Saturday, February 24, 2007

Crepe Cake with creme anglaise

I am quite adept a cooking crepes. I should be. For about a year, I spent 3 hours a day for 3 - 4 days a week cooking up 10 litres of crepe batter for the pancake restaurant I was working in. The music would be turned up loud and I would go into the zone like a machine. I usually had 4 - 5 burners going at a time and I got the technique down pat. I'm sure if anybody did it for this long, they would be quite adept as well.

I saw this crepe cake a few months ago and it has been in my memory, sweet-talking to me ever since. Last week, with Pancake Day looming, I googled crepe cake and found this post in which a crepe cake is eaten. That particular cake was made with pastry cream.

With my fascination with egg based sauces still invading every waking thought, I felt this was more appropriate. So today, I sat down to figure my plan of action.

The first step was to decide what sort of cream to use. According to the gospel, it is worth defining the difference between a pastry cream, a creme anglaise and a custard.

A pastry cream is "meant to stay put in a dish and hold (it's) shape. (It is) therefore stiffened with a substantial dose of flour or cornstarch..."

A creme anglaise is a "pourable cream" and should only be as thick as double cream when cooled to room temperature.

A custard is "...a dish (that is) prepared and served in the same container, often baked and therefore unstirred, so that it sets into a solid gel."

By definition, the custard ruled itself out. The cake in the 'inspiration post' said that pastry cream was used for the layers, but I'm not a particular fan of pastry cream and besides, I did really want to prepare the creme anglaise.

The result was light yet very filling and not overly sweet. It went well for our afternoon snack with a cup of coffee. Dan was particularly impressed. Next time I think I would be inclined to add a layer of lemon curd or other equally tart jam to add an extra element to cake. Unfortunately, it did take a good 3 hours to prepare, so I think it's going to be stuck with a 'for special occasions' label.


Makes approximately 22 crepes - each 26cm in diameter

400g sifted flour
8 eggs
Pinch of salt
1 litre milk

Add the eggs to the flour with 2 or 3 tablespoons of the milk. Beat together until incorporated. Add in the rest of the milk and beat until the consistency of double cream. Leave to stand for at least one hour. Pour the batter into a jug through a sieve to ensure that no lumps remain. Heat a 23cm nonstick frying pan to medium high.

When heated, pour in a generous amount of the batter and swirl it to cover the base of the frying pan. Pour out any excess batter back into the jug. When the edges start to crinkle and dry out, try to loosen the pancake with a spatula. When reasonably loose and cooked, flip. When the cake is cook, it will not stick to the fry pan. Place the crêpe on an upside down plate covered in a paper towel. Repeat as above until no batter remains. Patience is a virtue! And eat the first one because it's never any good.

Creme Anglaise
by Nigel Slater

2 eggs
2 egg yolks
400mls milk
200mls single cream
6 tablespoons of caster sugar
1 vanilla pod

While the crepe batter is standing, walk to the co-op and grab some milk, cream, bananas, apples and icing sugar. Measure the milk and cream into a heavy saucepan and heat on a medium high heat with the vanilla pod split lengthwise. Bring to boiling point. Nigel reckons that you will know boiling point right when the milk starts to quiver and tiny little bubbles start to appear on the edges - do not boil! While the milk is heating, beat together the eggs and sugar until light and airy. Through a sieve, strain in 2 or 3 tablespoons of the milk and stir through the eggs. Pour the remaining milk into the eggs - again, through the sieve. Stir through thoroughly. Rinse out the saucepan and pour the creme anglaise back into it and return to a low heat. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod and add to the creme anglaise. Stir for 5 or 6 minutes until the creme anglaise starts to thicken. Remove from heat and pour into a heatproof bowl. Stir every now and again until ready to use.

To assemble:

Place one crepe onto a flat plate no defined rim. Spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons of the custard and spread over the bottom crepe. Place another crepe onto the creme anglaise and again, spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons of the creme anglaise on top. Continue layering until everything has run out, finally finishing with a crepe on top. Sprinkle over a bit of Demerera sugar over the cake and either caramelise the sugar with a blow torch or under a very hot grill.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Mayonnaise for a good BLT

I remade mayonnaise today. The formation of mayonnaise is really interesting to watch and ever since I had so much fun making it the first batch, I couldn't wait for a good enough excuse to do it again. And what better excuse than a BLT for lunch?

I wanted to use our very special olive oil called Adamo which we discovered at the market and can now source from a website. I wanted to see how the oil effects the flavour of the mayonnaise. For the basis of the recipe, I started from Heston Bluementhal's basic mayonnaise recipe found in his Family Food cookbook.

The choice of mixing bowl, as Heston describes, is critical. I made the mistake of starting in my glass bowl but had to start over when after 50 millilitres of oil, I realised that it wasn't thickening. A round bottom bowl should be used, but it is important to be more convex than not. I had a plastic IKEA one on hand that was perfect last time round and worked just as well this time.

A number of different types of 'loosener liquids' can be used; water, vinegar of any sort, lime or lemon juice. To match the almond and pepper of tones of the extra virgin olive oil, I used a lime, although lemon would be fine. I would use vinegar if I wasn't looking for a flavourful outcome.

As an extra note, for any of our bacon dishes we always use Duchy Original Back Bacon. Not only do part of the proceeds go to charity, it is the best flavoured, most readily available bacon that we can find.


1 egg yolk
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon of mustard powder
100 millilitres of extra virgin olive oil
75 millilitres of sunflower oil
25 millilitres of mild cooking olive oil
Juice from 1/2 a lime
Dash of cayenne pepper

Using a medium sized handheld whisk, whisk together gently the egg yolk, salt and mustard. When the egg yolk is activated - smooth and slightly lighter in colour, gradually add a dribble of the extra virgin olive oil while still whisking. If the bowl is not stable, place a tea towel underneath it. When the dribble is incorporated and the yolk is starting to thicken, continue gradually pouring in the olive oil. If unsure, add less than more to begin with and watch it really start to thicken. If it becomes too thick or difficult to whisk, add a couple of drops of cold water. This will loosen the mixture at this stage.

Continue incorporating all of the oils and in the last 50 millilitres of oil, add the lime juice intermittently - a few squeezes at a time. Finally, add the cayenne pepper to taste. The mayonnaise can keep for 3 days if refridgerated in an airtight container.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Waiter, there's an egg in my pie!

This months edition of delicious. magazine included a short section on pies. As I flipped through the pages, a picture of mini-pork pies gave me the inspiration to not only use quail eggs again, but to also join in on this month's Waiter, there's something in my... pie.

It may be a little early for the event, but when something just feels right for the day - I just go ahead and make it. I bought a little pack of quail eggs during the week, and today - I was in the right frame of mind for a good pork pie.

The delicious. recipe used chilies, parsley and paprika which are not really traditional flavours for a pork pie, so after scouring Hugh's meat book I decided to use his mix with sage, thyme, mace, and cayenne. I didn't have any mace on hand, so used a sprinkling of grated nutmeg instead.

To make the pies, I made up a short-crust pastry which rested in the fridge until ready for use. I boiled the quail eggs for approximately 10 minutes and cooled them under a running tap. (This will prevent the yolk from going grey.) To 400 grams of minced pork, I added 4 rashers of chopped bacon. It may sound strange adding the bacon to pork, but it adds flavour and a little fat to the mix - which helps it all bind together. I mixed in a tablespoon each of sage and thyme, a sprinkling of cayenne, a good ground of nutmeg and salt and pepper. Into a muffin tin, I shaped the rolled out and cut dough. I spooned in a good helping of the meat and made a small well in the centre in which the egg could stand up. I covered over the egg with more pork mix and sealed the pies with more rounds of pastry. I brushed each pie with beaten egg and baked at 200 degrees Celsius for 45 minutes.

Next time I'm looking to make a pork pie, I would like to make a hot-water crust. I'm very intrigued to see how hard (easy) it really is! I love the egg as well - it adds texture and interest, colour and flavour. These pies are truly "gala pies".

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