spot cleaned the apartment because there was a chance that guests would be over in the evening. Got the recycling and dirty cat litter ready to take downstairs later. I also kept one eye on the clock, because I had to leave the house at 3 for an Egmont event which involved librarians & other book people and mint juleps. More on that later. I was going to be cutting it close because I wanted to get the cake assembled and chilling before I left.
Finally got as much done as I could and hopped in the shower around 2. Put on my nice clothes for the Egmont event. Donned an apron over my black dress and proceeded to VERY CAREFULLY whip up the chocolate ganache glaze. After that sat for the required 20 minutes, I assembled the cake. By now it is most definitely 3 o'clock and I'm late leaving the house. But I got the cake together, glazed it, and got it in the fridge. Took off apron, grabbed bag and was out the door. I arrived at the Egmont event just as they were arriving, so my timing couldn't have been better.
The Egmont event was actually the last event on a day-long itinerary. Egmont has a new book coming out this fall by a well-known young adult author. It is historical fiction set in NYC during the Civil War. A key plot point is the draft riots that took place at this time. So, Egmont put together a very unique and special bus tour for librarians and book people that visited historical sites in NY that tied into the plot and story of the book. They also involved a NY Historical Society historian and the author. As my status with Egmont is a bit nebulous, I did not go on the bus tour, but did meet up with the group at their last stop for refreshments. Feedback about the bus tour was glowing and enthusiastic, and it was nice to have mint julep with the group. I left this event close to 5:30.
Scooted home, changed clothes, and Steve got home about 20 minutes after I did. We then went out to Clover Club where friends met us for those great cocktails CC serves up. It was another nice time there. CC is running summer specials 5-7pm on select drinks and bar eats. We ordered deviled eggs, pigs-in-a-blanket, and olives. I think we each had about two very-easy-to-drink cocktails before we decided more food was needed. I had another Moscow Mule, which was served in a freezing cold, old-fashioned, copper and enamel mug. The ice didn't even melt.
Departed the bar for Chestnut. The last time we ate here was during the winter. Chestnut has a very seasonal menu, so there were plenty of new options. There were one or two things that must be popular no matter what time of year it is because those items were still on the menu. There were five of us. We split the entree special - baby back ribs - between all of us. These were very good. Steve had eaten Chestnut's ribs during the Smith Street Festival earlier this summer and really liked them. These were just as good and were rubbed with a somewhat atypical spice blend. We definitely tasted coffee in the rub and tamarind. The ribs were also served with a tamarind sauce and really excellent cole slaw. The overall flavor of the ribs was spicy, a little bitter, a little sweet, and a little smoky.
I also had squash blossoms stuffed with curried chick peas. These were cooked very well, and the filling pleasantly flavored, but the batter could have used some more salt or other seasoning. Overall, these were bland. The second dish I ordered was the chicory, aoli, pancetta, and egg salad. I thought there was a bit too much dressing, but I loved the flavor of it. Chicory is a bitter green but the salty pancetta in the dressing played really well with this bitterness. The egg was a perfectly soft boiled egg, lightly breaded and fried, and then the yolk was injected with truffle oil. D-e-c-a-d-e-n-t to say the least. Reka also ordered this salad. We all marveled at the perfectness of the eggs.
Chestnut is a nice restaurant. We enjoyed the food again. We were able to walk in and get a table without any wait. They have what appears to be a lovely garden lit with hanging lanterns, but they didn't have any tables available out there so we were inside. The temperature last night was very pleasant and sitting outside would have been nice. Chestnut has floor-to-ceiling glass doors at the front of the dining room which were open letting in the nice night air. Service was pleasant but we did encounter quite a noticeable lull between two of our courses. The bill was extremely reasonable. However, three of us did not order entrees but two appetizers instead. Between the five of us, our alcohol order included a bottle of wine, a single glass of wine, a beer, and a cocktail. We did not have dessert.
Dessert was the Boston Cream Pie back at our apartment. Ah, you forgot about the BCP, didn't you? By now it's just about 11 o'clock. Everyone is a little tired, but the siren's cry of cake is too much to resist. After cutting it, all the layers looked right. And we gobbled our pieces up. Delish! Couldn't really tell I had scalded the milk (I could tell). The cake I worried about being undercooked was just perfect. The glaze was rich and tied everything together.
The bottom line is that Steve had a nice time and really enjoyed his cake.
Here are some not-so-pretty pictures of the cake since I forgot to take pictures BEFORE it was cut and devoured.
The unmarred side:
The hacked into side:
I think we'll have an egg white omelet with goat cheese and olives for lunch today. I have six egg whites as a result of the cream only needing the yolks yesterday. Even though the completed, assembled cake was chock full of eggs - 9 yolks, 2 whole eggs, 3 whites - it was surprising low on butter and sugar. Of course, while light on butter, it was heavy on milk fat as whole milk and cream were ingredients. Oh well.
August 6 also happened to be the day that the film crew for Eat, Pray, Love was in the neighborhood. While I didn't spot any celebrities - Julia Robers, Javier Bardem, Viola Davis, Billy Crudup, and James Franco are all listed as being in the film - it was fun to see all the trailers and crew. They appeared to be filming inside the restaurant Robin Des Bois, which Steve and I ate at not long after we moved here. It's very close to the apartment and the movie crew had parking blocked off all down our block, the block parallel to Baltic (Warren), and the block on Smith where the restaurant is.