February 26, 2019
Slovenian cuisine seems to consist of simple and boring or difficult and failure-prone dishes. There is very little in between, which is why we’re forced to stretch ourselves a bit over the limit of our capabilities from time to time.
Kremšnita of Bled (blejska kremšnita) is delicious enough that people actually bake them at home, so there are quite a few online discussions on how to make them. We found one recipe that stood out for its professional approach, tried to follow it as much as our equipment allowed us – and still failed, to some extent. In this article we thus invite you to learn from our mistakes which might help you to make a more successful attempt at this dessert on your own.
This is the recipe we used, and a description of its execution in our humble kitchen follows. At 4:48 note one of the crucial elements of success: the technique of hot custard being whisked into the beaten egg whites. Perhaps one of the main reasons why the Serbian version of the dish has a no egg white, custard only recipe. The final results of the two however, if the first one succeeds, just cannot compare.
Ingredients (for 15 kremšnitas):
On the puff pastry
Puff pastry dough (listnato testo) can be found in the frozen foods department in almost every grocery store in Slovenia. It comes in 500g packages of two frozen blocks. We’ll use one for the bottom, one for the top of our pan of kremšnitas. Leave the dough out for a couple of hours then roll it, spike it with forks or a toothpick so that it doesn’t puff too much, then bake it at about 200 degrees Celsius for about 10 minutes or until yellow to light brown. It also tends to shrink in the oven, which is why you have to bake it in a larger tray from the one you’ll use for kremšnitas or simply flip over the baking tray and bake it on the bottom. If the baked dough is too large just trim the edges till it fits.
On the top of this should go custard, on the top of cooled custard a layer of cream, and on the top of that another layer of puff pastry.
Since there is a danger of smushing the whole thing when cutting our kremšnitas apart, it is better to just cut the dough on the surface before it’s baked or cut it in squares before you place it to the top of the cream.
Here is a video where we got an idea of how to cut the pastry before its baked.
It didn’t work that well, however.
Also, we placed some kitchen knives on the top of the pastry so that it wouldn’t puff up too much. When we took it out one of the knives fell on the floor and the author of the current text picked it up, forgetting that it had just been heated to 200 degrees Celsius. We’re not sure if it was the burn or the ice that was used to cool it down, but for the rest of the day the touchscreen wouldn't react to our finger.
Next time we might just bake it first, then cut it, then place it to the top of the cream.
The smaller the tray, the taller the kremšnitas will be. An ideal custard-cream ratio is 2:1, which is – with the ingredients listed above – supposed to be achieved by the use of a 35x21x7 cm size tray (7x7x7 per kremšnita).
Our tray was 40x30, hence our kremšnitas were not very tall.
The custard cream
Put aside 2dl of full fat milk (the fatter the better) from the total of 1.6 litres, and put this 1.4l into a pan on the stove and slowly bring to the boil.
We separate egg yolks from egg whites and place the latter into a big bowl. We add the set aside milk (2dl) to the egg yolks together with sugar (300g castor), vanilla sugar, rum and flour. Stir with an electric mixer till the mixture is smooth.
Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks, gradually add sugar (100g castor) and beat some more till it is really stiff.
Slowly pour the egg yolk mixture into the boiling milk. The best way to prevent lumps from forming is to keep stirring it with an electric mixer. Boil for several minutes. You will notice the cream getting denser and denser. Keep mixing and make sure it doesn’t burn to the bottom.
Then take a big balloon whisk and ask for some help. Slowly stir the hot custard into the egg whites by turning and lifting rather than whipping them together. See the first video above. The whole thing should not last longer than a minute. When the mixture is more or less even, pour it on the top of the pastry and wait till it cools down.
Then beat the cream, add powdered sugar and beat some more. Place the cream on top of the custard and cover with already cut pieces of pastry. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
There are at least two mistakes we made in the process of making the custard cream. Firstly, after pouring the egg yolk mixture into the boiling milk, it was very difficult to get the whole thing back to the boiling point. Concerned that the custard might burn at the bottom of the pan we might not have cooked it long enough. This is also the reason why some people prefer to work with smaller amounts. When looking for a smaller tray we might go for half the size as well, making 8 instead of 15 kremšnitas at the time.
The second problem was that we did not have a big whisk but only a small one from our mixer. As we just left it on while stirring the hot mixture in, we also accidentally pressed the button once, which couldn’t have helped either.
Either way, we haven’t given up yet, and hope to be more successful next time. Moreover, while not a picture perfect kremšnita, we promise that it tasted delicious.