Vanilla Custard Slice with Passionfruit Glaze
Cook Time 3 hours plus 6 hours setting
Servings Makes 12 generous pieces (or more for petit bites)
1 x batch puff pastry
600g full-fat milk
280g cream (35 - 45% milk fat)
3 thick strips of lemon rind, about 6 cm in length
½ vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
180g egg yolk (from approx. 9 eggs)
170g caster sugar
25g unsalted butter
30g full-fat milk
20g unsalted butter
50g fresh passionfruit pulp (approx. 2 juicy ones)
280g icing sugar, sifted
Cut the puff pastry dough evenly in half. Roll each half into a 26 cm square, 5 – 6 mm thick. Prick the sheet with a fork using a vigorous stabbing motion. Transfer the pastry square to a tray lined with baking paper and cover with another piece of paper. Roll out the remaining portion and place it on top of the first pastry square. Place the tray in the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour before baking.
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Sandwich the puff sheets between two sheets on baking paper then two heavy baking sheets. Transfer to the oven, reduce the heat to 170°C and bake for 40 minutes.
Remove the top tray and top piece of paper, reduce heat to 140ºC then bake for a further 10 minutes, or until evenly bronzed throughout the layers. The goal is to have evenly browned layers with no nasty, pasty-white layers inside. Ensure the sheets are the same colour so the final slice looks even.
Meanwhile, to make the custard, scald the milk, cream, lemon peel and vanilla bean and seeds in a saucepan over medium-high heat. By ‘scalding’ you are looking for over half the surface of the milk to be eagerly bubbly.
Just before the eager bubbling, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a mixing bowl. Strain the scalded milk into a jug, discarding the lemon peel and vanilla bean. Pour half the hot milk into the egg mix and whisk well, then pour in the remainder. Return the mix to the pan and, over a medium heat, whisk at a medium tempo until the mix thickens. Take extra care to whisk into the side of the pan as that’s where it will cook first. Speed up the whisking as the custard thickens – it will look lumpy but just whisk hard and it will all come together in around 5 minutes. When the mix comes to the boil, keep whisking for another minute to cook out the cornflour.
Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter until dissolved. Set the custard aside to cool to lukewarm, whisking often – every 5 minutes or so for 1 hour. This will stop it from getting a rubbery skin on top. It will cool to a thick custard.
Heat = sweat. If we were to pour hot custard onto our crisp pastry base and then put it in the fridge to cool, the pastry would soften. We want to keep the textural contrast of crisp pastry against the softer custard.
Line a 23 cm square, 5 cm deep cake tin with a light spray of cooking oil spray, then line with plastic wrap to overhang the sides. Place the tin on top of one sheet of puff and trim around the edges, angling the tip of the knife inwards a smidge so the puff will fit snugly in the tin without breaking. Cut the second sheet. Place one of the puff sheets into the lined tin.
If you do get a little breakage at the edges, do your best to trim it while it’s in the tin. Dust out any errant flaky crumbs. If it feels too tight when placing the pastry in the tin or you get a bit of breakage at the edges, don’t take the sheet out and retrim it – do your best to shave the sides a little while it’s in the tin, making sure you keep the fit quite tight. Brush out any flaky crumbs.
Scrape the lukewarm custard onto the pastry, smoothing it out very evenly with an offset spatula. Invert the second sheet on top, fitting it in very snugly and press lightly. Lift the overhanging plastic up to cover the top of the pastry. Transfer to the fridge and chill for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight. Eat the puff offcuts.
Remove the plastic wrap cover and invert the vanilla slice onto a tray or cutting board, using the plastic lining to tease the slice out. Remove the plastic wrap.
To make the passionfruit glaze, heat the milk, butter and passionfruit pulp in the microwave or in a small saucepan until it’s hot and bubbly. Don’t overheat and reduce the liquid or the glaze will be too thick. Gradually whisk the hot liquid into the icing sugar to bring it to a loose paste consistency. You may need to adjust it – a little more icing sugar or milk – to get the right consistency.
Scrape the warm glaze over the top of the slice, spreading it evenly, being careful not to kick up any puff flakes. Return to the fridge for 15 minutes to set. With a hot, damp (sharp) serrated knife, cut the slice into fingers or squares.
Cutting tricky things: Whenever you encounter a bake that has a crunchy top layer, a squidgy filling in the middle, then a crunchy bottom, you need to approach the slicing in two stages. First, with a hot, damp serrated knife, and using a gentle sawing motion, cut through the top layer with medium-sized strokes. Then, clean the knife and go back over the first slice, and cut the centre and bottom with a long and confident sawing motion.