One of the perks of working at America’s Test Kitchen comes in the form of very exciting visitors. During my first week, Dorie Greenspan stopped in to see our kitchen, give an informal talk, and inform us all that she intended to move in. Between the perpetual smile and wire-rimmed glasses, she was adorable, and I loved seeing someone else get so excited about this place where I feel incredibly lucky to work.
Despite her bouncy happiness, the talk touched on a controversial issue: to chill or not to chill pie crusts. She doesn’t, and admits to it publicly in her books, while some pastry chefs insist on multiple trips to the fridge. She defended her position, saying simply that it works, so why not? In looking at her book, I found a similarly practical but probably not kitchen-PC tip: flip crepes with your fingers. Don’t bother with the spatula folding the thin dough back on itself or risk ripping the whole thing in half, just get in there with your hands. Hey, if Dorie Greenspan does it then we can too.
Today’s most unusual cake starts with (finger-flipped) crepes piled high and layered with olive oil pastry cream and whipped honey. Not exactly traditional, I know, especially for Thanksgiving. It looked a little out of place among the pies, but once we started eating it no one cared. The flavor trio played perfectly off each other, and I promise the olive oil brings fruitiness and depth without making the whole thing taste like salad. It’s like a mile-high pancake stack, only way classier and more delicious.
Honey and olive oil crepe cake
Crepe cake may sound and look fancy, but it just takes a little patience to pile those crepes high. Mine combines lemon crepes with olive oil pastry cream and whipped honey for a totally non-traditional but totally delicious take on this French classic. To make it even easier, we take a cue from Dorie Greenspan and flip the crepes with our fingers. Scandalous!
For the crepes:
Zest of one lemon
1 ¼ c. sugar
1 c. milk
1 ½ T. vanilla
½ c. honey
Juice of two lemons
12 T. (1 ½ sticks) butter, melted
2 ¼ c. flour
Butter for cooking
For the pastry cream:
1 ½ c. half and half
½ c. milk
½ c. sugar
5 T. cornstarch
5 egg yolks
5 T. olive oil
½ t. vanilla
Whipped honey (or regular honey, if you prefer)
Make the crepes: rub the lemon zest into the sugar. If you don’t have a zester, cut the outer skin off the lemon in strips and rub it in the sugar, folding the zest to release the oils, then remove it. Using a blender or a stick blender, combine the sugar, eggs, milk, vanilla, honey, and lemon juice. Add the melted butter, then pulse to add the flour. Cover and refrigerate for 2-12 hours.
Heat a 1-inch skillet on medium-high. Add a pea-sized knob of butter and swirl to coat the pan. Pour ¼ cup of the crepe batter into the center of the pan, swirling immediately to spread it over the entire surface. Cook until the edges are barely brown, about 1 minute. Use a spatula to turn up one edge, then quickly flip the crepe with your fingers. Continue to cook for another 30 seconds and remove from the pan. Continue with the rest of the crepe batter, adding more butter every 4 crepes or so. You should have 25-30 crepes, which give you a few extra for mess-ups or snacking. Cool the crepes completely before filling.
Make the pastry cream: heat the half and half and milk together until just simmering. While the milk heats, whisk the sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Add the egg yolks and whisk until fully combined. Add the hot milk to the egg mixture in a thin stream while whisking or in 4 additions, whisking well in between. Return the mixture to the pot and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute, remove from heat, and whisk in the olive oil, vanilla, and salt. Let cool.
Assemble the cake: lay a crepe on a flat surface and spread with pastry cream. Set on a serving plate. Continue with the rest of the crepes, alternating pastry cream and honey and stacking each evenly on the serving plate. (Note: I chose whipped honey for this recipe because it is more spreadable. For regular honey, drizzle a thin layer on top of the crepe before adding it to the cake.) Refrigerate for at least 12 hours. Top with extra honey to serve.