It may not be Crèmeschnitte to you, but rather a Vanilla, Custard, or Napoleon slice, or the aptly named Mille-Feuille, describing the thousand thin sheets of pastry.
The Crèmeschnitte is not native to Switzerland—its origins lie much further back, possibly in Hungary or Naples, and later France—but, regardless of what it's called, it is beloved here.
And what could be better than this flaky and creamy, crisp and soft dessert that is nearly impossible to eat neatly? Some bakeries serve it with a fork AND knife for propriety's sake. (I can still barely manage and have to use my hands.)
When I was a few days shy of eighteen, I ate what was to be one of the grandest meals of my life.
It was the lunchtime tasting menu at the Parisian restaurant Taillevent and they had three Michelin stars at the time. I don't particularly remember the conversation, or the kind of wine, or even how many courses we had, but I do remember my first taste of foie gras, the charm of the waiter (in the face of six teenagers), and the dessert.
A tiny and perfectly formed mille-feuille.
There was nothing beyond its essential parts, save a couple of raspberries on the side. And it was perfection (and so tiny, that you didn't look like a fool trying to eat it in public).
But at home, there's no one to see you make a mess and opt to lick it directly off the plate.
This recipe is mostly remembered from pastry school, and the pastry cream is a go-to, no-fail version that I've been using successfully since then.
For the pastry:
around 300 g puff pastry
Preheat oven to 200 C / 400 F / gas mark 6.
Roll out the pastry into three equal rectangles.
Place them on a parchment lined baking sheet and stick them all over with a fork.
Bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until they are golden brown.
For the pastry cream:
500 ml milk
100 g sugar
1 tbsp vanilla paste
4 egg yolks
35 g cornstarch
50 g butter
In a large pot, warm the milk, half of the sugar, and the vanilla over medium heat.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the rest of the sugar, yolks, and cornstarch.
Prepare an additional bowl with a sieve, where you will pour the finished pastry cream.
Once the milk mixture is steaming and just about to boil, pour a little bit into the yolks, while whisking quickly. You want enough to warm the yolks, but not too much to cook them. Slowly continue to add milk and whisk, until you have added about two thirds of the milk mixture.
Now pour everything back into the pot and cook it over low heat while constantly whisking. After a few minutes it will thicken considerably to the consistency of pudding. Take it off the heat and strain into your prepared bowl.
Let it cool for a few minutes, then whisk in the butter.
Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface and let cool in the fridge for at least an hour, or until it is firm and thick.
For the assembly:
100 g icing sugar
1 tbsp milk
20 g chocolate
First, make the top layer.
Prepare a small piping bag and melt your chocolate.
Whisk together the milk and icing sugar until you get a thick, but pourable icing (If it is a little too thick, just add a drop more milk).
Choose the flattest and nicest looking rectangle of pastry. Pour the icing over the pastry and smooth with an offset palette knife.
Fill the piping bag with chocolate.
On the icing, pipe straight lines of chocolate from top to bottom. Now drag the tip of a paring knife in straight lines back and forth from side to side (perpendicular to the chocolate lines), to create the pattern.
Now assemble the layers.
Take a layer of pastry and spread half of the cream on top. Top with another layer of pastry and the rest of the cream. Then place the iced pastry on top.
Cutting slices can be a bit tricky. I like to use a super sharp serrated knife dipped in hot water, and then use a gentle sawing motion to get through the layers. I also cut off rough edges, but that is not required. Regardless of how neatly you cut the slices, be assured that it will taste good in the end.
- Use the best puff pastry that you can find—this is the time to go for an all butter version.
- Be sure to stick your pastry really well before baking it so it doesn't puff up too much in the oven.
- If you don't have vanilla paste, you could use extract, or better yet, a scraped vanilla bean.
- The chocolate marbled effect on the top layer is optional. In the German part of Switzerland, the top of the Crèmeschnitte is normally plain white or sometimes pink.