We both love country music, monster truck rallies, the latest i-gadgets, foreign cars, and manicured nails.
Wait a minute! What?!
Fine, I lied. Those are all hers. What we do have in common is dessert.
My sister has been a dessert aficionado since, well, forever. I don’t know when or where she had her first creme brûlée, but she must have been pretty young. She fell for it and fell hard. She fell so hard that I gave her a set of ramekins and a blow-torch before her age was even in double digits. A few years later, she got way into crepes, so I gave her a crepe pan and a jar of Nutella and sent her on her way. Last year, her dessert passions collided in what could only be called a stroke of genius and she brought me her latest creation- a crepe cake, layered with vanilla pastry creame, with a brûléed, caramelized sugar crust. Magic.
As I was rooting around my cupboard last week, I discovered a chestnut crepe recipe on the side of a bag of chestnut flour. Lightbulb moment. A nutty take on Laura’s crepe cake. With chocolate.
We’ll start with the pastry cream. Bittersweet chocolate, milk, egg yolks, butter, sugar, cornstarch, a little vanilla, and a splash of Marsala.
Slowly whisk the warm milk into the egg mixture and put it back on the stove.
When it turns thick and custardy, transfer the cream to a mixer, and add in the good stuff: bittersweet chocolate and butter.
Mix until it is smooth, shiny, and calling to your index finger.
Chestnut flour, melted butter, egg, milk, and water. Mix them all together and let the batter rest while you get caught up on the mounting stack of dishes.
After the batter has rested, set up your crepe making station. I put a sheet pan over 2 of my stove burners to rest the batter bowl on along with an empty plate for the finished crepes and a small pan of melted butter for brushing on the crepe pan. Another empty plate for the inevitable first (and maybe second) mistake crepe is helpful.
…finish with a thick layer of the pastry cream. Sprinkle with sugar and grab your torch. Torch the top to crackling, caramelized perfection.
- FOR THE CHOCOLATE PASTRY CREAM
- 2 c. Whole Milk
- ½ c. Sugar
- 2 Tbsp. Marsala (or liqueur of your choice)
- 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract (or the seeds of ½ of a vanilla bean)
- pinch of salt
- 4 Egg Yolks
- ¼ c. Cornstarch
- 2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter, cut in small pieces
- 8 oz. Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped
- FOR THE CHESTNUT CREPES
- 2 c. Chestnut Flour, sifted
- 1 c. Milk
- 1 c. Water
- 1 Egg
- 1 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter, melted, plus additional melted butter for the pan
- ¼ tsp. Salt
- FOR SERVING
- about 2 Tbsp. Sugar
- Raspberries, optional
- Powdered Sugar, optional
- For the pastry cream, combine milk, ¼ c. sugar, Marsala, vanilla, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, cornstarch, and remaining ¼ c. of sugar. Temper the eggs by slowly adding the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture (about a ½ c. at a time) while whisking until the 2 mixtures have been completely incorporated. Don't rush or you'll wind up with scrambled eggs! Pour the mixture back into the saucepan, place over medium-high heat, and cook, whisking constantly, until it thickens and the temperature reaches 160°, about 2 minutes.
- Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixture. Add the butter and the chocolate and beat until the chocolate has melted and is fully incorporated and the mixture cools a bit, about 5 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap (the wrap should be touching the top of the cream otherwise a yucky film will form) and refrigerate until completely, COMPLETELY cool, at least a few hours and up to a few days.
- For the crepe batter, whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl and let the batter stand for 20 minutes.
- Heat crepe pan or non-stick skillet over high heat and brush with melted butter. Pour about a ⅓ c. of the crepe batter into the pan and quickly swirl to evenly and completely coat the bottom of the pan. Cook until the crepe easily releases and flip. Don't force it- if the crepe is difficult to flip, it probably isn't ready. Also, it usually takes a crepe or 2 for me to get the pan temperature just right, so if your first couple crepes are a disaster, don't get discouraged, just keep trying until you get it right. Believe in yourself! Repeat with remaining batter and allow crepes to cool completely.
- To assemble the torte, place a crepe on a serving plate or cake stand. Spread with chocolate pastry cream, place another crepe on top, repeat, ending with a thick layer or pastry cream. For best flavor, refrigerate overnight.
- To finish and serve the torte, sprinkle the top layer of pastry cream with a light coating of granulated sugar. Lightly caramelize with a torch. Garnish with fresh raspberries and a dusting of powdered sugar, if desired.
crepe recipe adapted from Dowd & Rogers, pastry cream recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Baking Handbook