I reckon one of my earliest memories, way back when I only spoke Croatian, was tucking into warm and freshly made palačinke (crêpes) sprinkled with sugar and drizzled with fresh lemon juice. Fifteen years later, during my apprenticeship, I spent a good 2 hours every afternoon flipping the dreaded things for the trade that evening. I solemnly swore to never make them again when I finished my apprenticeship. Never! Well, that didn’t happen.
What I’ve done here is along the lines of an Eastern European crêpe cake. I’m taking advantage of the glorious figs we have around us right now and decided to incorporate them into this luxurious dessert. Crêpes layered with a zesty mandarin, almond and vanilla seed crumble, lightly soaked with a sweet mandarin, balsamic and marsala syrup. It’s best eaten at room temperature with one of those beautiful baked figs that have been burnished under the grill. Crêpes with figs. I guarantee you’ll love it.
Set the oven grill to high. Dip the cut-side of each fig half into the sugar and arrange them, cut-side up, on a lined baking tray. Drizzle lightly with the balsamic glaze. Place under the grill, leaving at least 12 cm between the element and the figs. Grill for 5-10 minutes or until caramelised. Set aside.
Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse for a few seconds and set aside.
Beat the eggs with the milk. Add the soda water, stir well and then whisk in the flour, sugar, salt and vanilla until smooth.
Heat a 25 cm non-stick pan, or crêpe pan if you have it, over a medium-high flame. Drop in a little butter or give a quick spray of oil. Ladle in some of the batter to cover the bottom of the pan thinly, tilting it around to spread evenly. Cook for about 2 minutes or until the edges lift a little and the bottom is slightly browned. Flip over and cook the other side for about 30 seconds. Turn the crêpe onto a baking tray and sprinkle it with a little of the almond filling (about 2 tbsp).
Continue cooking the palačinke and layering them with the almond filling until all of the batter is used. You should get about 14 crêpes from the mixture. Leave the final crêpe bare.
Preheat the oven grill to medium and set the rack in the centre of the oven. Grill the stack of crêpes until the edges of the top few have browned and curled up a little. This is just to make the finished “cake” look nice. Keep an eye on them while you’re doing this as they can burn very quickly.
Carefully lift the crêpe cake onto your serving plate, drizzle with the syrup and top with a few of the baked figs and give a final zest of mandarin.
Eat while still warm or at room temperature.
Combine all ingredients in a small pan and simmer over low heat until reduced by half. Consistency should be glossy and syrupy. Set aside.