Honey + Walnut Vanilla Slice
It was my brother’s birthday this week and he wanted to go ten pin bowling and eat a vanilla slice. The fact that he was turning 37 made those requests even better.
A vanilla slice is one of those pastries you find in every single Australian bakery. And love it or hate it, everyone has eaten one. I wanted to Lady-Hester-ise the standard slab of vanilla custard so I made a honey version and added walnuts.
With the honey and ground walnuts and flaky pastry, the whole thing was feeling like a baklava and custard sandwich. What could be better. I left the standard un-cool icing because I didn’t want to change everything, and I secretly love it.
WALNUT + HONEY VANILLA SLICE
1 Litre full cream milk (save 50ml for icing)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4c corn flour
300g Icing sugar
2 sheets puff pastry (store bought)
First make the honey custard as it’ll need a few hours to cool. Start by heating the milk, honey and ½ tsp. of vanilla on medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Stir the honey until it dissolves and heat until it just starts to boil.
In a large bowl whisk the eggs, corn flour and salt until it's a smooth thick paste. Use a hand beater if you like, make sure you get out all the lumps.
Then working quickly, tip half the hot milk into the egg mix and whisk vigorously for 30 seconds to temper the eggs. Tip the eggs back into the milk saucepan and whisk over a medium high heat until the custard thickens and comes to the boil. Take off the heat and whisk in the butter.
Push the custard through a sieve into a wide, shallow bowl or container (so that it cools quickly) and press cling film directly onto the custard to stop a skin forming. Leave it to cool in the fridge – which should take 3-4 hours.
I use almost double the amount of corn flour here than in my standard custard recipe, so don’t be alarmed at how thick it is and how much elbow grease it takes to whisk and sieve – it needs it or it won’t set properly.
Next, heat your oven to 180 Celsius and cook two squares of puff pastry for the top and bottom of the slice. If you can find a pastry brand that uses real butter instead of vegetable oil, all the better.
Start by cutting a baking paper template of the bottom of your tin. I used a deep 20x20 fruit cake tin which was perfect. You’ll need the template to cut the squares of pastry before they’re cooked and to trim them to size afterwards.
It’s important to cut the pre-cooked pastry bigger (by at least a 2cm border) than your template as it will shrink when baked.
Lay both sheets of cut pastry on flat trays lined with baking paper and prick evenly with a fork. Lay another sheet of baking paper on top of each sheet of pastry and cover with another tray (or something else to weigh them down a little while they cook.)
In the oven of my dreams they should take 15-20 minutes to bake until a deep golden brown. In my oven in reality I had to set my timer at five minute intervals and constantly move the trays around, flip the pastry over etc, so that it cooked evenly.
Once they’re done leave to cool. While you’ve got your oven on, roast your walnuts for ten minutes then also leave to cool before giving them a quick pulse in a food processor until they’re ground but not a paste.
Get your template and once the pastry is cool, trim each pastry sheet with a serrated knife so that they fit perfectly into your tin.
The last thing to do while the custard is cooling is make the icing by sifting the icing sugar and mixing with 50ml of milk and ½ tsp. vanilla.
Once it’s finally time to assemble, give the cooled pastry a really good mix to break it up and get it back to a smooth and creamy consistency.
Line your tin with baking paper making sure you have a lot of overhang – which will help you to pull the slice out of the tin when it’s done. Place one sheet of pastry on the bottom and sprinkle with 1/3 of the walnuts. Tip the custard in and smooth the top. Sprinkle another 1/3 of walnuts on the custard and lay the second pastry sheet on top. Pour the icing over and smooth with a hot knife until it covers the pastry. Sprinkle with the remaining walnuts.
Put this in the fridge for 1-2 hours until it sets. Then carefully pull it out using the overhanging baking paper, and cut with a hot serrated knife.
I cut mine into giant sized mega pieces and it made 8 – you could easily and probably more sensibly make 10 good size pieces and try for 12 if your cutting and squishing skills are top notch.
This is a fiddly recipe, but not a particularly difficult one. It’s good if you have a day to potter around the kitchen, or make the custard the night before so it’s not such a big job on the day you want to eat it.