Vanilla Slice (Uptown Version) Recipe

I’ve agonized a bit over this I must confess. There’s always pressure when you’re taking on a cultural icon…especially one you’ve never tasted. The filling of a vanilla slice bears an uncanny resemblance to pastry cream, only it’s often thickened to a rubbery degree. That’s in part due to the use of pre-packaged custard powder, of which we have none in the US of A, so we have to improvise. Here’s what I propose:

about 16 ounces puff pastry, store bought or home made
1 recipe pastry cream
3 teaspoons powdered gelatin
1 recipe poured fondant
simple syrup

Procure an 8″ (8 inch) square cake layer pan with a removable bottom. Line it with baking parchment. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Roll out the puff pastry to a layer 1/8 inch thick or less, into a sheet measuring roughly 20″ x 10″. Cut it into two pieces roughly 10″ x 10″ (precision is not necessary at this point). Place the sheets on separate baking sheets and poke holes all over them with a fork to prevent much rising. Lay another sheet pan on top of each. Bake the dough sheets about 20 minutes. Remove the top pans and bake another 8-15 minutes until the pastry pieces are golden brown. When the pastry is cool, trim the pieces to 8″ square (the original pieces will have shrunk up some in the oven). Place one square in the bottom of the cake pan.

Place the other pastry square on a rack over a sheet pan. Melt the poured fondant in a small saucepan. When it’s hot, add 2-3 tablespoons of simple syrup until it’s a pourable consistency. Pour it over the pastry and spread it promptly to cover any bare spots. Allow the layer to cool 5 minutes or so until the fondant sets up, then cut the pastry layer into portion-sizes squares or rectangles (depending on whether you’re an Aussie or a Kiwi). Hold them in anticipation of the final assembly.

Next, prepare the filling. In a small bowl combine the powdered gelatin with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of ice water and allow it to hydrate. Meanwhile prepare the pastry cream according to directions. EXCEPT in the final mixing step add the hydrated gelatin along with the hot milk to the egg foam. Finish the pastry cream and pour it into the cake layer pan on top of the bottom pastry layer. Promptly level it, then right away apply the fondant-covered pastry tops. Allow your creation to cool for an hour, then chill it in the fridge for at least two hours.

When ready to serve, put up the bottom of the cake pan, peel away the plastic wrap from the sides and, with a very long knife, slice the…thing…into pieces. Serve!

This entry was posted in Pastry, Vanilla Slices (Custard Squares). Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Vanilla Slice (Uptown Version) Recipe

  1. James L says:

    The version I had been considering even before you brought it up. He has more direct approach to the filling and topping. Gourmet? No. http://youtu.be/kTfwwqdl9Nc

    • joepastry says:

      Nice! I’d do something similar, but would you believe we have neither custard powder nor passion fruit paste in American grocery stores? I’m forced to go slightly more gourmet!

      Cheers,

      - Joe

      • rainey says:

        By all means do go gourmet, Joe. We learn so much from you. But, at the same time, many of us have more and more access to Bird’s.

        I first discovered it living in Vancouver and keeping the fam in Nanaimo bars. At first I had to bring boxes back to LA and sometimes open rather ancient envelopes to continue feeding their Jones and the one that spread through my husband’s office. But in recent years I find I can get jars in most large markets.

        If anyone feels they want the occasional shortcut, Cost Plus World Market stores around the country feature a lot of British products including Bird’s and Lyle’s Golden Syrup.

        Now all I have to do it wait for the passion fruit vine that has invaded from my neighbor’s house to fruit to make some paste…

        No, seriously, I think yours will be The Best™ and well worth going the extra mile.

        • joepastry says:

          Hehe…thanks for the encouragement, Rainey! Funny how staples vary from place to place. We have no vanilla sugar or custard powder for the same reason people in other nations have no chocolate chips or cornstarch! It makes no real sense but it is, nevertheless, reality.

          I shall do what I can!

          - Joe

          • rainey says:

            Yeah! You are sooo on the right track.

            It’s just that it’s sometimes good to know that more international foods are available to us in bigger cities and via the net.

            They’ve got Spotted Dick too. ; >

          • joepastry says:

            Amen! And spotted dick you say….hmm…

            - Joe

          • Kitty says:

            This makes me want to compare custard powder to jello vanilla pudding. Might be some time before I can source some. heheh.

          • joepastry says:

            My guess is they’re similar, but custard powder (at least from what I recollect of it from Britain) has something of an eggier taste. I think. But that’s a great point!

            Cheers,

            - Joe

      • James L says:

        Kraft actually makes a custard powder (available at Amazon.com if not locally). In my area we have a bizarre density of high end and specialty grocers so the passion fruit, both fresh and canned, are readily available. But, yes, I did have to go looking. I wasn’t enamored with the cookies as a substitute for the pastry in any case. I may have to pick and choose my components. I often do in any case.

        • joepastry says:

          That’s good to know, James! Since I generally try to use things that can be easily found in a supermarket I’ll see what I can do with this recipe first, but you never know when calamity will strike and I’ll need to search out the real thing. Thanks very much!

          - Joe

        • rainey says:

          That reminds me that when I was a kid (back in the 50s) there was something called rennet custard. It was an American product that was pretty generally available just like Jello puddings.

          As I vaguely remember it was fairly wretched stuff but maybe rennet is a possibility (outside of cheese) that we overlook.

          • joepastry says:

            Huh. Fascinating. I’ll have to look into that.

            - Joe

          • Gerik says:

            They still sell Junket Rennet tablets and it has a little recipe pamphlet inside with a recipe for the rennet custard. I actually really like it, the texture isn’t really that different from pudding or gelatin. Depending on the fat content of the milk it sets up differently, so you might have to play with that.

  2. Julie says:

    Perhaps agar agar would be worth trying? It produces a very firm gel with a relatively small quantity (compared to cornstarch) and less flavor to cover up (compared to gelatin).

    Looking forward to the rest of the vanilla slice write-up :)

  3. BrianShaw says:

    Sounds yummy. I think you are on the right track with gelatin vs cornstarch… whether authentic or not. Perhaps you should invent a “North American snot block” shape, like a circle. We all need one more thing to do with our ring molds! Or go waaaay out there and replace the pastry with chocolate chip cookies… or oatmeal cookies… or snickerdoodles. The options may be endless!

    • joepastry says:

      That’s very true, Brian…it’s not like we have a shortage of junk food for base ingredients. You may just be on to something!

      - Joe

  4. Beth says:

    I’m not hip to this version with the fondant, but when I read the post, I thought, “Why not just make galaktoboureko?” I’ve not made this exact recipe, but it’s in line with what I know of the dessert (which I *have* enjoyed!) and it’s all about the semolina. No cornstarch in sight.

    http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/cat-cora/galaktoboureko-milk-pie-recipe.html

    • joepastry says:

      Great insight, Beth! I’ve made that and have it on the site here. It never even occurred to me how similar the two are! Thanks very much!

      - Joe

  5. Susan says:

    Nothing entices me more than a dessert that is likened to a “snot block”. You go, Joe!

  6. Melinda says:

    Goya makes frozen passion fruit pulp that is wonderful. I have used it to make passion fruit curd, which I serve alongside orange sponge cake, or really just eat right out of the bowl. They also make frozen guava pulp and frozen fresh coconut pulp. In Albuquerque, I get it at my local Asian market. I have learned to always have a bag of it in my freezer. You never know when that craving for “maracuya” will hit.

    • joepastry says:

      I’ll take a look in the Goya section of the supermarket and see what I can find. Thanks, Melinda!

      - Joe

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