Vanilla Slice by Zacchary Bird

"In the great Australian tradition of bastardising international cuisines, the vanilla slice is like a French mille-feuille that walked through a bad neighbourhood and was relieved of its valuables. Even though they left only a simple vanilla custard sandwiched between two sheets of puff pastry (with a glimmer of tangy passionfruit in the glaze), you won't feel robbed at all of deliciousness." Recipe extracted from pg 150 of Zacchary Bird's new cookbook, The Vegan Baker.

Serves 10 | Prep time: 15 mins + chilling time | Cooking time: 30 mins

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 sheets Puff pastry (page 48 [see below for recipe]; or use store-bought)
  • massive pinch of flaky salt

Vanilla Custard Filling

  • 165 g (6 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 65 g (2 1/4 oz) vegan custard powder
  • 250 ml (8 1/2 fl oz) coconut cream or vegan cream
  • 750 ml (25 1/2 fl oz) coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste

Passionfruit Icing

  • 150 g (5 1/2 oz) icing (confectioners’) sugar, sifted
  • 2 Tbsp passionfruit pulp
  • 2 tsp vegan butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line a 20 cm (8 in) square baking dish with baking paper. (If your baking dish is smaller, just trim the puff pastry sheets to fit.)
  2. Use a fork to prick the puff pastry sheets all over. Place each sheet on a baking tray, then place another baking tray over the top to stop the pastry rising too high in the oven. (Do this in batches if needed, while preparing the custard.) Bake for 15–20 minutes, until golden, rotating the trays so
  3. both sheets brown evenly. Set aside to cool.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the custard filling. Thoroughly whisk the sugar, custard powder and coconut cream in a saucepan. Set over medium heat and stir until the mixture begins to thicken. Gradually whisk in the coconut milk, until the mixture is bubbling. Switch off the heat and mix in the vanilla bean paste. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before moving on.
  5. Place one cooled baked pastry sheet in the prepared baking dish. Pour the custard mixture over, then top with the second pastry sheet. Sprinkle flaky salt over the top.
  6. In a mixing jug, stir together all the icing ingredients until smooth, then evenly pour the icing over your vanilla slice. Allow to rest in the fridge overnight.
  7. Using a sharp knife, carefully slice into even portions to serve, wiping the knife clean between cuts if you want to keep perfectly photographable layers. The slices will keep for 2–3 days in an airtight container in the fridge before the pastry begins to turn soggy.

MAKE IT CHOCOLATEY!

When you remove the custard from the stove, stir in 100 g (3 1/2 oz) crumbled dark chocolate and 30 g (1 oz) Dutch (unsweetened) cocoa powder, and replace the icing with the Ganache on page 31.

PUFF PASTRY

[Recipe extracted from pg 48 of The Vegan Baker by Zacchary Bird]

HARD | Makes 1.1 KG (2 LB 7 OZ)

“While seemingly simpler than other laminated doughs, given there is no yeast to prove, puff pastry presents its own challenges by demanding hundreds of fine layers brought about by six different folds. Due to this high number of folds, when using more temperamental dairy-free butter it is especially important to fully chill the dough between each fold, and not attempt back-to-back passes, in order to preserve those pastry layers. When baking with puff pastry, make sure that the edges are always cut and not folded, nor coated with the wash applied to the rest of the pastry, as sealing the pastry edges will interfere with rising. Remember, the carefully rolled layers rely on heat to leaven them with steam, so make sure your oven is preheated adequately, to coax the pastry to puff!”

DÉTREMPE

  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) plain
  • (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 100 g (3½ oz) cold vegan block butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 tsp fine salt
  • 200 ml (7 fl oz) almond milk, plus extra if needed

BEURRAGE

  • 300 g (10 1/2 oz) cold vegan block butter

To make the détrempe (dough), add the flour, butter and salt to a food processor and pulse until the butter is finely distributed. Continue to pulse while slowly pouring in the milk until it is all used – you may need to add more milk in small splashes until the dough begins to ball up. Using a food processor helps to slow the forming of gluten, making for crispier pastry. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 1 hour.

Prepare the beurrage (butter). Spread a sheet of baking paper over a large work surface that you can easily roll the dough out on later. Place the block of cold butter on top, and sandwich it between another sheet of baking paper. Use a rolling pin to gently bash and flatten the butter. Using a sharp knife, trim the edges to form a smooth 15 cm (6 in) square. Add the excess butter back on top, sandwich again between baking paper and beat the butter into the square, so it is nice and even. Move to the next step ONLY when the beurrage has had 1 hour to collect itself in the fridge.

Laminate the dough using the guide on pages 46–47, to complete six letter folds. If you aren’t living in a cold environment, or your kitchen is warm, completely chill the wrapped dough for an hour in the fridge or freezer between each fold, aiming to keep the dough at all times below 10°C (50°F). When all the folds have been completed, seal the dough in a large zip-lock bag in the freezer and thaw overnight in the fridge as required. The fridge will buy you at most 3 days, and the freezer several months.

The fully chilled puff pastry should then be rolled out to a 5 mm (1/4 in) thickness to use in recipes. If you cut the pastry into 24 cm (9 1/2 in) squares after rolling – roughly the same size as a store-bought sheet of puff pastry – you’ll easily be able to substitute your homemade pastry in recipes that use commercially made versions.

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Guest Blogger Zacchary Bird

I’m into indulgent food that looks and tastes like it shouldn’t be vegan, just to prove we can. See all recipes by Zacchary

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