Sometimes I read a recipe and it burrows into a corner of my brain, gathers twigs and moss, builds a little nest, and refuses to move out until I make it. That was the case with this Gâteau de Crêpes from Amanda Hesser in the New York Times magazine back in 2005. The idea is simple enough: twenty layers of crepes filled with whip-cream lightened pastry cream, finished with a layer of bruleed sugar.
Still, I knew that plenty could go wrong. Would those layers really stay together and line up neatly? What should be the density of the pastry cream so that it wouldn't collapse under the weight of the crepes and a knife, but still be suave?
I finally sucked it up and made it for my own birthday party and it turned out pretty darn tasty, if a bit sloppy looking on the outside. The inside was beautiful. Of course I had to put my own spin on it. I went with alternating layers of chocolate pastry cream and dulce de leche. As you can see, my fears of seepage were well founded, but who really cared? It was rich and delicious; a small slice would be perfectly satisfying. I had three.
The recipe in Hesser's article covers it fine, so there is no need to go over it here. If you want to make my variation, just add 6 ounces of high quality dark chocolate (something in the 72% range) to the hot pastry cream, and a jar of homemade or store-bought dulce de leche for the alternate layers. You'll want to warm the dulce de leche and maybe thin it with a bit of cream as well so you can spread it without destroying the crepes.
Oh, and I'm not sure why she has you heat the milk for the crepe batter. I've always used Julia Child's recipe from Mastering The Art of French Cooking, which doesn't call for that, and I've never had a problem with the results. Feel free to skip it.
If you have a pressure cooker and haven't used it to make dulce de leche, I highly recommend it. Works beautifully.