>> Sunday, July 28, 2013
It all started with a “I’m not in a mood for the usual cakes” type of gchat conversation with my sister whose taste buds have changed drastically ever since she started eating for two.
“But make me something different, I'm craving for something sweet”.
Being at work, I tried to recall what I have in the pantry and fridge at home. Have they invented a refrigerator with scanners attached telling me what I have in stock at the touch of my mobile app? Mental note to self - if not, must look into it when I get home and patent the idea asap.
When I did get home, I acknowledged that ideas I come up with at work are sometimes not the best and I also decided to make a crepe cake. That was the better of the two.
This cake reminds of my childhood. When I was a young girl, I was never into cakes or desserts. Until one day, I walked past a fancy cafe in a department store in Taiwan and my eyes caught sight of a very similar strawberry crepe cake - it was the most beautiful cake I'd ever seen. I could not even begin to count how many even layers of golden soft crepes were sandwiching the ruby red strawberries sliced with such precision and the oozing pale cream. And so I just stood there, eating with my eyes until my mum whisked me away to run some errands.
I did go back to the same place a few years later. It certainly didn't taste as good as I had it in my head after all those time. But I can assure you that this one here, 20-something years later, definitely tastes like what it should have (although it does not look as good - the pastry cream did not have time to set in the fridge!)
These crepes are easy to make - you don't even need a crepe pan. I used my normal pan/wok and just measured the batter (1/3 cup) to make sure each layer is the same size. The sweet, juicy and tart strawberries and the not-too-sweet pastry cream makes for the best paring. I made the crepe batter and the pastry cream the day before, making the assembling day a breeze!
Strawberry Mille Crepes Cake (Gâteau de Crêpes)
Adapted from New York Times who adapted the batter from ”Joy of Cooking” and the pastry cream from ”Desserts,” by Pierre Herme and Dorie Greenspan.
For the crepe batter:
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 3 cups milk
- 6 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 7 tablespoons sugar
- Pinch salt
- 2 punnet sliced strawberries
- 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
- Corn oil
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon sugar or more
- 3 tablespoons Kirsch
- Confectioners' sugar
1. 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.
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 degrees 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. (Since I cut down the recipe by 2/3, I somehow ended up with ~10 crepes).
5. Pass the pastry cream through a sieve once more. Whip the heavy cream with the tablespoon sugar and the Kirsch. It won’t hold peaks. Fold it into the pastry cream.
6. Lay 1 crepe on a cake plate. Using an icing spatula, completely cover with a very thin layer of pastry cream, then place the sliced strawberries on a thin layer to cover, and then cover with another layer of thin pastry cream. Cover with a crepe and repeat to make a stack of 20 (in my case, 10), 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.