Friday, October 25, 2013

Hungarian Vanilla Custard Squares

Magyar Krémes (pronounced kray-mesh) are made with a very thick layer of smooth vanilla custard sandwiched between two squares of flaky, feather-light puff pastry, or strudel dough, dusted heavily with confectioner's sugar. The Hungarians call this delightful dessert Krémes, and it is a strong childhood memory for my family and I would venture to guess, almost everyone's favourite. It is believed to have originated in Naples, thus the name Napoleon Creams or Napoli Szelet. Hungarian Vanilla Custard Squares are classic Hungarian dessert fare and can be found on literally every Hungarian confectioner's counter.
The French and Italians both call their creations mille-feuilles, or thousand leaves and they are usually filled with either; whipped cream, pastry cream and/or fruit preserves. The French most often top it with a layer of white fondant decorated with multiple strings of chocolate drawn in a chevron design.
Frozen Puff Pastry is a very easy, suitable choice for these squares, but you can be selective about your pastry. An alternative is Strudel Dough (phyllo)I think the Hungarians make it best - they always do - as it's simple and delightful, not heavy and complicated.
1 pkg Puff Pastry, frozen
Vanilla Custard Cream
3 eggs, separated
2 cups heavy cream
3 tbsp sugar
Pinch salt
1 pkg plain gelatine
3 tbsp water, cold
½ cup water
Icing sugar for dusting
Mom always preferred the Puff Pastry for this recipe and she made her own, but we are sharing the recipe using frozen Puff Pastry. Thaw Puff Pastryin refrigerator overnight.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out puff pastry to ¼" thick large rectangle. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Chill for 20 minutes. Before baking, dock pastry. (Using a fork, poke several holes into the pastry. This will allow the steam to escape and prevent the pastry from puffing out of shape). Then, place a sheet of parchment on top of pastry and place a second baking sheet on top of parchment, to weigh it down. Bake for 20 minutes at 375°F. Remove the top pan and sheet of parchment. Brush pastry with egg wash and return to oven for anther 8-10 minutes, until golden brown in colour. Allow to cool. This large sheet will be cut into ½ for 8 large squares.
Vanilla Custard Cream - Separate 3 eggs and set yolks aside. Beat egg whites until they are stiff but not dry. Dissolve the gelatine in the 3 tbsp water. Bring the ½ cup water to a boil and dissolve the softened gelatine in the boiling water. Cool by setting the pan in an ice-water bath until the gelatine is syrupy.
Whip the heavy cream, adding the pinch of salt and the sugar. Fold in the egg whites. Add cooled, syrupy gelatine and fold in with the spatula, distributing the gelatine throughout the mixture and chill before using.
Hint:This Vanilla Custard recipe without the gelatine can be used for Hungarian Cream PuffsVarga Béles and other Hungarian desserts.
Note: The Hungarian preferred topping is simply powdered sugar.
Pastry Assembly - Place 1 large rectangular sheet of puff pastry onto a cookie sheet. Pile the custard cream mixture evening onto the sheet about 2-3 inches thick. Place in the freezer to chill until firm. With a wet, sharp knife, cut the filling and bottom pastry into serving-sized pieces. Cut the other baked pastry sheet into pieces of the exact same size and place these pieces on top of the pre-cut filling/pastry layer. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Dust with confectioner's sugar, just before serving.
An unforgettable delight!
Treat yourself to a new style of eating. Simple, flavourful, fresh ingredients and absolutely delightful.

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