Okay, so last week when I hilariously joked that this week would be: Hazelnut Crepe Cake – The Ultimate Challenge, I did not truly understand that by Tuesday evening, it would no longer be a joke, but perhaps one of the truest things I have ever written (more true than other things I have said, like, “I love cake!” or “I will only watch Eurovision if Kaspar Juul is presenting it”).
CHALLENGE 1: Grind hazelnuts
I don’t have a food processor. I chop things, or whisk them, and if they need a food processor, I just don’t make them. Simple. Hazelnuts, it is well known, can be chopped, but certainly not whisked (when whole). So, I took a brief trip back to my parents’ house to use their food processor. I would like to point out right now, that this crepe cake has been a two DAY challenge, and that grinding the hazelnuts took a reasonable portion of an afternoon (as well as going on a necessary shopping trip where I stocked up on eggs and washing-up liquid).
CHALLENGE 2: Make candied hazelnuts
Day 1 started to take a turn for the worse when I managed to burn a large portion of my thumb whilst transferring boiling sugar coated hazelnuts from a saucepan on to a tray. Being me, and having very little idea how long it would be before the caramel/boiling sugar hardened, I decided it would be best to, 1. lick boiling sugar off my thumb, therefore also burning my tongue and removing skin, and 2. continue putting hazelnuts onto the tray instead of running my thumb under freezing cold water. Because of these two events, the evening then proceeded into what I would like to call the “paranoid thumb infection” part of the evening, where I became increasingly clumsy, panic-texted my Mum and Rachel asking for burns advice, and started to worry that everything was going to go wrong. Yes I am easily stressed. Some clumsy things I did: 1. Got caramel all over my counter; 2. Left kettle cleaner in my kettle so long that the heating element turned a copper-colour; 3. Burnt my other thumb whilst melting butter… which leads me on to….
CHALLENGE 3: making crepe batter
Deb, of Smitten Kitchen (where this recipe comes from, if you ever want to attempt it after reading this) likes browned butter. I have never browned butter before. But, I did successfully make it go brown (without burning it = -1 clumsy point), but then I got very confused as it started to go all foamy (not in recipe) and I tried to take a picture of it, made my camera angry by holding down the flash whilst it tried to pop the flash up, and then in my panic, stirred it so vigorously that I managed to flick some onto my unburned thumb (+2 clumsy points). I can say, however, with much joy, that making the rest of the crepe batter went smoothly, and I decided it was probably best if I left it at that for the day, lest I screw up the all-important hazelnut pastry cream.
CHALLENGE 4: making said all-important hazelnut ‘creme patissiere’
Things improved dramatically after I had some sleep, and felt calmer after I woke to find that my thumb had started to show signs of healing. I genuinely thought that the pastry cream would be the most difficult part, but perhaps, because I was paying attention and no longer behaving like an idiot and burning myself all the time, it actually worked without a hitch (apart from when I forgot to stir butter in and then it went weird and oily until I heated it back up again, then it was fine).
CHALLENGE 5: make 16+ crepes
I got up at 8am and made 12 crepes before I went to work on Tuesday morning. 10 for cake, 2 for breakfast (I knew I had enough batter, therefore entirely justified). I got home in the afternoon, and proceeded to make another 8 or so. It was just one giant stack of pancakes. Did I mention that things were going a lot better by this point?
EVERYTHING STOPPED BEING A CHALLENGE
The evening went off without a hitch (until Oli broke a full bottle of beer on my kitchen floor at least…), and many pancakes were made, with sausages and butternut squash, and egg and lots of other fillings. I compiled the cake, layering pancakes with hazelnut pastry cream, and then making the chocolate ganache for the top, and finally topping it with those bloody candied hazelnuts that burnt me (it’s fine. I’m not bitter). Everyone was incredibly happy with the crepe cake (or Pancaken as I like to call it), so it was definitely worth the many hours it took to make. I also received two marriage proposals from my friends based entirely on my baking abilities, and in a rather bizarre game of “Shag, Marry, Kill”, the Pancaken won “Marry” against George Clooney and Brad Pitt. That’s definitely saying something.
So, there you go, worth it if you’ve got several hours to spare. I’m not sure how desperate I am to make that ever again, but, Pancaken, it was certainly an experience.
I’ll post the recipe next week. It’s about 4 pages long in the book, so understand my current reluctance to type the entire thing out.