September 7, 2017
There's something visceral about a vanilla slice. Such a seemingly simple bakery treat has an extraordinary ability to prompt a myriad of emotions: from nostalgia to guilt to helpless surrender.
The sheer size and stickiness of a vanilla slice makes it impossible to eat daintily, almost forcing you to throw your inhibitions to the wind and regress to your childlike-self with every messy, yet decadently delicious bite.
But according to Will Wood of Carême Pastry, the great Australian vanilla slice is in desperate need of a makeover.
"It's one of those bakery staples that really needs a facelift," he said.
"The pastry in some of vanilla slices could be mistaken for plasterboard, while the stiff custard in the middle often looks like it would last a nuclear war."
As judges and sponsors of this month's Royal Adelaide Show Pastry Prize for the best vanilla slice in the state, Will and his wife and business partner, Claire, have taken it upon themselves to reinvent the tuck-shop favourite with their ultimate vanilla slice recipe.
"Much like a Napoleon – which is the French version of a vanilla slice – this recipe takes a more classic approach to the custard, using whipped cream to enrich the flavour and soften the texture," Will says.
"It's the perfect show-stopping recipe to share with friends and family over a winter weekend dinner party: just don't forget the dessert wine. The French would never indulge in this slice without a botrytis white wine with its textured palate and acid length."
And when it comes to the perfect sticky, nothing pairs with this smooth, creamy and crunchy vanilla slice better than the Yalumba FSW8B Botrytis Viognier, with its opulent flavours of sun drenched apricots, peaches, spice and long, satisfying finish – it cuts the fat (guilt and nostalgia) beautifully… so all you're left with is blind liberation!
Preheat the oven to 200°C fan-forced and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Place the sheet of puff pastry on your baking tray then lay another sheet of baking paper on top, followed by a second baking tray.
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 180°C fan-forced and continue to bake for a further 10 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown.
Remove the pastry from the oven and set to one side.
Add 400ml of the milk (reserve 100ml) to a saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until just simmering. Meanwhile, in a heat proof bowl whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla until pale.
Add the cornflour and the remaining cold 100ml milk and whisk to combine.
Pour the hot milk into the egg mixture whisking continuously, then heat the mixture in a clean saucepan over medium heat whisking vigorously while bringing to the boil, it should take 4-5 minutes for the custard to thicken.
Transfer the custard to a clean bowl and cover with cling wrap. Ensure the wrap comes into contact with the surface of the custard to avoid custard skin, then refrigerate for 30 minutes to cool.
Slice the baked pastry sheet in half lengthways, so you have two long rectangles, then place the pastry on a chopping board ready to cut.
To make the icing whisk together the icing sugar, 30mls of milk and grated orange rind for those who like to add a bit of zest to their slice.
When you're ready to serve, whip 100ml of cream, then give the cooled custard a quick whip before folding in the whipped cream.
Pipe or spread the custard cream mixture over one half of the pastry, then top with the remaining pastry lid.
Slice into six portions then drizzle each portion with the icing to serve.