Gateau de Crepes
They are all over the place. Every time I turn around, another one just grabs my attention. They are almost impossible for me to ignore. Burning holes in the back of my head, staring me down as I travel from store to store, aisle to aisle. A good-looking one will catch my eye and I'll think about it, and think about it, until I can't stand it anymore. Then, usually desire takes over and BOOM - I own another cookbook! Well, with this one, I stupidly held off, working on the "I need another cookbook like a fish needs a bicycle" motto.
Then Christmas rolled around, clearly I'd been a good girl, and I got my wish - The Essential New York Times Cook Book by Amanda Hesser. YES - it's fabulous! I've been reading it ever since Santa (okay, my son Luke) placed it under the tree. I love her background stories with each recipe, I love the twists and updates on the classics, I love her straight forward recipe writing approach - no nonsense - this is how you do it sort of way.
The first recipe I tried was her Gateau de Crepe. I can't tell you how much I appreciate a recipe that works, and does so perfectly. The crepe recipe made exactly 20 crepes. The pastry cream recipe made exactly enough for filling the 20 crepes. The cake wobbled a bit but did not fall down (which was my fear when I thought about making this in the past), and was absolutely one of the most delicious desserts I have ever made. So, thank you Amanda Hesser for a wonderful dessert. Mr. Crown and Ginger (my valentine) is in for a treat this Valentine's Day!
For the crepe batter:
6 Tablespoons butter 3 cups milk
6 eggs 1Ω cups flour
7 Tablespoons sugar Pinch salt
For the vanilla pastry cream:
2 cups milk 1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped
6 egg yolks Ω cup sugar
π?≥ cup cornstarch, 3Ω Tablespoons butter
For the assembly:
Corn oil 2 cups heavy cream
1 Tablespoon sugar 3 Tablespoons Kirsch
or more (I used Grand Marnier)
The day before, make the crepe batter and the pastry cream.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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? on an instant-read thermometer. Stir in the butter. When completely cool, cover and refrigerate.
4. 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.
5. Pass the pastry cream through a sieve once more. Whip the heavy cream with the Tablespoon sugar and the Kirsch (or Grand Marnier). It won't hold peaks. Fold it into the pastry cream.
6. Place one crepe on a cake plate. Using an icing spatula, completely cover with a thin layer of pastry cream (about º 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. Slice like a cake.
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