Pastry cream-filled penance or Tarte Tropezienne

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“David! Can you open up another bottle of wine?!” Our hostess chanted from the table on the deck we were hanging around ; that would be the table we could hardly even put our wine glasses down on without first sliding the hummus under the edge of the cheese plate and balancing the dipping oil on top of the dolmades. The table was GROANING from the weight of the ‘heavy hors d’oeuvres’ that was dinner at the Mad Mare Farm. It was a long overdue get-together so the wine flowed , and then kept on flowing… through the wander to the pasture where the Mares live and the panic ridden (I have a horse story) proffering of carrots that were clearly too small to give these hoofed Behemoths without losing fingers and then to the neighbours’ paddock where a donkey and a zebra were living in sin … I know, right?! A donkey and a zebra … in backwoods Georgia?! I’m sure God doesn’t approve of such unholiness.

Needless to say, waking up the next morning with the remnants of Cabernet, Merlot and Zinf filtering through my garlic infused body meant I was going to need more than a couple of cups of coffee to get through the day.

When I’m hung over I like to bake… there’s something about the doing of it, the mixing , the aroma of hot flour and the covert finger scoops of raw cake batter that revives me . Maybe it’s the creative juice …the sugar…? Whatever , it makes me feel nice .

I made a bucket of tea and checked out the pantry: eggs, milk, butter, sugar, etc etc… yeah, that’s a start.

I began by making random Pastry Cream or Creme Patissier as we call it in Fancyland (the small nation neighbouring Who-the-f-do-you-think-you-are-alia) I got some eggs separated, two for the yolks and one I left whole. Mixed that all with 1/4 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of sugar and a splash of the 2 cups of milk I was then going to boil with the seeds scraped out of one vanilla pod.

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When the milk came to the boil I poured it, whisking the whole time, onto the egg mixture. Tipped it back into the pan and heated for a couple of minutes until thickened. I then transferred it back to the bowl and added half a stick of salted butter and stirred until it was melted and completely incorporated .

My plan was to let this cool and fill a cake with with it so I didn’t cover it, I just kept stirring every now and then as it cooled to stop a skin forming .

Then I realised that the last of the butter was now in the creme.

Well , bang goes that idea.

I had a think and another B-complex and put on some water for another lake of tea …

I put 3 eggs in a bowl added a cup of sugar with the grated zest of a lemon, a pinch of salt and 1/2 cup of juice ( the lemon topped up to 1/2 cup with orange juice) whipped that til light and fluffy.

I sifted 2 cups of flour with 2tsp baking powder and folded that into the egg foam along with 2/3 cup olive oil, divided it between two 8″ cake tins, greased and floured , and baked them for about 20 minutes on 350 f.

The smell of that doing its thing in the oven will drive out any amount of hangoverishness anyone may have . Remove them from the oven and then let them cool slightly before turing out onto a rack .

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When they are cooled completely you can cut them each into two layers and assemble the cake while there is still some pastry cream left to assemble it with … ::blush::

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I don’t think it needs too much explaining , 4 layers of cake means you need to mentally divide the pastry cream into 3, spoon the first 1/3 on to the cake layer , spread to edges, top with a second layer …etc etc…

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Kind of like this…

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You can top it off with a flat slice for a sharp edged finish but the traditional Tarte Tropezienne, which is in fact an airy, light brioche filled with custard , has a domed top, which I prefer as it looks totally home made and rustic and such .

The cake is , to all intents and purposes, finished … you can dust it with some powdered sugar and “voila!” get stuck in, as they say .

I wanted it to be MORE THAN THIS! MORE!

Being a chocolatier I have everything one needs to make ganache at hand at all times, but I was kind of like “Yawn! Ganache on a cake , chocolate AGAIN!” . I had an idea.

A cup of whole milk . Boil. Add handfuls of white chocolate drops, stirring between each addition, until you get a thick fluid ‘icing’ kind of goop.

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You can flavour this with lemon zest , orange zest , almond extract even… it’s all good.

I had a bowl of Hazelnut Praline at hand. yeah .. I have Praline in my home . just kicking around like any other ingredient. Normal people have a bottle of ketchup, Paul John Kearins has hazelnut frikkin praline .

You can make this by boiling sugar until it caramelizes then throw in chopped hazelnuts and pour onto a buttered baking sheet, cool, then puree in a food processor to a paste .

It’s the Joan Collins of peanut butters .

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I added a spoonful of the Hazelnut Praline to the Ganache … stirred well and poured it over the layered cake.

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There’s a time and a place for neatness and this isn’t one of them , just let the ganache run down the sides and leave it at that . Lets face it … it’s homemade citrus cake, stuffed with vanilla creme, doused with white chocolate hazelnut holy water … close your eyes when you eat it !

The hangover returned , in it’s “you will now fall asleep for 10 hours” form, so it was a wonderful treat to have a huge slice of penance for breakfast this morning…

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