Okay so I may have taken some liberties in saying they are the best, they may or may not be, but I think they are anyway and so did many a customer at the Cafe and it’s my blog and I can say what I want…..mwah ha ha!
Custard squares most likely originate from France where for around three centuries they have made Mille-feuille (also known as Napoleon) which in French means ‘thousand leaf ‘ (because of it’s puff pastry layers). It’s a slice with three layers of puff pastry sandwiched together with crème pâtissière (egg custard, or custard made from scratch I like to say). It’s then iced with alternating white icing and chocolate and then combed, making a lovely pattern. So custard square, aka vanilla slice is basically a simpler version (but still damn good!) of Mille-feuille.
So I have just added Mille-feuille to my ‘to do’ list because it would just be a crime to just write whilst drooling over my keyboard about it but in the meantime whip up some of these custard squares, they are delicious and everyone knows someone who’s a die-hard custard square fan (and boy are they fussy, they know their custard squares I’m telling you) but don’t panic they will love it.
In case you’ve never made one from scratch, unlike the Mille-feuille it’s made with custard powder, with added vanilla, has just two layers of puff pastry and this one is iced with lemon icing and liberally sprinkled with desiccated coconut and it’s love at first bite. 🙂
Let me know if you make it and do or do not agree with the title…..if you’ve had better, tell me, I can take it, oh, maybe I’ll cry a little bit but I’ll get over it when you share your fab custard square recipe with me!
3 sheets flaky puff pastry
4 cups (1 litre) full milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
6 tablespoons icing sugar (confectioners sugar)
½ cup custard powder
100 g / 3 ½ oz butter
1 ½ cups icing sugar
4 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 medium-sized, juicy lemon)
¼ cup desiccated coconut
makes x 12 slices
- If you prefer a higher slice just use two sheets of pastry and you’ll get 9 slices.
STEP BY STEP
First, place a rack in the middle of the top half of the oven and one in the middle of the bottom half of the oven and turn it to 170°C fan bake oven or 190°C conventional oven, on bake.
Next line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper and lay one sheet of pastry, off centre, on each.
Cut the third piece of pastry in half and slightly overlap each half over the other sheets (so now you have 2 pieces of pastry that are made up of 1 1/2 sheets each), lightly pressing the join down to make a seam.
Prick them all over with a fork.
Place both trays into the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Then swap the trays over and bake them for another 10 minutes.
Check them underneath to make sure they are a nice even brown and if not, bake for a further 5 minutes or until the pastry is nice and golden on top and underneath.
As soon as they are out of the oven, use a spatula to gently press them down.
- If you do this straight away they won’t flake so much but if you leave it and they start to cool they will break up.
As soon as the pastry is ready, make the custard filling.
Place the milk, vanilla essence, icing sugar and the custard powder into a medium sized saucepan and stir it together with a wooden spoon.
Add the butter (cut into cubes) and place the saucepan over a medium heat, stirring often until the butter melts.
- Pay careful attention that there’s no sugar or custard powder sticking to the bottom edges or bottom of the pan.
Once the butter has melted change to a whisk.
Whisk it often until it starts to thicken and then constantly until it’s as thick as fully whipped cream and can coat the back of a spoon.
- It should stick to (not run off) the back of a spoon and you should be able to run your finger through it and it won’t join back together.
Then carefully spoon the custard over one sheet of the cooked pastry…..
…..and use a spatula to scrape up any ‘overflow’ and place it back on.
Carefully place the other piece of pastry on top, flipping it over so that the flat side is facing up (it’s easier to ice that side).
Run the spatula around again, pushing in any escaping custard and then pop it into the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- Don’t worry if it looks a tad messy, you’ll be trimming it up soon, 🙂
Once it’s been cooling in the fridge for half an hour you can ice it.
So place the icing sugar and the lemon juice into a small bowl and mix it together until it’s lump-free.
Carefully spread it out over the top.
Lastly, sprinkle over the coconut and return it to the fridge for another 30 minutes or until it’s stone cold.
To finish it off, use a serrated knife (I use a bread knife) to trim the edges. Just the smallest amount, just enough to give you a neat edge.
- When I was working in my last Cafe this was around the time when everybody suddenly seemed to be mulling around the kitchen…..the yummiest ‘scraps’ ever!
Once it’s nice and neat…..
…..use the same knife to ‘saw’ it into your desired amount of slices.
Keeping it fresh – Store in a container with all of the pieces joined together to keep the custard from forming a crust. I place bake paper or tinfoil under it and lay a few paper towels over it to absorb any moisture in the container which will cause the pastry to go soggy. Lasts for 2 days tops, it will keep longer but I find it starts to get that “fridgy” taste, but don’t worry it’ll be definitely be gone in 2 days!!
The thickened custard I used for this is also an easy filling to do for fruit flans/tarts, I’ve done a separate post here.