A moment for Boston, and the world while we’re at it

There was a time when I aspired to run a marathon in Boston. It was around the time I had just begun to gain confidence in my ability to go the distance in my running. Despite all the splinters and the post-run sores, running gave me such a wonderful release. I would be on an adrenaline high hours after the run. The feeling of running down an open road is unparalleled: the sky above you, a seemingly endless expanse of land before you, the wind on your face… It’s a little piece of freedom we very rarely get to enjoy leading such busy lives. And then there’s crossing the finish-line, which always feels like an accomplishment no matter what distance one runs. I don’t think anyone would contradict this, until today. I have no words to describe the shock, sadness, and finally, the anger that I feel about what happened in Boston.

It’s so difficult to reconcile the glory of finishing a marathon– what would have been a moment of personal triumph; where months, or even years, of training and hard work is supposed to pay off– to the bloody images that are circulating in the media. The whole sentiment of ‘crossing the finish-line’ has been completely blasphemed. So many people were hurt. And the worst part is, there will never be any acceptable reason or explanation as to why someone does a thing like this.

I honestly didn’t want to add to the depressing news circulating everyone’s feeds right now. I don’t even want to see any more pictures or read any more stories about this! But while I was browsing through my un-posted food photos last night, I came across this Boston Cream Whoopie Pie I had made a couple of weeks ago. I debated for a while if it would be appropriate to write about this subject at all on this blog, but it just seemed fitting. I felt this need to offer a little sign of solidarity. I don’t know if it’s because I feel some sort of kinship to the runners, to the shared sentiment about what it means to cross the finish-line; or maybe because I’ve seen enough to stay quiet any longer.

It’s so difficult to understand why these things have to happen; not just the incident in Boston, but every sickening, outrageous, depressing event the world over. The term ‘losing faith in humanity’ has never felt more apt, and yet when I remember just how many innocent people are affected by all the wars and chaos, it feels so wrong to use it somehow. And so from the very depths of my heart, I want to dedicate this post to the people of Boston, and to every kindred soul feeling sad about the state of the world these days. I’m not going to say it gets better, because the truth is nobody actually knows that. Still we have to believe that it will, because if we don’t, then the bad guys win.

I pray that we’ll all be okay in the end.

Boston Cream Whoopie Pies
The combination of flavours of the Boston Cream Whoopie Pie is a revelation to me. I've never had the regular version, but this is a great way to sample the great contrast in flavours of the chocolate glaze, the vanilla cake (in this case, cakey cookie), and the pastry cream, which ironically combine to make a well-balanced and completely delicious treat.

Makes about 15 (2-inch) whoopie sandwiches
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For the pastry cream
  1. 2 cups half cream or half-and-half
  2. ½ cup sugar, divided
  3. Pinch salt
  4. 5 large egg yolks
  5. 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  6. 4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  7. 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
For the cookies
  1. 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  2. ¾ cup sugar
  3. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  4. 2 large eggs
  5. 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  6. 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  7. ¾ teaspoon salt
  8. ½ cup milk
For the ganache
  1. 2 ounces (57 grams) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  2. ¼ cup heavy cream
The pastry cream is best made a day ahead
  1. 1. Heat the half-and-half, 6 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
  2. 2. Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds. Whisk in the cornstarch until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.
  3. 3. When the half-and-half mixture has reached a simmer, slowly add it to the egg yolk mixture to temper, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  4. 4. Return the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds. Turn off the heat, then whisk in the butter and vanilla.
  5. 5. Strain the pastry cream through a fine mesh sieve set over a medium bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming while it is refrigerated until cold and set, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.
To make the cookies
  1. 6. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Fit a pastry bag with a wide round tip.
  2. 7. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  3. 8. Blend in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in the vanilla.
  4. 9. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients to the bowl, alternating with the milk. Beating each addition just until incorporated.
  5. 10. Transfer the batter to the piping bag. Pipe 1½- to 2-inch circles onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing an inch or two apart.
  6. 11. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until the cookies are set but not yet browned. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with any remaining batter as necessary. Once all the cookies have cooled, match them up in pairs by size.
  7. 12. To make the ganache: Place the chopped chocolate into a small heatproof bowl. Bring the heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let sit for 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in small circular motions until the chocolate is completely blended and the ganache is smooth.
  8. 13. Dip the rounded side of one cookie of each pair into the ganache and coat with an even layer. Return to the cooling rack, flat side down, and let the ganache set before proceeding.
  9. 14. Transfer the pastry cream to another piping bag fitted with a smaller plain round tip. Pipe a dollop of pastry cream onto the flat side of the plain cookie of each pair. Press the flat side of the other cookie to the pastry cream, sandwiching the two together.
  10. Storage: Whoopies will keep, refrigerated in an airtight container, for up to 2 days.
Adapted from Annie's Eats blog
Adapted from Annie's Eats blog

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