Gâteau de Crêpes

This incredible cake was a truly a Father’s Day tribute. I made it for my husband to celebrate what an amazing dad he is to our kids. ❤ We enjoyed it after spending the day at a gorgeous New York State Park, Planting Fields Arboretum.

Making a crêpe cake was also a memorial to my dad. When I was growing up, my dad made crêpes on Sundays for breakfast and he taught me how to make them. When my family brought me to college in Boston, we went downtown to a beautiful Williams-Sonoma and my dad selected crêpe pans to give me as a “going away to school gift.” I treasure them.

I also built the cake on a special cake plate that once belonged to my French grandparents. ❤

I’ve wanted to make a crêpe cake for quite some time. My food-blog friends Suzanne and Mimi inspired me to finally make this fabulous dessert. Thanks, ladies! 🙂 This recipe is from the New York Times, via Smitten Kitchen.com. The original recipe adapted the batter from ”Joy of Cooking” and the pastry cream from ”Desserts,” by Pierre Herme and Dorie Greenspan. I omitted the Kirsch, made the crepes in advance, and increased the sugar in the filling.

I’m sharing this special dessert at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #178. Enjoy!

Yield: Serves 12

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 whole 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 Assembly:

  • vegetable oil, such as canola or corn
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or more ( I used 4 T in the cream plus 2 T for brûlée)
  • 3 tablespoons Kirsch, optional
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting, optional (if not doing brûlée)

The day before serving, make the crêpe batter and the pastry cream.

To Make the Batter:

  1. In a small pan, cook the butter until brown like hazelnuts. Set aside.
  2. In another small pan, heat the milk until steaming; allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  3. In a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the eggs, flour, sugar and salt. Slowly add the hot milk and browned butter.
  4. Pour into a container with a spout, cover and refrigerate overnight.

To Make the Pastry Cream:

  1. Bring the milk with the vanilla bean (and scrapings) to a boil, then set aside for 10 minutes; remove bean.
  2. 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.
  4. Gradually whisk in the hot milk, then place pan over high heat and bring to a boil, whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Press the pastry cream through a fine-meshed sieve into the small bowl.
  6. Set the bowl in the ice bath and stir until the temperature reaches 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
  7. Stir in the butter. When completely cool, cover and refrigerate.

To Make the Crêpes & Assemble the Cake (the next day):

  1. Bring the batter to room temperature.
  2. Place a nonstick or seasoned 9-inch crêpe pan over medium heat. Swab the surface with the oil (I used a brush), then add about 3 tablespoons batter and swirl to cover the surface.
  3. Cook until the bottom just begins to brown, about 1 minute, then carefully lift an edge and flip the crêpe with your fingers or a thin metal spatula. Cook on the other side for no longer than 5 seconds.
  4. Flip the crêpe onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Repeat until you have 20 perfect crêpes. (I made 22 crêpes.) Note: I tightly wrapped the crêpes in plastic wrap and refrigerated them for several hours before assembling the cake.
  5. Pass the pastry cream through a sieve once more.
  6. Whip the heavy cream with the 1-4 T sugar and the Kirsch, if using. It won’t hold peaks.
  7. Fold it into the pastry cream.
  8. Lay 1 crêpe on a cake plate.
  9. Using an icing spatula, completely cover with a thin layer of pastry cream (about 1/4 cup).
  10. Cover with a crêpe and repeat to make a stack of 20 (or 22!), with the best-looking crêpe on top.
  11. Chill for at least 2 hours. Set out for 30 minutes before serving.
  12. If you have a blowtorch for creme brulee, sprinkle the top crêpe with 2 tablespoons sugar and caramelize with the torch; otherwise, dust with confectioners’ sugar. Slice like a cake.

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French Apple Cake

I’ve had baking a French Apple Cake on my bucket list for a long time. A celebratory Valentine’s Day dessert was my excuse! ❤ This version was custardy and absolutely wonderful. We ate it with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream but it could also served with a dollop of softly whipped cream.

This recipe was adapted from Marie-Hélène Brunet-Lhotse, a top editor of Louis Vuitton City Guides (and a restaurant critic for the Paris edition), published in Around my French Table: More than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, via Epicurious.com.

Greenspan emphasized the importance of using diverse fruit in the cake to include crisp, soft, sweet, and tart apples for the best result. I used a combination of Fuji, Granny Smith, Envy, and Opal apples. I also increased the vanilla, and substituted apple cider for the rum. Delicious!

Yield: Serves 8

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • 4 large apples (if you can, choose 4 different kinds)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum or fresh apple cider
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • whipped cream of ice cream, for serving
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, preferably on convection.
  2. Generously butter an 8-inch springform pan and put it on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and put the springform on it.
  3. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in small bowl.
  4. Peel the apples, cut them in half and remove the cores. Cut the apples into 1- to 2-inch chunks.
  5. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until they’re foamy.
  6. Pour in the sugar and whisk for a minute or so to blend.
  7. Whisk in the rum/apple cider and vanilla.
  8. Whisk in half the flour and when it is incorporated, add half the melted butter, followed by the rest of the flour and the remaining butter, mixing gently after each addition so that you have a smooth, rather thick batter.
  9. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the apples, turning the fruit so that it’s coated with batter.
  10. Scrape the mix into the pan and poke it around a little with the spatula so that it’s evenish.
  11. Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean; the cake may pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes.
  12. Carefully run a blunt knife around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the springform pan. (Open the springform slowly, and before it’s fully opened, make sure there aren’t any apples stuck to it.)
  13. Allow the cake to cool until it is just slightly warm or at room temperature. If you want to remove the cake from the bottom of the springform pan, wait until the cake is almost cooled, then run a long spatula between the cake and the pan, cover the top of the cake with a piece of parchment or wax paper, and invert it onto a rack. Carefully remove the bottom of the pan and turn the cake over onto a serving dish.
  14. To Serve: The cake can be served warm or at room temperature, with or without a little softly whipped, barely sweetened heavy cream or a spoonful of ice cream. Marie-Hélène’s served her cake with cinnamon ice cream and it was a terrific combination.

Note: The cake will keep for about 2 days at room temperature. (The flavor may even improve with time!) The cake is too moist to cover completely; leave the cake on its plate and just press a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper against the cut surfaces.

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Apple Biscoff Crumble

We love love LOVE LOVE Biscoff cookies in our house. An absolute favorite. (You get the idea…) When I saw this recipe, it had to be made ASAP!! We ate it warm with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. It transported us to a Parisian bistro with every bite. Easy and fabulous!!

This recipe was adapted from Baking Chez Moi: Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere by Dorie Greenspan. I used a combination of Gala, Fuji, Pink Lady, and Granny Smith apples. Greenspan suggests that any fruit can be substituted for the apples (making it a year-round dessert!!): peaches, nectarines, plums, berries, or cherries in the summer, pears, bananas, or pineapple in the winter, or a holiday mix of cranberries, apples, dried fruit and nuts. I’m pretty sure we’ll be eating it at least once a season! 🙂

  • 2 pounds (900 grams) apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 T granulated sugar
  • 3 T plump raisins
  • 1 package (about 8 oz) Biscoff or other speculoos cookies
  • 1 stick (8 T) unsalted butter, cut into small chunks, at room temperature
  • vanilla bean ice cream for serving
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (on convection).
  2. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan or a baking dish that holds 4 to 5 cups. Put the dish on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the apples with the sugar and raisins. Set aside, but stir occasionally while assembling the topping.
  4. Using your hands, break the cookies into pieces in a large bowl. Add the butter and toss, turn and press the cookies and butter with your fingers, working them together until you have a fairly well-blended ball. (You want the cookies to stick together.)
  5. Stir the apple mixture and then pour it into the prepared baking dish. Spoon any accumulated juices over the mixture.
  6. Pull off bits of the crumble mixture and strew it over the apples- you should have enough to practically cover all of the fruit.
  7. Bake the crumble for 25 minutes and then tent it with foil to prevent over-browning. Continue to bake an additional 10 to 20 minutes, or until the topping is deeply brown and the fruit is bubbling.
  8. Transfer to a cooling rack and let it cool until it is just warm. (It can also be eaten at room temperature.) Serve with vanilla bean ice cream.

Two Years Ago:

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Viennese Sablés

These cookies are supposed to taste just like the wonderful Danish butter cookies that come in the famous blue tin. (I think they may even be better!) Aside from that yummy association, what is really winning about them is their texture; they are very slightly crisp on the outside but the inside is soft and melts in your mouth. Mmmmmm.

This recipe is from Baking Chez Moi: Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere by Dorie Greenspan. According to Greenspan, they are traditionally piped into a “W” shape as both the initial for Wittamer, a famed pastry shop in Brussels where they are made, and for Wien, the German word for Vienna- where the cookies were thought to have been invented.

Despite requests from my kids to pipe the cookies into their own initials, I made the traditional “W”‘s. (I’ll get more adventurous next time!) Other suggested shapes included circles, pretzels, or swirls. I initially had difficulty piping the dough, but as the dough warmed up it became much easier to pipe. I was hoping that they would be worth the trouble- and- thank goodness- they were! 🙂

These cookies can be served just as they are or dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Greenspan suggests eating them with coffee or tea, ice cream, fruit salad, or creme brûlée. Delicious!!

Yield: Makes 2 dozen cookies

  • 9 T (4 1/2 oz; 128 grams) unsalted butter, very soft
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 large egg white, at room temperature
  • 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 T (153 grams) all-purpose flour
  • confectioners’ sugar for dusting, optional
  1.  Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (on convection).
  2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  3. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift the confectioners’ sugar over it, then add the salt.
  4. On low speed, beat until smooth but not fluffy. (You want the dough to be homogeneous, but you don’t want to beat air into it.)
  5. Beat in the egg white. The white will make the dough separate and it will be slick and slidey. Keep mixing for about 1 minute, and, if the mixture curdles, don’t be concerned; the flour will smooth it out.
  6. Beat in the vanilla and scrape down the bowl.
  7. Gradually add the flour, beating only until it disappears into the soft dough.
  8. Fit a pastry bag with an open star tip, one that’s a scant 1/2 inch in diameter. Scrape the dough into the piping bag.
  9. Pipe the dough onto the lined baking sheets in tight “W” shapes that are 2 inches wide and 1 1/2 inches high (or in desired shape), leaving about 2 inches of space between them (the dough will puff and spread under heat).
  10. Bake the cookies for 14 to 15 minutes on convection, or up to 17 to 20 minutes in a standard oven, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The cookies should be golden brown at their edges and on their bottoms and paler at the center.
  11. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes, then transfer them to racks to cool to room temperature.
  12. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving, if desired.

Note: These cookies will keep for at least 1 week in an airtight container. They can be frozen for up to 2 months.

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Vanilla-Bean Sablés

I learned so many things from this recipe! My first lesson was to learn that the sablé, a simple shortbread cookie, is the French equivalent of the American chocolate chip cookie. The “icon.” Greenspan says that these cookies are really known for their fine texture (sablé means sandy)- “snappy around the edges, cakier in the center- its fresh butter flavor and, often, its bit of saltiness.” I HAD to try her version- what an irresistible description!! 🙂

Typically, the sugar and butter in cookie dough are mixed until light and fluffy. My next lesson was learning that in order to achieve the desired sandy texture in these cookies, the sugar and butter are mixed only until a smooth consistency is achieved (much less) so that air is not incorporated into the dough.

My third (most exciting!) lesson was learning how to achieve super-tight cookie logs! Greenspan includes her party-trick technique (with photos in the book) that I describe below to share with you. Worked perfectly. LOVE it!!

This recipe is from Baking Chez Moi: Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere by Dorie Greenspan. Delicious and pretty cookies- perfect for dessert, a snack, or with a cup of tea.

I’m sharing these with my friends for Fiesta Friday #60 at The Novice Gardener- Enjoy!!

Yield: about 36 cookies

For the Dough:

  • 1/3 cup (67 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 moist, fragrant vanilla beans
  • 2 sticks (8 oz; 226 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (40 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 cups (272 grams) all-purpose flour

For the Edging:

  • 1 large egg yolk
  • coarse sanding sugar or turbinado sugar
  1. Put the granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  2. Cut the vanilla beans in half lengthwise and scrape the pulp over the sugar. (I save the pods in a jar filled with turbinado sugar to make vanilla sugar.) Using your fingertips, rub the vanilla pulp into the sugar until it’s fragrant.
  3. Add the butter, confectioners’ sugar and salt to the bowl and beat on low speed until the mixture is smooth and creamy (you DON’T want it to get light and fluffy), scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
  4. Drop in the egg yolk and beat for 1 minute.
  5. Add the flour all at once and pulse the mixer on and off to start incorporating it into the dough. Mix on low speed just until the flour has disappeared (or do this last little bit by hand with a flexible spatula).
  6. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide it in half. Shape each half into a log about 9 inches long. (**Trick to get really tight logs (perfectly round and free of air pockets): Place a large sheet of parchment paper on the counter. Place the cookie log one-third in and parallel to one short edge. Fold the remaining two-thirds of the parchment paper over the log. Grab the bottom edge of the parchment with one hand and place a ruler on top of the overlaying parchment with the other hand. Wedge the ruler against the bottom of the log. Push the ruler under the log at the same time that you pull the bottom paper toward you. Don’t be afraid to aggressively push and pull- it will result in a firm log. Lift the paper off of the dough.**)
  7. Wrap the logs in parchment and/or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (They can be wrapped airtight and put in the freezer for up to 2 months. Let the logs sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before cutting and baking; no need to fully defrost.) I place them in a wrapping paper tube in order to ensure that they keep their round shape in the refrigerator.
  8. To Bake: Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees (on convection). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  9. Add a splash of cold water to the yolk and mix with a fork to blend. Brush each log with this egg wash and roll it in sanding sugar until it’s evenly coated.
  10. Using a sturdy knife, trim the ends of the logs if they’re ragged, then cut the dough int 1/2-inch thick rounds. Place them on the baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.
  11. Bake the cookies for 14 to 15 minutes (on convection) or for up to 18 to 22 minutes in a standard oven, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The cookies are baked when they are brown around the edges and golden on the bottom.
  12. Carefully transfer them to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature. These cookies really shouldn’t be eaten warm; they need time to cool so that their texture will set properly. The cookies will keep in an airtight container for about one week.

Variations:

  • Lemon Sablés: Rub the grated zest of 1 1/2 lemons into the sugar with the vanilla bean.
  • Orange Sablés: Rub the grated zest of 1 orange into the sugar with the vanilla bean.
  • Nut Sablés: Lightly toast 1/2 cup hazelnuts (skin them while they are still warm), almonds, pistachios, or other nuts, finely chop them and mix them into the dough once the flour is incorporated.

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