Recipe 88 from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman
WW Note: This cake is 10 points a slice when using Naive Cook Cooks halved version below. And that’s if the cake serves 12 slices. So it’s going to cost you 20 for a slice (1/12) if you use the whole recipe!
This recipe can be found in Deb Perelman’s “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook” on pages 256-261 or from the following site:
Gosh…this recipe….I’m just not sure what to say other then I’m so glad it’s over. From start to finish it took 7 hours. That includes the ingredient prep, making each part of the recipe, running to the store to get heavy cream and hazelnut liqueur that were inconveniently forgotten before starting, mess ups, redos and cooling time…oh my.
I mean…I kind of knew it was going to be a long process but not that long! I am kicking myself for not reading through the recipe directions before starting. The instructions are long which is why I didn’t. But by missing that important step I was not as well planned as I would have liked.
I didn’t realize there would be such a long cooling time for the crepe batter and pastry cream. Had I known that I would have gotten up in the morning to do part one….THEN we could have done our Costco run before coming home to do crepes, chocolate hazelnuts and assemble. I would have still had to run back out to get my missing ingredients but I know it would have been a much different end time…finishing up at 9pm meant I had some rough pictures at the end! I waited till the next morning to get the final shots.
Alrighty, let’s get into it. I’ll go through each part of the recipe and give you all the details of my disaster turned miracle cake!
First up a confession…I skipped the hazelnut liquor in the pastry cream and opted instead for vanilla. I was having a hard time with the idea of buying a whole bottle of Frangelico to use only 2 tsp. Ooft. We don’t really use it in our cocktails or coffee so I assumed it would go unused. And from what I could tell they didn’t sell the mini bottles at Total Wines.
That being said I saw it was needed for the chocolate topping as well and just ended grabbing a bottle while picking up the heavy cream. I found a cheaper version that made me cringe less at the price. Before all that, I was able to get the crepe batter mixed up in my blender after making some scrumptious brown butter to add to it. It cooled for a little more then 2 hours because I was still in need of making a few more mistakes!
I didn’t have a 9 inch non stick pan to make the crepes so I opted to get this Crepe Maker for just under $30 on Amazon which was completely worth it since it came with the tools to make things easier. I’ll get to all the fun I had figuring this thing out but for the record I think it’s a reasonable and entertaining investment you will have a lot of fun with even after this recipe is over!
Ok, let’s talk hazelnuts….if you can, buy hazelnuts that are already toasted and peeled. These guys were a royal pain in my rear end. I don’t think I toasted them long enough though I did them for the time she gave. They even went in another 5 min when we realized the peels were not budging. But longer was still necessary. I gave up at one point and many still had their peels on. So, the same happens to you just know your cake won’t fail if you’re in the same spot.
Moving on to the next disaster….the Hazelnut Pastry Cream. It looks pretty good up there doesn’t it?!
Yeah it wasn’t. Don’t be fooled.
I was talking to my husband as I was making this and found myself staring at the mixture after blending the hazelnuts in the food processor and just after adding the paste to the milk…. thinking…”oh crap. I think I forget to add the powdered sugar!!” I saw a little bowl of what appeared to be powdered sugar and cursed myself for my distracted mind. I added it to the milk mixture and grabbed my wisk hoping I could get it mixed in well enough to avoid texture issues.
Well…that was NOT powder sugar at all. I had put the powdered sugar in correctly. That was actually cornstarch.
I didn’t realize it was cornstarch until I went to beat the egg yolks and looked around for my cornstarch. Instead of taking a moment to recalibrate I measured out 5 more tablespoons of cornstarch and whipped them in with the yolks before followed her careful directions for adding them into the milk mixture to avoid curdling the eggs (…which I DID NOT avoid…yuck…one more thing to clean up). As I put it back on the heat to begin the thickening process I hoped it would not be a blob of unspreadable goop when I was done.
It definitely came together but it was far more congealed then I was hoping for. The good news is that I actually was able to spread it when the time came and it didn’t taste terrible. The recipe was salvageable because of that!
It felt like progress when I was able to start the crepes. But then I had reached the next challenge….how to make thin crepes without ripping them. I’ve never made crepes before so this was all new for me.
I jumped on YouTube and watched a couple videos to get the tricks for making crepes on an actual crepe maker versus a non-stick pan.
The guy I watch said that the spreader was best used as close to the flat top as possible with your eyes focused on the outside edge of the scraper as you’re running it around. Keeping it low and focusing on the outside gave you the ability to spread it around the griddle top evenly without holes.
One trick they didn’t mention that I found to be crucial was to let the batter set a bit maybe 5 seconds before you started spreading it. Every time I did it immediately instead of waiting, I ran into a problem with it not spreading evenly or ripping. Letting it set up gives you a foundation for the spreader to be rested on as you were rotating it around.
The Crepe maker has a variety of temperatures and I had mine set to 4. I don’t know what that actually is temperature wise but the hotter the pan is the quicker you may need to run the spread around because you don’t want it cooking the batter too quickly.
Deb makes a good point in the recipe… the first two crepes you make are meant for the trash but help you get your rhythm with the crepes. Mine was more like the first four to five and a few after that….🤷 I did eventually figure it out and had some pretty ones!
She says that the batter makes up 19 after you discard those first few. I think I ended up with a few more than 19 but like I said quite a few of mine were not the right size or were ripped. So having a little extra leeway was helpful.
You’ll grab your pastry cream and your spreader and start assembling the cake after you’re done with the crepes.
You can kind of see how non pastry cream mine turned out to be in this picture 😬. I wrestled it out though and I was able to get it pretty thinly spread over each crepe. I was worried about the crepe ripping because it was thicker but it turned out to work ok. As delicate as you imagine crepes to be there really are more forgiving then I imagined.
Don’t be deceived in this picture above. My crepes were not all the same size and we’re not layered that beautifully. I got it to look like this after I had put all the crepes and the pastry cream on. I ran my knife around it to trim up the edges because they were so many different sizes. Because crepes are so thin it’s very easy to trim and clean your edges up. Again, crepes are very forgiving.
I have to say by the time I got to the chocolate I felt like I couldn’t possibly make any more mistakes. Wrong. I had 2 more mistakes to make!
First, I poured all the chocolate topping on the cake thinking it would be just enough. But as you can see from the final picture it more then coated the cake and all over my glass cake plate…not dripped delicately down the sides so you could still see the layers like I was hoping for. I went ahead and made the best of it and iced it more like a regular cake and then wiped up the glass so that it still look pretty.
Last but not least the hazelnuts would just not glaze. I redid them and both times the same thing happened and it was very weird. I think I needed more water to smooth it out .
But each time I took the sugar off the stove it began to clump up into hard regular looking sugar again so these hazelnuts look like little white hailstones more than candy-coated hazelnuts. I tried! They looked funny but tasted okay!
Guys. It’s finished. What an ordeal. The next 2 cakes look like nothing after this one! In some way I felt like the whole cookbook was leading up to this recipe and it feels all down hill from here! Wahoo. So close! 2 more cakes and this chapter will be all done.
Hope your attempts go better then mine did!!