Prep time 20 mins
Cook 20 mins (plus cooling, setting)
Custard between layers of flaky golden pastry, what’s not to like? The classic custard slice is just that, decorated with a good dose of icing sugar, or a drizzle icing on top - either passionfruit icing, or a plain icing with a chocolate swirl. Also known as the vanilla slice, this cake-shop-staple has become ingrained in Australian food history, and for good reason, it’s simply delicious. The origins are most likely linked to the French Mille-Feuille, or gâteaux Napoléon, where three layers of puff pastry is filled with layers of crème pâtissière in between. The Australian version just using one thick layer of custard and two sheets of puff pastry. The custard itself is more of a set custard, unlike the French version which uses pastry cream, sometimes lightened with whipped Chantilly cream.
Sidenote: Another classic, the custard-filled tart has leant itself to many versions worldwide; the Portuguese have their pastel de nata tarts, in turn influencing the Chinese custard egg tart, while the French version flans pâtissier is a French custard tart very similar to the English and Australian versions.
While slice in itself seems to have become a very baffling Australian fixture - something sweet (sometimes savoury) made complete in a tray and cut up to snack-size portions - the custard slice does tick the right boxes for us, particularly when we can put our own spin on it and add a splash of citrus-y yuzu juice to the glaze. Yes, there are bad versions everywhere that are made simply with custard powder, but as with everything in good cooking, if you start with the best quality ingredients, you’ll have the best result. For this, we say, search out a good all-butter puff pastry, such as Careme, or Pepe Saya, then make the custard from scratch with quality milk and eggs - we add cream to ramp up the indulgence.
This recipe originally appeared in the Home Grown edition of Eatable magazine, on sale here in print and digital.
375g sheet butter puff pastry
180g caster sugar
6 egg yolks
500ml pouring cream
3 titanium-strength gelatine leaves, softened in cold water (5 minutes)
50g butter, softened
250g soft icing sugar, seived
40ml yuzu juice (see note)
1. Roll pastry to 40cm x 30cm (dust with flour if need be), then cut in half widthways (you should have 2 pieces about 20 x 15cm). Dust off excess flour and place on sheet of baking paper and refrigerate on a tray to rest.
2. Preheat oven to 200°C. Place pastry between two heavy baking trays lined with paper on the top and bottom of pastry and bake until pastry is golden (about 20 minutes; rotate the trays halfway through cooking). Remove from trays to cool.
3. Meanwhile, whisk yolks, sugar and cornflour until smooth in a bowl. Bring cream and milk to a simmer over medium-high heat, then carefully pour over yolk mixture and whisk to combine. Return to pan and stir with a whisk over medium-high heat for 3 minutes or until thick. Squeeze water from gelatine and stir through mixture.
4. Pour custard into a heatproof bowl placed over ice and set aside, stirring occasionally to cool briefly, then stir through butter and stir until starting to thicken.
5. Lay one sheet of puff pastry in a 20cm x 30cm tray lined with baking paper. Spread custard over, then top with remaining pastry and press lightly. Refrigerate until slice is set (about 3-4 hours).
6. To glaze, stir ingredients in a bowl and spoon over pastry. Set aside to set before slicing and serving.
Yuzu citrus can now be found in growers markets in winter, but you can also find good bottled yuzu juice in Asian supermarkets.
Recipe by Lisa Featherby.