Monday, January 26, 2009

Australians all let us rejoice ... Vanilla slices and pavlova

Today is Australia Day here in Oz, and to celebrate, we are granted a long weekend to hold barbecues, meet with friends and to enjoy all that is good about Australia. Officially, it is the day on which the First Fleet, under the leadership of Governor Arthur Phillip, arrived at Sydney Cove in 1788.

I love to celebrate everything with food, so I made some traditional Aussie treats to share with my colleagues at work on Friday.

First up, I made vanilla slices (aka custard slices)

These consist of a firm custard sandwiched between two layers of puff pastry, with sweet icing on top.

I used a recipe from Kate McGhie's Cook, which uses a combination of cream and milk instead of pure cream for the filling, and features a passionfruit icing - my favourite!

If you would like to know what Aussies are raving about when they refer to the vanilla slice, you will need:

2 sheets puff pastry
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cornflour (corn starch)
4 tablespoons custard powder
4 cups milk (I used reduced fat milk and it worked fine)
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
60g butter
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten


2 cups icing sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon hot water
pulp of 1 passionfruit

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius, and line 2 baking trays with baking paper or silicone mats. Grease and line a 23cm square pan with baking paper.

Put each puff pastry sheet on a lined baking tray, then cover each sheet with another baking tray to act as a weight. Bake the sheets in the oven for 15 minutes, then remove them from the oven, take off the weights, prick the pastry sheets all over with a fork, and return them to the oven to bake for a further 10 or so minutes until the pastry is golden brown. Remove the cooked pastry from the oven and allow to cool. Once cooled, cut one sheet of the pastry to fit firmly inside the base of the prepared pan.

Blend the sugar, cornflour and custard powder together in a saucepan, and using some of the milk, stir the mixture to form a smooth paste over medium heat. Gradually stir in the rest of the milk, the cream and the vailla, stirring all the while over the heat, until the custard is smooth. Add the butter and simmer the custard until it is thick and smooth, and it no longer tastes like cornflour. Once the custard has thickened sufficiently, remove it from the heat and stir in the egg yolk.

Pour the custard into the prepared pan over the top of the pastry base, smooth it over, then top with the remaining sheet of cooked puff pastry. Refrigerate the vanilla slices until set.

Once the vanilla slices are cool, ice them with an icing made, by combining all of the icing ingredients in a bowl and mixing to the desired consistency, using more water or icing sugar if necessary. Spread the icing over the top of the vanilla slices and allow to set. When the icing has set, cut the vanilla slices into squares with a hot knife. Enjoy!

With respect to pavlova, there is
an ongoing dispute between the Aussies and the Kiwis as to who created it. Regardless, pavlova is delicious, and that is what matters to me.

For anyone who has lived thus far without tasting pavlova, it is like a huge meringue with a marshmallowy centre, which is traditionally topped with lashings of whipped cream and fruit. In my case, I topped the pavlova with leftover filling from Dorie's berry surprise cake and blueberries:

My pav was made using a recipe from Baking by New Holland Publishers, as follows:

5 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vinegar
2 teaspoons cornflour (I left this out, as I had run out, with no ill effects)

Preheat your oven to 150 degrees Celsius, and line a baking tray with baking paper and draw a 23cm circle on it. Grease the circle and dust with cornflour.

Beat the egg whites with an electric stand mixer until stiff, then gradually beat in the sugar. (If using the cornflour, blend it with half the sugar before beating into the egg whites.) Sprinkle the vinegar over the beaten egg whites, and fold in gently.

Pile the meringue into the circle on the baking paper on the baking tray, and bake in the oven for around 1 hour. Opent he oven door (but don't remove the pvalova), and allow the pavlova to cool in the oven for 20 minutes before removing it from the oven and allowing it to cool completely.

Once the pavlova has cooled completely, and just before serving, top it with whipped cream and fruit to taste.

Last but by no means least, the lovely Miranda, aka The Blonde Duck, from A Duck in Her Pond, gave me the Lemonade Award - when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Thanks Duckie!

The rule of the award are:

1. Put the logo on your blog/post.

2. Nominate 10 blogs which show great gratitude and/or attitude.

3. Link to your nominees within your post.

4. Let your nominees know that they have received the award by commenting on their blog.

5. Share the love and link to this post from the person who gave you this award.

Without further ado, my nominees for this award (in no particular order) are:

Ivy of Kopiaste

Arfi of Homemades

Susan of

Gretchen of Canela & Comino

Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella

Go check out these girls' blogs - they are terrific.

Happy Australia Day to y'all!


The Caked Crusader said...

Thanks for the award!
I am drooling at your vanilla slices - we have them too in the UK (some of us have rather too many of them, ahem)

enjoy your holidays!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the award! I love the look of your slice. I knew right away that it had passionfruit and you know how I am about that! Yum!

Anonymous said...

You are one sweety! I have been truly blessed to have you as a blogging buddy. Thanks so much for thinking of me for this award. I'm putting it directly into my blog. Have a wonderful day :)

adele said...

Vanilla slices! I haven't seen or thought about those in years. Great-looking pavlova, too.

Happy Australia Day!

Ivy said...

Cake, thanks very much for the award and sorry for being so late to come and thank you. I am having my sister staying with me for a few days and I guess that's why I couldn't find my brother in Sydney. He was probably barbecuing somewhere. I love Pavlova and it is only natural to dispute about its origin as it is such a wonderful dessert.

Anonymous said...

Happy Australia Day! Your treats look and sound delicious.

Tammy said...

wow, thanks so much Gaye! You are such a sweetie. Once again i am honoured that you have given me an award!!!

Anonymous said...

Oooh brilliant looking vanilla slice and pavlova Cakelaw. Look how high that custard is but it looks like it would be creamy too :)

Thankyou SO much for the award! Wow, I feel so honoured! :D xxx

Mary said...

I've never heard of vanilla squares before and now I really want to try one! They look so good!

Cakelaw said...

Thanks Crusader - I also have more of these than I should ...

Absolutely Gretchen - I knew you'd love the passionfruit angle.

Hi Maryann, love ya heaps - hope you have a wonderful day too.

Thanks Adele - vanilla slices are my bakery sweet of choice - a toss up with the custard tart.

Hi Ivy, hope the Aussie branch of your family had a great Australia Day.

Thanks Pinkstripes - a virtual vanilla slice for you!

Hi Tammy, love your gorgeous blog.

Hi Lorraine, I am a greedy guts - when I see a tall vanilla slice in the bakeshop, I have to have it.

Mary, do try them - they are easy to make (if you can get your hands on custard poweder in the US), and so delicious. Some have a creamier filling than this which is more like a pastry cream, but I like this solidified custard variety.

Susan @ My Wholefood Family Essentials said...

Thanks for another award! I'm wishing I made the effort to make some Aussie treats now, we had gingerbread for Australia Day!

Unknown said...

Thanks so much for the award :), sooo so sweet of you. I am so honored!

The vanilla slices look absolutely heavenly. IT's tooo bad I didn't try more pavlova when I was in Sydney. I was hoping that I could grow to love it :)