I’ve been friends with Ashby for over a decade. Last summer Ashby and I went to San Francisco and ate crepes. Ashby ordered the nutella crepes and last week Ashby turned 28. When I lived in Berkeley I ate crepes all the time. Who doesn’t like crepes? They are somewhere between and omelet and a pancake but thinner and better that both. I’ve been fawning over the crepe cakes that recently blew up the food blogosphere. In 2005 the New York Times reviewed The Lady M’s Boutique Crepe Cake. Martha Stewart later prepared a similar cake and draped the whole thing in dark chocolate, guilding the lily as usual. I wanted to make Ashby a crepe cake for her birthday and I wanted it to be reminiscent of the street food crepes in San Francisco and the East Bay. So I added Nutella and aimed to include 28 crepes in the recipe, one for every year of Ashby’s life. I lost five crepes to a too-hot pan, but 23 crepes seems to suffice!
I’ve never made pastry cream before! This vibrant yellow concoction is egg yolks, cornstarch and sugar. I later whisked it together with some warm vanilla-laden milk.
I used a vanilla bean from Madagascar and when the bean pod and scrapping began to simmer on the stove I could FEEL the love. Even though I could not smell the aroma it was a relaxing experience. I pressed the pastry cream through a seive and the resulting product was what you might find on the inside of an excellent and authentic eclair. It was delicious.
This is a dark and murky picutre is of my light and fluffy crepe pile. To save counter space I stacked my crepes and seperated them with parchment paper. Crepes are very hot when you flip them in the pan. The pinky on my right hand took the brunt of the burn and I’m not sure why. I used to roast coffee for a living and I would often emerse my hand in to a tray of 400 degree beans after I dropped them from the roaster. Sometimes this was an intentional experiement (to crack open a bean or check the uniformity of the roast color) and sometimes it was not. Anyway, that burns a bit more then flipping a crepe so I was somewhat prepared. I should blog about roasting coffee. I ofter wonder if I was the world’s first anosmic coffee roaster.
I really enjoyed “assembling” the final pastry cream. I was using a hand whisk and I could not get the refridgerated cream to properly combine with the heavy cream so I threw the whole mixture in the food processor. I know, I’m a miracle worker. I divided the finished cream into two halves and I added one cup of Nutella to one half. I stirred the mixture until it was shiny. I enthusiasticaly recommend trying Nutella pastry cream on a crepe cake or on cardboard.
This photo does not do the cake justice. I need to get a digital camera. I served the cake with raspberries. We cut thin slices. I think it was delicious and I liked the addition of the Nutella. I will make this cake again and I think a thin layer of seedless jam would really add another dimension! Here is the reciepe for the Nutella Crepe Cake.
THE NUTELLA CREPE CAKE
For the crêpes batter:
6 tablespoons butter
3 cups milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
7 tbsp. sugar
For the vanilla pastry cream:
2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
3 1/2 tbsp. butter
Finish the pastry cream. . .
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons Kirsch
icing sugar (optional)
THE DAY BEFORE: MAKE THE CREPE BATTER AND PASTRY CREAM
Crepe Batter: For the batter, cook the butter in a small pan until brown like hazelnuts. Set aside. In another small pan, heat the milk until steaming; 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 2 cups of milk to a boil. Score a vanilla bean length wise and remove scrape the seeds from it’s interior and add them to the milk. Throw the gutted bean into the milk. Turn off the heat and stir to incorporate the vanilla then set aside for 10 minutes.
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. Allow this pastry cream to cool a bit, but keep stirring. Stir in the butter. When completely cool, cover and refrigerate.
THE DAY OF: MAKE THE CREPES AND ASSEMBLE THIS MONSTROSITY
Bring the batter to room temperature and place a nonstick or seasoned 9-inch crepe pan over medium heat. Swab the surface with the oil; add about 3 tablespoons batter and swirl to cover the surface. Cook until the bottom just begins to brown, about 1 minute, and then carefully lift an edge. While this edge is lifted count to 20, then flip the crepe with your hands. Yes, they are hot. Cook on the other side for no longer than 30 seconds. Flip the crepe onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Repeat until you have 20 perfect crepes.
Finish the pastry cream. Whip the heavy cream with the tablespoon sugar and the Kirsch. It won’t hold stiff peaks but that’s okay. Fold it into the pastry cream. If you have any problems combining the heavy cream and the pastry cream, just throw them in to the food processor together. That’s what I did, it was excellent.
Divide the finished pastry cream in half, add one cup of Nutella to half of the icing. Mix by hand until smooth, shiny and delicious.
Lay 1 crepe on a cake plate. Using an icing spatula, completely cover with a thin layer of pastry cream (about 1/4 cup). Don’t go too easy on the pastry cream and if you are not careful you will have a lot left over. Cover with a crepe and repeat, alternating a layer of pastry cream with a layer of Nutella cream, 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. Slice like a cake.