Wow. July has just flown past! We have been so busy I’ve hardly had time to think – but I’m not complaining. We had a glorious trip to Zürich to see beautiful Lily and her wonderful mother Marianne, who spoiled us rotten as well as giving up loads of her time to show us around the enormous street party that is the ‘Züri Fäscht’.
Not to mention she even took us out to Lucerne where we ended up being extras in some advertising Lily was filming for Swiss Air. Add to that eating far more fondue and amazing Swiss chocolate than I care to admit, and we had an amazing time.
Among other things I’ve been working hard testing recipes, and this week I’ve been taking a trip down memory lane with sweets and desserts from my childhood in New Zealand. The star of the show (and how could it not be) was the ever delicious custard square, known in Australia and the U.K. as Vanilla Slice, this dessert has its roots in the French pastry Mille-feuille, but as often happens it has been resoundingly adopted and adapted by the antipodeans.
Regardless of its origins, the combination of thick, creamy vanilla custard and sheets of buttery, flaky pastry is a match made in culinary heaven.
The custard squares I remember from the school tuck shop were usually lavishly smothered in icing and sprinkled with coconut, but I really prefer a dusting of icing sugar to allow the delicate flavours of the custard and pastry to shine through.
Let me know if you try this recipe in the comments below, or using the hashtag #daysofjay on Instagram. Happy cooking!
- 300 g ready rolled puff pastry
- or 2 sheets frozen puff pastry
- 400 ml cream
- 350 ml full cream milk
- 100 g sugar
- 50 g butter
- seeds from one vanilla bean or 3 tsp vanilla extract
- 125 ml water
- 60 g cornflour
- 6 egg yolks, beaten
- icing sugar, to dust the top
- Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F / Gas 6. The pastry forms the base and the lid of the custard squares, so roll out the pastry to two equal sized pieces slightly larger than your baking tin, roughly 22 x 32 cm.
- Put the pastry pieces on a baking paper lined oven tray, prick really well all over with a fork, and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven, gently squash each piece slightly and allow to cool on wire racks.
- Meanwhile, prepare your custard by combining the cream, milk, sugar, butter and vanilla in a medium saucepan. Stir over a medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the butter is melted. Do not allow the mixture to boil, you should be able to hold your little finger in the liquid comfortably. When you see tiny bubbles forming around the edge of the saucepan, remove it from the heat.
- Whisk together the water and the cornflour, ensuring there are no lumps, then pour into the cream, whisking well as the mixture thickens. Pour in the beaten egg yolks, return to the heat and continue whisking over a low heat for two to three minutes until the mixture is very thick. The custard has to be thicker than normal so that it sets fairly solid when cooled. Make sure you get into the corners of the pan with the thick so that the custard doesn't catch.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly, stirring from time to time to get rid of any lumps.
- Line a 20 x 30cm dish (ideally deep, with straight sides) with baking paper, leaving an overhang as a 'handle', and place one of the pastry pieces on the bottom, trimming with a sharp knife if necessary to fit. Pour over the warm custard, then top with the second pastry piece, pressing down gently to settle the custard.
- Place in the refrigerator and allow to chill for a minimum of two hours. It's important that the custard completely sets so give it plenty of time to chill.
- When the custard is set, remove from the fridge, dust liberally with icing sugar, slice and serve. It is easiest to use the tip of a long sharp knife to cut downwards through the first pastry layer before slicing completely through. Delicious on it's own or with fresh raspberries to serve.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 607Total Fat: 43gSaturated Fat: 23gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 284mgSodium: 143mgCarbohydrates: 49gFiber: 0gSugar: 42gProtein: 8g
Nutrition information is calculated isn’t always accurate.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Can I double or triple this recipe?
Yes, you can. You’ll need to make the custard squares in batches though.
How long do custard squares keep?
They keep for several days, well covered, in the fridge.
Do the custard squares really need to chill for so long?
It’s important to let the custard really set for a few hours in the fridge before cutting. The easiest way to cut custard squares is to use the point of a long, sharp knife to cut through the top layer of pastry, before cutting all the way through. Delicious.