krempita (aka vanilla slice only better)

Krempita is probably the best liked cake in former Yugoslavia. Everyone loves krempita, with it's velvety egg-custard-like cream, flavoured with a touch of vanilla and lemon zest. The most coveted, of course, is krempita that actually keeps it's shape when cut into squares, and even though it always tastes good, it is a matter of pride being able to make this without cheating, such as resorting to gelatine or ready-made custard powder and such.

As you can imagine, there are million recipes for this cake, and I have tried quite a few with varying success. What you definitely don't want is for the cream to taste like a bog-standard vanilla custard; it is too hard and all the wrong consistency. You also don't want to have to add butter or whipped cream, because it makes it really heavy and fatty on the palate.
What you want krempita to be is simple and creamy yet light.

These days, cooking the cake fill is not often done, people think it is a hassle, but really, to cook a fill for a cake takes a lot less time than mixing all the butter and sugar and then adding stuff to it.
Most of the time, we cook the cake fill on steam (immerse the saucepan into a larger saucepan that has steaming water in it) because this way it won't burn on the bottom. It really sounds like a lot more trouble than it is, but the whole thing here is done in less than 15 minutes.

So, without further ado, here's the perfect and foolproof recipe (makes 12 krempita squares)




2 thin, rolled sheets of puff pastry

for the fill:
1 l semi-skimmed milk
6 eggs
300g sugar
150g plain flour
splash of vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon (unwaxed, organic)


Preheat the oven to 200 C
Use the baking tray similar in dimensions to the one in which you will assemble krempita later.
Turn the baking tray upside down, layer a sheet of greaseproof paper and cut the pastry down to size.
Pierce the pastry all over with a fork, and bake in the hot oven for 15 - 20 minutes, until golden and cooked through.
If it puffs up during cooking, when you take it out, place it on the bottom of the assembly tray and gently push down on it to flatten and deflate it.
Repeat with the other pastry sheet, and as it bakes, start making the fill.

Separate yolks and whites, and mix egg yolks with sugar until thick and light in colour.
Heat the milk on the stove until piping hot, but not boiling.
At the same time, start the appropriate larger saucepan with water in it, you'll need it to cook the fill on the steam in a minute.
Without turning the mixer off, add the vanilla, lemon zest and flour. Mix until smooth. This will now be a very thick mixture. Add a ladle of hot milk and keep mixing, eventually adding all the hot milk.
As it mixes, it will already thicken.

Transfer into a saucepan carefully (remember Archimedes when you do it, as the water level will rise with immersion of another saucepan, so don't let it spill all over), and then cook over steam as described above, stirring with a whisk constantly.
Within minutes, you should have a very thick, very smooth egg custard-like cream. Cook for at least 5-6 minutes, to ensure the egg is cooked through.
At the same time (you'll need a significant other to wash the dishes in between) start mixing the egg whites. As soon as soft peaks form, add remaining 150g sugar and mix until glossy and thick (all up probably 5 minutes or so).

When the egg whites are prepared, remove the custard mixture off the stove and gently fold the egg whites mix. You'll end up with a lot of very luxurious and yet still quite firm, velvety cream.

Pour the warm vanilla-egg cream onto the pastry sheet that you placed inside the tray.

By this time, your other pastry sheet is probably done and cool, cut it into squares as big as you like them, and arrange over the cake like so


Leave in the fridge for a couple of hours, until it cools down and is easy to cut.

Dust with icing sugar and serve (the end bits are bigger and have more cream, so claim cook's privileges on those ;))


Bon appétit!

No comments: