Gâteau de Crêpes

There are a couple of names to this deliciousness- Mille Crêpe (aka A Thousand Crêpes) or Gâteau de Crêpes (aka Crêpes Cake). Like the names have suggested, it is a cake made up of seemingly endless layers of crêpes (or 20 layers to be exact) with light custardy pastry cream between each layers. I suspect that this cake is made for the crêpe lovers, where one crêpe is just too disappointing and unsatisfying, and only a tower high layer of crêpes will do.

I followed the New York Times Gâteau de Crêpes recipe exactly as is, except that I didn’t caramelised the top crêpe because I don’t have one of those fancy blowtorch. (Did I just sound bitter there?)

No baking is required for the Gâteau de Crêpes. But it will require at least 25 minutes in front of the hot stove to cook all 20 layers of crêpes and some spares. The crêpe batter makes about 25 numbers of 20cm crêpes. Don’t panic if your first few crêpes is a disaster. You will get a hang of it soon enough. And if you are like me who got too carried away and put way too much batter in the pan, swirl the batter to cover the surface of the pan, and pour the excess in a separate bowl to be used for the next crêpe.

When I layered the crêpes, the cake did not want to sit tall and proud, but slip and slid to one direction. So I had to deconstruct the cake, and re-layered the crêpes in a 20cm cake tin with a removable base. Once the cake is in the fridge for two hours, the pastry cream will firm up and the cake will be tall, proud and beautiful.

Gâteau de Crêpes (Recipe from NY Times)

For the crêpe batter
6 tablespoons butter
3 cups milk
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
7 tablespoons sugar
Pinch salt

For the vanilla pastry cream
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

For the assembly
Corn oil
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons Kirsch
Confectioners' sugar.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Lay 1 crepe on a cake plate. Using an icing spatula, completely cover with a thin layer of pastry cream (about 1/4 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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