Có tài mà cậy chi tài,
Chữ Tài liền với chữ Tai một vần
Ðã mang lấy Nghiệp vào thân,
Cũng đừng trách lẫn Trời gần, Trời xa.
Thiện căn ở tại lòng ta,
Chữ Tâm kia mới bằng ba chữ Tàì.
Extracted from the most famous work of Vietnamese literature, Truyện Kiều, the passage above describes a rather interesting human flaw. After years of moving up the corporate and social ladder, after years of success after success and win after win, after getting to sit on the iron throne – we all gloat. We all pat ourselves on the back, and self-congratulate on a job well done. We attribute our successes to our intelligence, our hard work, our cunning. Yes, I was smart. I worked hard. I deserved this. And yet, when things go wrong, we immediately turn that pronoun around, and blame someone else for our downfall. He caused my downfall. God (or some other being) is punishing me. My luck ran out. So quickly, we turn that blame around. When we succeed, we take all the credit. But when we fail, that ‘credit’ is divested to others. So knowing that, what is the point of touting our success and skill and hard work? When in the end, none of it matters. It is all so ephemeral and fleeting anyway. So what does matter? What is permanent? I’ll leave that for you to conclude.
After trying the crepe cake at Ippudo West a few weeks back, I knew I just had to make my own. I’ve made crepes many times before, so this was just an extension of that process. The crepes are stacked in a tall layer, only separated by a bit of pastry cream. The top can then be covered with a schmear of whipped cream, a dusting of confectioners’ sugar, or in this case, a bit of flambeed bananas. Experiment to your heart’s content – this dessert is a winner.
6 tbs butter, melted and browned
3 c whole milk, gently warmed
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour, sifted
7 tbs granulated sugar
Pastry Crème Filling:
1 tbs all-purpose flour
2 tbs granulated sugar
1 tbs cornstarch
1 c whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp hot water
2 tbs heavy cream, whipped
At least 12 hours before assembling the cake, begin by putting together the crepe batter and pastry cream.
For the crepe batter, whisk together eggs, sugar and salt. Slowly add in the the flour, whisking to incorporate and remove any lumps. Slowly add the browned butter and warm milk, all the while whisking gently. Tightly cover and refrigerate.
For the pastry cream, heat the milk to a simmer over low heat in a small saucepan. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg, flour, sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl until smooth. Slowly drizzle the hot milk over the egg mixture, while vigorously whisking (to avoid scrambling). Add the remaining milk while continuing to whisk. Return all the ingredients to the saucepan at medium heat, allowing the cream to thicken and boil, all the while still whisking to prevent any lumps. Remove the cream from heat, and add the vanilla and a drizzle of hot water as needed to attain the right consistency. Set aside to cool.
Once the pastry cream has cooled, fold in the whipped cream and refrigerate until use.
To make the crepes, allow the crepe batter to come to room temperature and gently whisk to break up any lumps that may have formed. Using a large non-stick pan on medium-low heat, distribute 1/4 cup of batter and swirl to cover the pan’s surface. Cook until the bottom is browned, then gently flip the crepe to brown the other side. Place on a rack or tray to cool. Repeat with remaining batter, stacking the crepes as necessary.
To assemble the cake, place 1 crepe on a platter, then spread a thin amount of pastry cream over the top. Repeat with the remaining crepe layers and pastry cream.
Once completed, you can top with any assortment of berries, whipped cream, caramelized sugar (for a nice crunchy top), powdered sugar, Nutella, Speculoos, etc. Slice and serve.
I’ve been trying really hard to make it through the pages of Truyện Kiều, but it’s been slow and difficult. The language is archaic and the references absolutely out dated. There are some great tidbits and lessons though, and hopefully I’ll be able to share them as I progress.
Thanks for reading,