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Karpatka: Polish Vanilla Custard Slice

Karpatka, a Polish version of a vanilla custard slice is made with sheets of choux pastry filled with a creamy, light layer of custard cream.

Funny story: once, someone actually found my blog by googling for a “shoe pastry recipe”. I assure you there are no shoes called for in this recipe and the choux pastry, pronounced indeed as shoe, is quick and easy to make and not as scary as it may sound. And, it’s the pastry that makes the slice my favourite from amongst other nations’ custard slices.

But it has taken me two years to finally make this Polish vanilla custard slice from a recipe I was entrusted with by my cousin, a self-professed dessert queen.

Her version is true to the traditional Polish recipe, named after Karpaty (Carpathian Mountains), a 1500km long mountain range in Southern Poland.  Unlike the traditional French Mille-Feuille, it is made with choux pastry, which once cooled gives the slice its trademark Carpathian shapes of ridges and valleys.

The filling is light and airy, not gloopy like some of the store-bought slices can be. The secret to this lies in the addition of whipped cream to the filling, which also helps to keep the sweetness in check.  Having said that, the dessert is completed with a light dusting of icing sugar that ensures the sugar-free choux pastry top tastes just a little sweeter.

So why did it take me that long to make it? Well, because I thought it was going to be complex and hard and it was everything but. But with only 9 ingredients, it couldn’t be simpler. All up, it took less than 20 minutes make. Except, of course, of the 25 minutes of baking and a further 20 or so of cooling the baked pastry sheet and custard in between… A piece of cake, really!

And a perfect dessert to whip up and take over while visiting friends who just had a baby. I  offered to bring afternoon tea along as to not burden the young parents with extra chores they surely didn’t need. I cooked it, layered it, played with the styling a little and, I confess, I ate a couple of the “rough edges” I had previously cut off – one of the perks of being the “chef”. We packed the slice tightly in a hessian bag along with the baby’s gift and set off.

As I was reversing out of the driveway, I watched the bag flop to the side and, in the blink of an eye, the slice was strewn across the floor mat of my car!!! Aaaarggghhh! Well, half of it was. Aaaarggghhh! Or something close to a third more like it (Aaaarggghhh!),  because as I said I ate some of the crusts earlier. Sad face.

I was not happy. I yelled at the stupid bag for falling over and expected it to understand, return home and bake me another slice! Then,  anger turned into disappointed. I realised the glass, or the tin rather, was still half full though. Four of the pieces were snuggling into the safety of the longer edge of the tin, so in the end everyone got a piece. Well, everyone except for the little baby girl. She was asleep and very beautiful as we enjoyed a square of Karpatka with our afternoon cup of tea.

Karpatka: Polish Vanilla Custard Slice
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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The Polish recipe calls for budyn, a powdered custard which might be tricky to find outside of Poland, so I used thick pouring custard instead. You can bake the pastry form-free or if you happen to have a 30cm x 20cm cake tin, use that.
    Servings
    8
    Servings
    8
    Karpatka: Polish Vanilla Custard Slice
    Votes: 1
    Rating: 5
    You:
    Rate this recipe!
    Print Recipe
    The Polish recipe calls for budyn, a powdered custard which might be tricky to find outside of Poland, so I used thick pouring custard instead. You can bake the pastry form-free or if you happen to have a 30cm x 20cm cake tin, use that.
      Servings
      8
      Servings
      8
      Ingredients
      For the choux pastry:
      • 125 g unsalted butter extra for greasing
      • 1 cup plain flour
      • 1 cup water
      • 5 eggs
      For the vanilla custard cream:
      • 750 ml thick pouring vanilla custard
      • 2 eggs
      • 2 tbsp vanilla extract
      • 4 tbsp plain flour
      • 2 tbsp cornflour
      • 300 ml thickened cream
      To serve:
      • unrefined icing sugar
      Servings:
      Units:
      Instructions
      To make the choux pastry:
      1. In a medium saucepan bring water and butter to a boil.
      2. Add flour and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes away from the sides and forms a ball. This should only take a few seconds.
      3. Transfer dough to a mixing bowl, add eggs one at a time and beat with an electric mixer until glossy and smooth.
      To bake the choux pastry:
      1. Grease a large sheet of non-stick baking paper with extra butter.
      2. Spread pastry into a rough rectangle until the dough is only a couple of centimeters thick.
      3. Place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes.
      4. When ready, remove from the oven and allow to cool on the tray.
      5. In the meantime, make the vanilla custard cream:
      6. Place cream into a mixing bowl and whip with an electric mixer until it's fairly stiff - be careful not to overwork as it will turn into butter.
      7. In a large saucepan, combine custard, eggs, flours and vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth.
      8. Place over low heat and cook, whisking, until the custard thoickens.
      9. Cool to room tempereature, whisking from time to time to prevent the skin from forming.
      10. Add whipped cream to the mixture and whisk through.
      To layer vanilla custard slice:
      1. Using a sharp bread knife, cut the pastry in half, the two sides will be yor top and bottom.
      2. Spread custard cream over one layer, leaving a 2cm edge around and top with another pressing down gently.
      3. Trim edges if you want to get perfect squares. Otherwise skip this step if you prefer a more rustic look.
      To serve:
      1. Using a sharp bread knife, cut the slice into 8 even squares. Dust with a little icing sugar and serve.
      Recipe Notes

      Tip: store the slice in the fridge and consume within 2 days. Bring to room temperature before serving. You may need to re-dust with some icing sugar.

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      30 comments

      Amrita June 6, 2012 at 4:40 pm

      The vanilla slice looks stunning! I can almost feel the pastry crumble in my mouth gibing way to creamy custard. Although I don’t mind the extra sugar dust…I’m sort of imagining this with a tart summer berry sauce. 😀

      Reply
      rsmacaalay June 6, 2012 at 4:50 pm

      That layer of custard cream looks so tempting

      Reply
      Maureen (@OrgasmicChef) June 6, 2012 at 7:18 pm

      This looks so good I can’t stand it. I must try this and I will be really careful not to let it fall over. 🙂

      Reply
      essentjewels June 6, 2012 at 7:54 pm

      That looks tempting.

      Is the icing sugar powdered sugar?

      Reply
      Martyna @ Wholesome Cook June 6, 2012 at 7:56 pm

      Yes, icing sugar is powdered or confectioners sugar I believe. For sake of clarity I make my own my grinding up white sugar in a clean coffee grinder to a powder – so much cheaper!

      Reply
      essentjewels June 9, 2012 at 8:17 am

      Thank you for the tip and your response.

      Reply
      Sissi June 6, 2012 at 9:17 pm

      Your karpatka looks gorgeous! Simply perfect. I only ever liked home-made karpatka, never bought one, so I’m sure yours tastes heavenly (I remember I even liked it served the following day, straight from the fridge, with chewy choux pastry…).
      I laughed so much at the “shoe” story. Hilarious! I must check more often the key words which led people to my blog too!

      Reply
      Sara (Belly Rumbles) (@bellyrumbles) June 7, 2012 at 3:42 pm

      Simply delicious! Was wondering what this dish was going to be from your instagram pic, yum!

      Reply
      monsterscircus June 7, 2012 at 7:50 pm

      What a Nice and beautifull blog you have, love the recepie, must try it! Have a wondefull Day.

      Reply
      chefconnie June 7, 2012 at 10:45 pm

      Nice recipe. I love the way the slices look. This is going on file for a dessert idea for the retreat center that I work for.

      Reply
      Hime June 7, 2012 at 11:28 pm

      Know what. Your karpatka looks amazing. 🙂 My dad used to make it, and I’ve got a tip for you – a drizzle of alcohol in the custard makes it whole lot better! Of course the really traditional way is to make it not with whipped cream, but with butter! Calories…
      Greetings from Poznań 😉

      Reply
      Martyna @ Wholesome Cook June 8, 2012 at 7:15 am

      Yes, I’ve heard of the addition of cream to the mix but since I used to have it as a child, my cousin must have forgotten I’m over 18 now and could add a splash. Agree on butter although cream isn’t much lighter – but I thought I’d try something different 🙂 greetings back from Sydney!

      Reply
      chilliandmint June 21, 2012 at 7:47 am

      This looks absolutely heavenly and will have to give it a try.

      Reply
      Inka July 7, 2012 at 11:43 pm

      i’m polish girl 🙂 and your version of karpatka is very yummy 😉 Greetings from Warsaw 😉

      Reply
      Edie November 21, 2012 at 3:13 am

      Where can I get thick pouring vanilla custard, Is thick a made custard or an ingredient. I would love to try making this, yours looks so delicious

      Reply
      Martyna @ Wholesome Cook November 21, 2012 at 8:29 pm

      Hi Edie, it’s a ready-made custard that can be found in the refrigerator section here in Australia. I’m not sure if it is available in other countries – perhaps I should come up with a workaround recipe…

      Reply
      Debs Lee January 23, 2013 at 8:25 am

      My mum is Polish and she’s talked for years about these wonderful custard slices that she would eat in Poland before the war … These sound so similar, but I’m sure she called them Napoleonki (or somethin similar!) I need to surprise her with a batch of these!

      Reply
      Martyna @ Wholesome Cook January 23, 2013 at 9:31 am

      Hi Debs, yes, Napoleonki (Napoleons) are a square single serve version of this, but generally made with sheets of puff pastry instead of puff. But I am sure she will like this version too.

      Reply
      Anna June 8, 2013 at 9:21 pm

      This bring back such a nice memory. I’m ready to bake this now, but my problem is how I can look for pouring custard in USA. I wonder if this one what you using Martyna is coming in the box like pudding. I hope I get answer from you before I start drooling. Pozdrawiam serdecznie. Ania

      Reply
      Martyna @ Wholesome Cook June 9, 2013 at 11:51 am

      Czesc Ania, I think that might be it – comes in a milk carton-style packaging and is stored in the refrigerator section. Good luck! I smacznego!

      Reply
      Christina December 7, 2013 at 8:54 pm

      Pouring custard is creme anglaise. If you don’t want to make your own, you can substitute Bird’s custard or purchase a powdered creme anglaise mix, boyhood of which are available in the U.S.

      Reply
      Christina December 7, 2013 at 8:55 pm

      That is, “both of which” not “boyhood of which.” Sheesh.

      Reply
      Maggie December 8, 2013 at 4:19 pm

      Thank you for pointing this out, I think I can make this now! x

      Reply
      Margo, Thrift at Home December 9, 2013 at 10:39 pm

      Choux pastry! I didn’t know what that was – but now I see I have a recipe that has choux pastry and you’re right, it’s not hard at all and so delicious. I called mine pan eclairs because the pastry was so eggy and delicious. These look fantastic.

      Reply
      Beth’s photographs | little birch tree December 16, 2013 at 11:07 pm

      […] made this on Friday since we had friends coming for dinner.  I used soya products so it isn’t as stiff […]

      Reply
      Maria January 9, 2014 at 9:15 pm

      Hi Martyna. I would think you could get the “budyn” at any Polish deli. I’ve found them here in Melbourne in various flavours. Or is it a very specific kind that is normally used.fot this recipe? Love your site by the way.

      Reply
      Fanny April 4, 2014 at 12:18 pm

      I have a question about the thick pouring vanilla custard: if this pouring vanilla custard is the same than crème anglaise (which is already made with quite a few eggs), why does one have to add more eggs and flour to the custard? If I want to make home made crème anglaise and follow this recipe, then it looks like I will be making the crème twice. Any idea?

      Reply
      Diane May 18, 2014 at 8:09 am

      Hello can you advise the amount of powdered custard as in the origianl recipe? As I have that and it would be easier for me to use.
      Thank you for lovely recipe

      Reply
      Patty Page May 29, 2014 at 9:51 am

      What is thickened cream? Is it heavy cream? I am in the U.S. and have never heard of thickened cream. Thank you.

      Reply
      Martyna @ Wholesome Cook May 30, 2014 at 5:53 pm

      Hi Patty, Yes, you can use heavy cream.

      Reply

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