French Kremesh (Francúzsky Krémeš)

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Something I really I miss from my childhood are the Slovak pastry shops (cukráreň). Walk in, and the first thing you’ll notice is a glass display case full of assorted pastries of all kinds of shapes and flavors. They are a bit of a relic from the old era (it seems to me that under the old centrally planned system, every town had to have at least one cukráreň), and are now slowly being replaced by coffee shops that specialize more in coffee than in pastries, but a cukráreň is not to be missed on your travels to Slovakia!

Such fancy pastries are called zákusky. This is opposed to koláče, which generally refers to simpler, home-made baked cakes and sweet breads. There are so many types of zákusky that you could probably create a website dedicated just to them. One of my favorites are fruit and jelly slices. The other one is kremesh (krémeš or as we called it in my family, krémeška). Here is a recipe for this napoleon-like pastry.

In theory, making kremesh extremely simple. Baked store-bought puff pastry sheet, make vanilla pudding, add whipped cream, top with chocolate, done! However, the first time I tried to make it, the result was anything but spectacular. The cream burned in parts and at the same time was too thin, and just oozed out from between the pastry sheets. This second time I used a different recipe and a double boiler with much more success. This recipe is adopted from

Custard: 3 cups milk, 2 yolks, 3/4 cups (80g) corn starch, 1 packet of vanilla sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, 1 packet of vanilla pudding, 1.5 cups (150g) powdered sugar, 2 sticks margarine or butter, shot of rum
Cream: 2 whites, 3 cups heavy cream, pinch baking soda, 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
Chocolate: 3 squares unsweetened baker’s chocolate, equal volume butter, tablespoon sugar
Dough: One sheet puff pastry dough (found in the freezer section of your grocery store), defrosted

Before we get going, take out one sheet of frozen puff pastry out of the freezer and let defrost.

double boiler technique
Combine the milk, yolks, corn starch, flour, vanilla sugar, and powdered sugar. Whisk well together and then cook using a double boiler until the cream thickens. This basically means you place the small pot in another larger pot containing boiling water. This will keep the pot to the 212F. Otherwise, cook on very low heat and keep stirring continuously so the cream doesn’t burn.

finished cream
However, when I made the cream using the ingredients above, the cream was way too thin. The original recipe on called for two packets of “Zlatý Klas”. I have never seen this in the US, but to the best of my knowledge, it is corn starch, perhaps modified with some coloring and vanilla flavor. The recipe also didn’t specify how big the packets should be, but from the image they appear to be 40g each. Yet, with that amount, the resulting cream was too milky and too pale in color compared to the photograph. So to make my life easier, I just put in one packet of vanilla pudding. The cream is basically is nothing else than vanilla pudding: milk, corn starch, sugar, and vanilla flavor. Bring to boil, stirring, and let stiffen. Let the cream cool in a cold place or the fridge.

puff pastry puff pastry cut edges
I used store bought puff pastry to make the top and bottom dough layer. Of course, feel free to make your own puff pastry dough if you want. But otherwise, just take one sheet and roll it to 11×7 inches, which is the size of the baking pan I used. Take the baking pan, turn it upside down, and place wax paper on top of . Cut away any paper that sticks over the edges (this will keep it from burning). Place the dough on top, and poke generously with a fork. This is to keep the dough from puffing up. Bake in an oven preheated to 400F for 10-15 minutes, until light light brown. Decrease temperature and let sit in the oven for few more minutes to crisp the dough up.

whipped cream ingredients making whipped cream
While the custard is cooling down, and the baking is done, prepare the whipped cream. I combined the egg whites with heavy cream, sugar and baking soda. Whip until stiff.

whipped butter cream and butter
Next whip two sticks of butter or margarine. Work the cream into the butter, but only once the cream is cold. Otherwise the butter will melt. Also add a shot of rum if you like (I didn’t because I didn’t have any).

filling napoleon puff pastry topped with cream
Cut the puff pastry in half. Top one half with the cream. Try to make it as even as possible. Then top the cream with the whipped cream. Don’t forget to eat anything that falls off the sides… Top with the other pastry sheet.

melting chocolate kremes napoleon topped with chocolate
Next melt chocolate. This is simple, just melt 3 squares of dark, unsweetened chocolate, with about the same volume of butter, and a spoonful of powdered sugar. Heat on low heat, stirring. Take off the heat when bits of solid chocolate still remain. These will melt from the liquid and doing this will result in harder (more tempered) chocolate layer. Cover the top pastry layer with the chocolate.

cut napoleon
Place in the fridge for several hours, best overnight. Well I couldn’t wait that long, I ended up cutting the krémeš after only about 3 hours. Cutting is bit tricky, especially if you want to make the pieces look pastry-shop like. Make sure to clean your knife between each slice. It also helps to do this in a cold place, otherwise if you do it in a 90F heat we had here in D.C., the chocolate will start melting and will smudge up the yellow cream. Make sure to cut the bottom pastry layer too.

napoleon puff pastry on a plate slovak kremes puff pastry with cream and custard topped in chocolate
And that’s it. Enjoy! If you want to see how these look when done professionally, click here or here.

Sometimes the top is simply sprinkled with powdered sugar instead of chocolate. And check out honey slices if you like sweets.

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