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So. I really like custard squares. Going into bakeries can be really difficult – after all, there’s so much choice, it’s really quite intimidating. Do you go for the cream bun, or the sticky chocolate gateau, or the lammington? Luckily for me, as long as there is a custard square on offer, the choice is easy. I’ve eaten custard square in bakeries and cafes all around New Zealand. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ll be the first person to graduate with a degree in comparative custard studies. Just you wait.

However, it is a truth universally acknowledged that not all custard squares are created equal (how’s that for a mixed quotation). Some are thick lumps of yellow goo, heavier than an early Nokia and more sickly sweet than the West Wing theme music. Others are delightful, with crispy pastry and creamy vanilla custard. I was playing around with making my own when I came up with this square. It is somewhere between an ordinary custard square and a chocolate eclair. The pastry is perfectly puffed, the cream is rich and softly vanilla tinged, and the chocolate glaze is dark and delicious. I took some of these to Summer Shakespeare, and can confirm that they go very well with Anthony and Cleopatra.

Note: To any readers at Victoria University of Wellington, check out next week’s Salient for my fortnightly column, ‘The Sweet Scoop’.

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Chocolate Eclair Squares

2 sheets flaky puff pastry

2 egg yolks

1 cup milk

3 T brown sugar

1 T cornflour/cornstarch

1/2 t vanilla essence

1 cup + 2 T cream

1 T golden syrup

100g dark chocolate

 

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius, and cook the pastry sheets for 8-15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove and leave to cool. Meanwhile, make the custard. Add a small amount of milk to the cornflour to mix it into a paste. Gradually add more milk, and pour into a saucepan. Add  the egg yolks, vanilla essence, brown sugar, and the rest of the milk. Heat it while stirring, until it reaches the boil. At this point it should be very thick. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool completely. Once both pastry and custard are cold, whip a cup of cream very stiffly, and fold it into the custard. Spread this onto one of the cold pastry sheets, and place the other on top, sandwich style. Melt the dark chocolate together with the golden syrup and remaining cream in a bowl over a pot of boiling water, then spread glaze onto the top pastry layer (just like icing  a cake). Cut the square into pieces with a very sharp knife, and serve immediately.

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