Monday, October 31, 2011

Crepe cake, or gateau de crepes

Let's not talk about how long it's been since I've posted a recipe, OK? (Crazy long, that's how long.) I'm calling "bygones" on the recent past, and have made some new year (post-birthday, anyway) resolutions about doing better in that regard. Remember that old tag line to Sweet Tea&Sunshine? "A little food, a little gratitude." Well, it's been plenty of gratitude, and most food happening offline... time to get back to posting recipes! I've got plenty in my drafts folder, for sure; just need to get my act together and turn pictures and recipes into actual posts. Wish me luck!

What better way to get back into the groove than to post my birthday dessert? Given the fact that it was crowd-sourced and all, right?! It's hard not to be pleased with what gets picked when you're the one putting all the options out in the first place, but I was super-excited to get to make a crepe cake again. Sometimes you just need the excuse to pull out the sugar and flour and eggs, am I right?

I turned to a food blogging professional (Smitten Kitchen) for the recipe, and found it rather different than ones I've used in the past. The crepe batter was quite a bit thinner, which took me a little to get used to but worked out just fine. And the custard was folded into whipped cream, which I don't remember doing in the past... again, turned out wonderfully. It's no surprise that this is definitely a make-again!

Gâteau de Crêpes
New York Times, 5/15/05, who adapted the batter from Joy of Cooking and the pastry cream from Desserts, by Pierre Herme and Dorie Greenspan.

Serves 10. (Smitten Kitchen thinks it serves way more than 10, which I would mostly concur with. I think we ended up with 16 slices, at least...)

For the crepe batter:
6 tablespoons butter
3 cups milk
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
7 tablespoons sugar
Pinch salt

For the vanilla pastry cream:
2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
3 1/2 tablespoons butter

For assembly:
Corn oil
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar or more
3 Tbsp Kirsch (didn't use, not fond of the flavor)
Confectioners’ sugar

The day before, make the crepe batter and the pastry cream.

Batter: In a small pan, cook the butter until brown like hazelnuts. Set aside. In another small pan, heat the milk until steaming; allow to cool for 10 minutes. In a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the eggs, flour, sugar and salt. Slowly add the hot milk and browned butter. Pour into a container with a spout, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Pastry cream: Bring the milk with the vanilla bean (and scrapings) to a boil, then set aside for 10 minutes; remove bean. Fill a large bowl with ice and set aside a small bowl that can hold the finished pastry cream and be placed in this ice bath.

In a medium heavy-bottomed pan, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch. Gradually whisk in the hot milk, then place pan over high heat and bring to a boil, whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes. Press the pastry cream through a fine-meshed sieve into the small bowl. Set the bowl in the ice bath and stir until the temperature reaches 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Stir in the butter. When completely cool, cover and refrigerate.

Assemble the cake the next day: Bring the batter to room temperature. Place a nonstick or seasoned 9-inch crepe pan over medium heat. Swab the surface with the oil, then add about 3 tablespoons batter and swirl to cover the surface. Cook until the bottom just begins to brown, about 1 minute, then carefully lift an edge and flip the crepe with your fingers. Cook on the other side for no longer than 5 seconds. Flip the crepe onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Repeat until you have 20 perfect crepes.

Pass the pastry cream through a sieve once more (didn't do, worked out fine. I mean, how strained does a custard need to be?). Whip the heavy cream with the tablespoon sugar. It won’t hold peaks. Fold it into the pastry cream.

Lay 1 crepe on a cake plate. Using an icing spatula, completely cover with a thin layer of pastry cream (about 1/4 cup). Cover with a crepe and repeat to make a stack of 20, with the best-looking crepe on top. Chill for at least 2 hours. Set out for 30 minutes before serving. If you have a blowtorch for creme brulee, sprinkle the top crepe with 2 tablespoons sugar and caramelize with the torch; otherwise, dust with confectioners’ sugar (I used creme brulee sugar, see below). Slice like a cake.

I love a good excuse to get out the blowtorch! Husband walked into the kitchen and said, "Have you been taking tools out of the shop?" No, honey, that torch is ALL MINE!

Since so many of my dear friends and readers know of my hazelnut/Nutella love (there was even a jar on our front porch the night of my birthday, thank you sweet Sara), there had been much encouragement toward a Nutella crepe cake... I could have gone there, easily, with some Nutella folded into the custard while it was still warm--I've done that many times and it works wonderfully. But, as strange luck would have it, when I was making the custard, there was no Nutella to be found in my pantry. The horrors!

But I did have a lovely bar of hazelnut chocolate from Laura's recent Europe trip up in my office (where I keep my secret stash, of course!) and I whizzed that up in the food processor with a little hot cream and voila! Hazelnut chocolate sauce... perfect for pouring over and enjoying. The crepe cake itself is not overly sweet. The sauce was WAY sweet, so just a touch went a long way, and it was heaven.

It was indeed the perfect ending to a wonderful birthday day with my guys!

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  1. i so wish you didn't live on the other side of the country!!!

  2. Oh my, that recipe just makes me ache with joy...I think I will have to try that. Just reading the ingredients is so wonderful.

    In olden times I did fold my french custard into whipping cream for my cream puffs. That was very tasty. So I can taste your recipe already too...imagination is a wonderful thing.


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