Monday, April 9, 2012

The Final March Madness Bakeoff Recipe

And so we come to the final week of Mrs. BA's March Madness Bake-off Contest.  She made it out of the Sweet 16 (the first round) with her kick@$$ Pecan Lace Cookies, through the Elite 8 with her Butterscotch Cashew Bars, and out of the Final Four with her sinfully rich, Chocolate Blackout Cake.  The Championship Round was "Bring Your Best."  She experimented with one recipe, which was determined by the R & D team that, while good, it was not the "Best."

So she went this way.  The cake was, of course, amazing.  However, she came in second.

Gateau de Crepes
(from the New York Times Magazine, May 15, 2005)

For the crepe 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 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. 
  2. 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. 
  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. 
  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 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 crème brûlée, sprinkle the top crepe with 2 tablespoons sugar and caramelize with the torch; otherwise, dust with confectioners' sugar. Slice like a cake. 
Batter adapted from ''Joy of Cooking.''
Pastry cream adapted from ''Desserts,'' by Pierre Hermé and Dorie Greenspan.

YIELD Serves 10
Originally published with THE WAY WE EAT; Building a Modern, Multistoried Dessert By Amanda Hesser, May 15, 2005

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