All posts by Janice Lawandi

Maple Pecan Crêpe Cake

Can you imagine living in a country that doesn’t have maple syrup? I can’t. I feel especially fortunate to have grown up in Quebec, one of the central maple-producing provinces of Canada – meaning we poured maple syrup generously on our warm breakfasts of pancakes, crêpes, French toast, and waffles. Growing up, my mom would collect bowls of snow during a heavy snowfall and make us maple taffy, since we were stuck inside. Even though we’re lucky to have access to it year round, maple syrup remains an ingredient to be celebrated and cherished in the spring time. There is no substitute. It’s the best.

Crêpe cakes may seem daunting, but they shouldn’t be. The pastry cream, crêpes, and maple-glazed pecans can be made ahead so all you have left to do is assemble it and chill for a few hours. If anything, crêpe cakes are a great opportunity to sharpen your crêpe-making skills. When I pour the batter in the hot pan, I like to use a jiggle-motion, moving the pan back and forth, to distribute the batter to the edges, then I finish it off with a swirling motion by tilting my wrist. The goal is to thinly yet evenly distribute the batter throughout the pan.

It’s not hard, it just takes practice. Since this cake calls for 30-some crêpes, you have plenty of time to figure out the crêpe-cooking technique that works for you. And if you don’t feel like assembling a whole cake, you can serve the crêpes filled with pastry cream, rolled or folded into neat triangles, perfect for a spring brunch with a generous drizzle of maple syrup.

A note on skillets: For this recipe, I used a 10-inch non-stick fry pan, which has sloped sides and therefore yields 8-inch crêpes, as the pan size is often measured at the top, where it’s widest.

888_maple-crepe-cake

Serving Size: Makes one 8-inch cake (serves 10–12)
Prep Time: 45 min
Cook Time: 60 min

Ingredients:

For the maple pastry cream:
2 1/4 cups milk (2% or whole milk is best)
3/4 cup maple syrup (medium)
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1–2 tablespoons Gelinotte maple liqueur or a splash of vanilla extract

For the crêpes:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 large eggs
3 cups milk
2 tablespoons oil, plus more for cooking the crêpes

For the maple-glazed pecans:
1 cup pecans
3 tablespoon maple syrup

For serving:
Lots of maple syrup

888_maple-crepe-cake2

Directions:
1. First, make the maple pastry cream. Place a strainer over a large bowl and have it ready next to the stove for later.
2. In a large saucepan, heat the milk with half the maple syrup on medium–high heat. Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a bowl and gradually whisk in the flour, cornstarch and the rest of the maple syrup. Whisk mixture well, to try and eliminate all the lumps before proceeding.
3. When the milk is almost boiling, pour it over the egg mixture to temper the eggs, whisking constantly, then transfer it all back to the saucepan.
4. Whisk the custard over medium–high heat to bring it up to a boil, then boil for 2 minutes to thicken it. Don’t stop whisking because it can catch on the bottom of the pan and may burn. When the pastry cream has thickened, immediately pour it through the strainer to remove any lumps.
5. Cover with plastic wrap placed directly in contact with the custard so it doesn’t dry on the surface. Wrap well and refrigerate until completely cooled, preferably overnight.
6. When you are ready to assemble the crêpe cake, whisk the pastry cream to loosen it and smooth it out, then whisk in the maple liqueur or a splash of vanilla.
7. Prepare the crêpe batter by blending together all the ingredients with a hand-blender. Let sit for at least 30 minutes (or overnight) in the fridge before making the crêpes. Cook the crêpes in a 10-inch non-stick fry pan set over medium–low heat. You should make about 32 8-inch crêpes, using a scant 1/4 cup batter per crêpe.
8. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Coat the pecans with the 3 tablespoons of maple syrup. Lightly toast them in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet for about 6 minutes, stirring them half-way through the baking time. Let cool completely.
9. To assemble the crêpe cake, place a crêpe on a cake stand or plate, then spread a thin layer of maple pastry cream (a little less than 2 tablespoons-worth). Top with another crêpe and then more pastry cream. Continue layering until you have used all the crêpes and pastry cream.
10. Chill the cake for a few hours so that it firms up, then decorate the top with the maple-glazed pecans (either kept whole or chopped) just before serving. Serve with lots of maple syrup.

Janice Lawandi Janice Lawandi is a PhD-chemist-turned-baker with a serious sweet tooth, working as a recipe developer and food stylist in Montreal, Quebec. To learn more about Janice, visit her blog Kitchen Heals Soul.

How to Make a Skillet Brookie

Many will declare that being single on Valentine’s Day is a terrible thing. For me, it’s the opposite: finding myself single on Valentine’s Day is something to be cherished. Think about it: Valentine’s Day comes with all kinds of pressure and expectations. People always ask “what are you doing for Valentine’s Day?” as though one absolutely must do something. Restaurants are packed and noisy, serving special menus to the masses.

I’d rather go without the clichés and all that forced romance. I welcome a night in to pamper myself. I bake myself something sweet and chocolaty to enjoy in front of the TV for a quiet, carefree evening.

This skillet “brookie” is the perfect dessert for one and combines two classic treats: a brownie and a cookie. Both the brownie and the cookie recipes make small amounts of dough so you can easily prepare them by hand. No special equipment needed. And if you don’t have a small skillet, you can always use a small cake pan or baking dish. This recipe calls for one egg total, split between the brownie and the cookie. Here’s how to measure out half an egg: crack it into a small bowl and whisk thoroughly so that you can divvy it up between the two recipes (half an egg corresponds to about 1 1/2 tablespoons).

Skillet Brookie For One

Brookie for V-day

Serving size: 1
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Brownie Ingredients:
1 oz (28 grams) good quality semi-sweet dark chocolate (I like to use the “Mi-Amère” chocolate from Cacao Barry)
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 large egg
1 tablespoon (12 grams) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon (15 grams) light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons (18 grams) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (12 grams) cocoa powder
pinch of salt

Cookie Ingredients:
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (28 grams) light brown sugar
1/2 large egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons (45 grams) all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips

How to make a V-Day brookie

Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a 17 cm (~6.5-inch) cast iron skillet or cake pan.
    2. Prepare the brownie batter by melting the dark chocolate in a microwave safe bowl at 50 percent power (about 2 minutes), stirring ever minute or so. Add the butter, and microwave again for an additional minute at 50 percent power or until the butter is melted. Stir well, then let cool before adding the egg, sugars, and vanilla. Add the flour to the bowl and sift in the cocoa powder to remove any lumps. Stir everything together with the salt. Set aside.
    3. Prepare the cookie dough by stirring together the butter and the sugars until they are well mixed. Add in the egg and the vanilla, and mix well again. Dump in the flour, baking soda, and salt, and stir until the dough comes together. Mix in the chocolate chips.
    4. Place a 3-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter in the centre of the prepared skillet and spoon the cookie batter inside the heart. Carefully lift up the cookie cutter to remove it, leaving behind the heart-shaped cookie. Spoon the brownie batter into the pan, smoothing it around the cookie heart.
      Bake the brookie 10 minutes then remove the pan from the oven and fix the cookie heart using the back of a knife to smudge it back into a heart shape. Put the pan back in the oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until set.

Optional: Serve with really good vanilla ice cream.

Janice Lawandi Janice Lawandi is a PhD-chemist-turned-baker with a serious sweet tooth, working as a recipe developer and food stylist in Montreal, Quebec. To learn more about Janice, visit her blog Kitchen Heals Soul.