A Simple Custard Slice Recipe
I know a lot of people seem to have a fear of making pastry and so choose to buy it. My mother on the other hand loves making short crust pastry and so it's not something that I’ve ever shied away from. I’ve made all different sorts including choux pastry and hot water crust pastry but until a couple of weeks ago I'd never made puff pastry.
I’d always thought that puff pastry and even rough puff pastry was really difficult to make. Even my mother-in law who is a very proficient cook said ‘life is too short for making rough puff pastry.’ However, we're in lockdown so baking is currently playing a large role in my life just to feed the family. I made some short crust pastry for pasties and as I bit into one I noticed that the top seemed to look almost layered like puff pastry, and this got me wondering.
The thing is I suppose I am what you’d consider quite a 'lazy baker'! I like to make things easy and when it came to rubbing in the fat with the flour when making the pastry my guess is I probably hadn’t done it quite as proficiently as I was supposed to. This coupled with the fact that I’d had spare pastry which I had chucked in a pile and just rolled out over and over (like I say lazy…I couldn’t even be bothered to form it into a ball again) had perhaps actually created layers like you would in laminated pastry.
Looking at my half puff / half short crust pastry I thought well I should probably have a go at making some rough puff and see what happens, I was pleasantly surprised. It came out great with a good rise, lots of layers and in fact I found it way more easy than I thought it was going to be. Apart from the time it took to chill it down, the whole thing only took about 15 minutes.
A week after this I made profiteroles (I know it's terrible I literally cant stop baking at the moment!). I wouldn’t normally make them as it requires eggs and we never have them in but on this occasion I had some spare and thought it would treat for big Coffee Bean. He had homemade profiteroles last time we visited his granny and as he shoved yet another one into his mouth he requested ‘Can we have these pastry and cream balls at home?’
The thing is we didn't have any cream so I improvised and thought I’d fill them with custard instead. No I didn’t make my own custard I used Birds custard in the powder mix. I’m not really a custard lover so I never really make it and consequently I'm not great it either. My mum on the other hand could probably make custard, to go with a pudding after Sunday lunch, with her eyes closed. I thought I’d measured the powder correctly and it tasted fine but the custard was too thin (especially to put in a choux bun) so I added some corn flour to it to thicken it up. This was another mistake because I added so much that it actually set the custard as it was chilled and piping it into a profiterole was then shall we say…interesting!
But this mistake led me to my custard slice discovery. I thought about it for a whole week. If I could make rough puff in a sheet and I could get custard to set in a slab then surely I could make a custard slice? After days of thinking this over and getting to the point where I went to sleep thinking about it at night and woke up in thinking about it in the morning I decided enough was enough and I should just give it a go. My goodness I was not disappointed! The trickiest part of this bake was figuring out how to cut it up into portions without crushing all the layers in the pastry.
If you are a fan of custard slices don’t be put off thinking they are too hard to make. This may not be a traditional way of making them (I’ve not even looked at a recipe to see if this is how you do make them) but they looked and tasted like a custard slice and that’s good enough for me!
What I did...
I whipped out my baking bible the good old 'Bero Home recipes' book and found their rough puff pastry recipe. I simply did what it said in the book, but I did cube the lard and margarine up to make sure that it was evenly spread throughout the flour before I started to mix it with a knife. Then I rolled it out and folded it using the basic thirds method…I’m no baking expert this is just what I've seen on Bake Off! I think I repeated it 3 times, possibly 4? Big Coffee Bean was talking to me and I lost count!
Then I put my pastry to chill in the fridge whilst I got on with other things. You could actually make the pastry in advance a few days before if you wished, as long as it is wrapped well and airtight it will keep in the fridge. When it came to prepping the pastry I rolled it into a large rectangle and then cut it in half to make two smaller rectangles (a top and a bottom) and then popped it in the oven to cook.
Next came the custard. I wanted the custard to be a nice thick layer so I made loads! I followed the recipe on the tin with the exception that I kept a small amount of milk out to mix with the corn flour for the thickening. The corn flour I kept in a separate cup and mixed a drop of milk in it to make a paste. It's safer to add a paste to the custard rather than the actual corn flour as it can go really lumpy. When the custard was ready I took it off the heat immediately, because for some reason I manage to burn the bottom of the pan most times if I don't take it off straight away! I poured the custard into a Pyrex to set and because I burn the bottom of the custard so easily in the saucepan I added the cornflour mix once it was in the Pyrex and then mixed it in! I put the custard into the fridge to set and then once everything was cooled it was time to put it all together.
You'll get the idea from the pictures below and as always these are photos taken exactly as things were whilst I was baking. Theres no staging or clever photo shopping...yes, there were flaky crumbs, yes, I got icing sugar everywhere and yes, my baking table was an absolute state by the time I had finished!
First I put a sheet of pastry on the base and then loosened up the custard from the sides of the container. The other good reason for using a Pyrex was since it's glass I could see what was happening with regards to the custard falling out. I basically turned the Pyrex upside down on the pastry sheet and waited for gravity to do its thing. Once the custard was on I placed the second sheet of pastry on the top and then made some thick water icing to cover the top sheet with.
This made a very successful but extremely giant custard slice, so it needed cutting it into portions which was really difficult! We sharpened the knife but even still every cut seemed to squash it all a little. I think I maybe had visions of it looking like something out of a French patisserie cake shop window when in actual fact we all knew it was going to look…shall we say ‘rustic’?!
If I was to make this again this is how I would change my process. I would lay down one pastry sheet (on a chopping board - highly important that part!) and then put the custard on top just the same as above. At this point I would change tact and cut it into portions whilst it was still just the bottom layer and the custard. I would, however, leave all these ‘portions’ next to each other so they still formed the shape of one large custard slice.
I would then put the other puff pastry sheet on the top (of the portioned custard and bottom sheet of pastry) and then place a light baking tray on top of that. Imagine if I said it almost looks like a custard slice sandwich with the bread being a chopping board and a baking sheet, thats what I'm trying to explain! The next part is the bit that will have your heart pounding in your chest whilst you perform a risky maneuver!
Pick it up (gasp!) with a hand placed on the bottom and the other hand carefully placed on the top and then holding them between your hands, flip it over. Yes this may be a controversial method but one quick swoop and I think it could work? This way your whole solid sheet of puff pastry should now be on the bottom and the sliced pastry and custard on the top part. My hope from this would be that you can then follow the lines down from the cuts you’ve already made and you'll only need to cut the bottom piece of pastry. Doing it this way, I'm thinking, would mean that you haven’t got to put pressure on the whole thing to cut right through to the bottom. Lastly I’d once again drizzle the thick water icing on the top and then they are done!
Whichever method of putting it together you chose it will still taste amazing! Just keep them in the fridge once they're made. They should last a couple of days if kept chilled and in fact they were almost nicer the day after when they’d been in the fridge for a while. Don’t take them out too far in advance before serving them either because they do melt really quickly if it's warm.
After writing this post I’m definitely going to have to try making them again and try my new method to see if I can get them looking more refined. But lets face it as long as I don't drop them they're still going to be delicious and I’m totally happy with the rustic look!!