Oh you’re having a party, you say? A special party? Like the blockbuster blogging event, the one year anniversary of Fiesta Friday? The event where the premier food bloggers can’t wait to bring their favorite dish every week? And you’d like me to bring a dessert, you say? You don’t have to ask me twice!
Let me describe to you a show stopper of a dessert, one that will take you to a village square in Austria, the stars twinkling, snow gently falling, people gathering, chatting, children running. The air, crisp, clean. Horses with sleigh bells. Time suspended. Then imagine you’ve come inside to toasty warmth, shedding the cold with your hats, mittens and coats to find the sights and smells of Christmas embracing you.
The Austrian Crêpes are ready, just coming out of the oven. the smell of custard and apricots filling the air. On the table now, just being dusted with powdered sugar as the clinks of plates and silverware and warm conversation fill the room. Crispy, golden brown peaks jut out above the pool of creamy custard sauce, and the warmed Caramel Apricot Sauce sits to the side to be passed and drizzled over all.
Then the room quiets, the conversation comes to a standstill. A bite of these Austrian Crêpes is an experience like no other. A subtle, delicious combination of flavors and textures. The top of the crepe is a little crunchy and sweet, giving way to the rather fluffy, flavorful filling, punctuated by the dried fruit. That’s all enveloped, a few bites in, by the luscious vanilla custard, warm and silky. And the Apricot Caramel Sauce, drizzled over the top, just takes this to another world. Maybe another universe.
Making these crêpes is an anniversary for me; I’ve made these crêpes every Christmas season for the past twenty years. It seems a fitting dish to bring to Fiesta Friday’s anniversary. I wish I could say these were passed down by my (former) Mother-in-Law, an Austrian by birth, who could whip up all kinds of wonderful desserts at the drop of a hat. I wish I had more food memories from her to pass down to my daughter.
I wonder if she’d embrace the American substitutions, or turn up her nose? She was a woman of definite opinions. I imagine, though, she had to make some of the same substitutions, here on our soil. In Austria, I’m sure these would be filled with Quark rather than our American cream cheese, and the crêpes, I’ve read are a little different. Currants, hard to find here, are often substituted by me with dried cherries, cranberries, and even once, finely diced dried pear. At any rate, these are for you, Liana, and for you, my dearest daughter.
These crêpes are a bit of a project, but I make it easy by breaking it down into components. That keeps me from filling up my kitchen with pots and pans and dirty dishes and makes baking these off, even on a busy Holiday, a piece of cake…er, crepe!
- First I make the Apricot Caramel Sauce, usually a couple days ahead, just to get it out of the way.
- The Crêpes are made ahead. They keep beautifully between layers of wax or parchment paper in the fridge for a day or two, or in the freezer for several weeks. I often double the recipe just to have an extra stash in the freezer for a quick, elegant dessert anytime. Imagine what a hero you’ll look like when you need a dessert at a moment’s notice and show up with crêpes!
- Day of, I mix up the filling, spread it on the crêpes and roll them, whip together the custard sauce and bake them off. 🙂
With just a little planning, this extravaganza of a dessert comes to the table looking absolutely effortless, and you’ll look like a hero! Happy Holidays, everyone!
Baked Austrian Crepes
Overview: First make the filling, then assemble the crêpes and place in dish, whisk together custard sauce, pour over the crêpes, then bake.
Preheat oven to 400°F after making the filling. and lightly butter a 14-inch-long oval gratin dish or other 2 1/2-quart shallow baking dish.
- 1/2 cup dried currants (see note at bottom of page)
- 1 cup boiling-hot water
- two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup apricot jam
- 2 large eggs, separated
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
In a small heatproof bowl plump currants in boiling-hot water 15 minutes and drain. Pat currants dry between paper towels.
In a bowl with an electric mixer beat whites with a pinch of salt until they hold soft peaks. Add sugar to whites and beat meringue until it holds stiff peaks.
In a food processor or in a bowl with an electric mixer blend together well the cream cheese, jam, yolks, zest, and vanilla.
Fold cheese mixture into meringue gently but thoroughly and fold in currants.
Assemble the Austrian Crêpes:
- filling, above
Working with 1 crêpe at a time, spread about 2 tablespoons filling down the center of each crêpe. Fold in half, and roll from the center. Gently pat to make sure filling is distributed throughout the length of the crêpe.
With a sharp knife cut crêpes on a diagonal in half and arrange vertically, cut side up, overlapping slightly. Crêpes may be prepared up to this point 4 hours ahead and chilled, covered. Bring crêpes to room temperature before proceeding.
- 2 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 cup milk
In a small bowl whisk together eggs, granulated sugar, and milk and pour over the stacked crêpes, letting custard seep between layers. If necessary, depending on how tightly packed, nudge the crepes just a bit to allow the custard to seep through.
Bake crêpes in middle of oven 35 to 40 minutes, or until puffed and custard is nearly completely set. Watch carefully as this varies quite a bit with different pans and ovens.
Have a piece of foil ready to gently lay over the top of the crêpes once they’ve turned golden brown, as the tips may easily burn. Cool to warm before serving.
Finish and accompaniment:
- confectioners’ sugar for dusting
- Apricot Caramel Sauce, warm
Dust crêpes with confectioners’ sugar and serve with apricot caramel sauce.
from the kitchen of http://www.frugalhausfrau.com
Adapted from Gourmet, December 1994.
Put Your own Spin on It:
- Vary the dried fruits: Slice dried cherries, cranberries, dried peach or pear, or other dried fruit.
- Vary the soaking liquid for the dried fruit. Consider Brandy, Grand Marnier or another favorite instead of water.
- If desired, another jelly or jam could be substituted for the Apricot, although one might want to be mindful of the color of the finished filling. Some jams may produce a startling color which might be rather off putting when cutting into the dish.
- Change the Caramel Sauce to complement the changes in the filling.
Note: When you make these Austrian Crepes, you’ll soak the dried fruit in hot water, then strain. It’s a bit of a waste to toss that lovely juice down the drain! Plus, when you make the crepes, you’ll likely have a little Seltzer or Club Soda left over.
Why not combine the two for a beautiful blush beverage – just enough for one thirsty cook or perhaps enough to divide in small glasses for the eager children looking on, just waiting and waiting and waiting for the crepes?
Let’s talk about saving money:
This is a long post, so I’m just going to give a few notes for the cost. The dried fruit – buy it during the holidays if possible on sale with a coupon. I think my package ran $1.50, regularly $2.99, but I didn’t use the whole thing, so I’ll estimate 50 cents. Cream cheese is often on sale for a dollar a package, and always a dollar at Aldi, $2.00. Jam was $3.29 full price, I saved a bit with a coupon and sale bought the jar for $2.50, used about 1/3rd so it cost me 83 cents. The rest of the sugar, eggs, milk, etc., ran around 60 cents. This totaled up to $3.93.
Add the $3.93 plus the $1.90 for the crepes and $1.58 for the sauce, it all comes to about $7.40. Even with careful shopping this is not exactly “cheap,” but you’d be hard pressed to make a gourmet dessert of this caliber that serves 10 to 12 for much less.
I’ve spent much more than that for just the chocolate in a dessert, before! 🙂