Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Citrus Curd Crepe Cake

Citrus curd crepe cake, macerated berries, vanilla ice cream 

I don't think I qualify as a Francophile, but I have a special place in my heart for the French, and how they cook. I mean, honestly, their blatant disregard for the dangers of butter in excess is mind-blowing, and I fully support that. Not to mention that most American culinary schools(at least that I know of) have a curriculum heavily rooted in classical French techniques. My school was no different.

Courtesy of Reddit-r dishesRdone
We learned some basic French terms in school--tournant, commis, chef de partie, beurre blanc, etc--and I think there was even a class where you could learn French as a second language. Or maybe it was just printed in the curriculum under 'electives' to look fancy. I don't know. As an Arizona girl, I thought it smarter to take Spanish instead of French. It's helped me greatly in cooking in professional kitchens, and I advise any who would care to join me in this career path to do the same and learn, at least, some basic Spanish. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The point is that we classically-trained Chefs owe a fair bit to the Frenchmen before us, in this writer's humble opinion. There are so many things that can be traced back to the French techniques. In Baking & Pastry, it was easier to name a dessert or technique that we used which was not French in origin. And I completely loved it. I fell in love with butter. So much butter. I owe my fabulous booty to butter. I dream of it. I think I'd bathe in it if society allowed. But they don't. Savages.

All of this is pointing to my love of French food, and my excitement when Bastille Day occurs. It's basically the French Independence Day. And they celebrate in Paris like no other. Everyone who has a musical instrument is out in the street playing it, and the Eiffel Tower is lit up like the Fourth of July! (Hey, I'm an American. I have to say such a thing!) There are fireworks and food...celebrations like no other. And every country should celebrate their independence in this way! It's only right, don't you think?

Courtesy of MarthaStewart.com
Here in Kansas City, we have our share of Francophiles. None beat out Cafe Provence, however, in the enthusiasm, though I will admit that Le Fou Frog is a very close second, and Le Fou Frog has a singing pastry Chef, as well as live performers on a regular basis. Their Facebook is full of pictures and promotions and news, and they have an excellent menu. Their kitchen is a machine, full of fine ingredients and Chefs who are committed--I should know, I briefly worked there. It was an amazing learning experience, to really get to know what it is to cook under such great chefs. Warm yet intimidating for a still-fairly-green cook, studying there was honestly one of the most-influential portions of my cooking career. I worked the pantry station and the meat station on Saturdays, and I loved the days that I got to make the pastry cream and vinaigrette. They have this awesome shop, now, in the Prairie Village shopping center called The French Market, which is a really cool place. A Chef friend of mine makes all of the pastries and whatnot for them, and she's pretty darn amazing. So, yeah, check her out.

I was luckily working on Bastille Day, so I decided to make a dessert special in honor or the occasion, and as a tribute to my education: a Crepe Cake. What is this contraption/confection, you ask? Why, it is a cake, made by painstakingly layering crepe upon crepe upon crepe atop one another, sandwiched (usually) with pastry cream or mousseline or something of the like. The result is a show-stopper, well worth the effort. It was Bastille Day, I had an extra moment...well, how could I resist?
I won't say that it was the best in the city, but I will say that it turned out pretty darn good, especially since it was made with a lighter, more summery lemon-orange curd versus the traditional pastry cream. The result was a bright, citrusy "cake" balanced out with the creaminess of ice cream. (Hey, it's summer, you need ice cream.) I hope the purists will bend a bit and try out my crepe cake recipe.

Citrus Curd Crepe Cake
For the curd

  • 1 cup ea. lemon juice and orange juice
  • 1 lb butter(not margarine, you peasant)
  • 12 egg yolks
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
For the crepes
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups milk
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 oz butter, melted and browned.

First, make the crepes. The easiest way, I've found, is to dump everything except the eggs and butter into a blender and let it go. While the blender is running, add in the eggs, one at a time, and then the butter in a slow stream. Let this mixture sit for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. Using a ladel(ideally), make the crepes over medium heat using panspray as your lubricant. Use nonstick pans, if you have more than one, or crepe pans if you have them. But otherwise a nonstick will work in a pinch. I find it easier to have two burners and two pans going at once, with the ladle and mixture on one side of you and a plate to receive crepes on the other side to be the ideal. 

Once your crepes are all cooked and cooled, you can either use them right away, or use what you need and freeze the rest. Seriously, crepes freeze perfectly. You can use butcher paper, parchment paper, or even wax paper to separate them, but I just pop what I don't use in a freezer all at once, since there usually aren't that many left, anyway. 

To make the curd, boil the butter, citrus juice, and sugar together in a medium sauce pot. Whisk the egg yolks and eggs together in a bowl with a pinch of salt. You can add a 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract if you are so inclined, but I never saw the point, so I don't. Temper the egg mixture by pouring a splash of the hot liquid in and whisking. Then return the lemon juice mixture to the heat, and whisk in the tempered eggs in a thin stream, stirring/whisking constantly. Continue to beat over medium-high heat until it reaches a gorgeous thickness. Don't let it exceed 180 degrees F, though, or the eggs will scramble. Use a thermometer if you need to. Don't be ashamed. We all did at a point. 

Gotta put one more shot in! I love my new camera!
Once the curd has cooled, it will be delightfully thick and spreadable. Assemble the cake by alternating a tiny spread of the curd between crepes, stacking atop each other, gently. My cake took about 25 crepes, but you can stack as high as you want. Keep in mind, though, that citrus curd won't be as thick as pastry creams will be, so the higher you stack, the more unstable it can be. Chill thoroughly before slicing, so your curd can set. Remember, you don't need a lot of curd in between the layers. Just a teaspoon(if that) will do. And this curd can be replaced with nutella, buttercream, pastry cream, chocolate mousse, pretty much anything to suit your needs. The results are, like I said, a real crowd-pleaser, and you'll be thanked for your effort  and applauded, as well you should be, you Francophile-for-a-day, you!

Hope you guys had a great Bastille Day. Happy cooking!