4.24.2014

Classic French Napoleon (Mille-Feuille)


After months and months of putting it off, this week I finally conquered the popular French pastry, mille-feuille. Also known as Napoleon, to us American folk. In Italy, it is referred to as "mille foglie". I personally like to call it, friggin' delicious. Because that is what it truly is.


If you're interested in the more literal definition, mille feuille actually translates into "a thousand leaves", referring to the inumerable layers of the puff pastry used to make it. Traditionally, the puff pastry is made by hand, using pounds of butter and lots of arm strength to continously fold and re-fold the dough, to create the many layers. In modern day, ain't nobody got time for that.


That's where frozen puff pastry comes to play. It makes this dessert a thousand times (see what I did there?) more easier to tackle. The only part that you have to put some kind of effort into, is making the pastry cream, to ensure it comes out smooth and velvety. Other than that, it's so simple! I don't know why I waited so long to try this!


A few tips though. 1)Make sure you let your pastry cream REALLY thicken; although it's just as delicious when it's oozing out of your puff pastry, it looks better when it can stay in place. 2) Well this isn't really a tip, but a fact of life: mille-feuille is hard to cut through. I would say the best way to do it is to freeze it for about an hour, then slice it with a very sharp knife. Alternatively, you can cut the puff pastry into individual portions and then assemble it, and that way you can serve it right up, no muss no fuss!

Classic French Napoleon (Mille- Feuille)

Yield: 6 servings
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Ingredients:

One (17.3 oz) package puff pastry, thawed

For the pastry cream:
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of vanilla powder (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, diced

For the icing/glaze:
1 cup powdered (confectioners) sugar
2 teaspoons corn syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons milk, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon unsweeetend cocoa powder

Directions:

First, prepare the pastry cream. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together egg yolks and cornstarch until well-combined. Set aside. In a medium saucepan, heat milk, sugar, vanilla, and salt until simmering. Slowly add heated milk mixture to the egg yolks, 1/2 cup at a time, whisking constantly and vigorously to ensure the egg yolks do not curdle. Once the milk mixture has been completely incorporated into the egg mixture, return the mixture back to the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, for an additional 2-3 minutes, or until mixture is thick and bubbly. Remove from heat and whisk in diced butter. Transfer pastry cream to a heat-proof bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours, or overnight. (Make sure the plastic wrap is touching the surface of the pastry cream so it doesn't form a skin)

Next, prepare the puff pastry. Cut a piece of parchment paper as large as the baking sheet you will be using. Lightly flour the parchment paper.

Place both sheets of thawed puff pastry on top of one another on the piece of parchment paper. Roll them out into a 12x12 inch square. Using a pizza wheel, cut the square into three 12x4 inch strips. Prick the strips all over their surface with a fork. Transfer the puff pastry strips, with the parchment paper, onto baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until firm.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Bake the pastry strips for 10 minutes. Then, place a baking sheet directly on top of them and bake for an additional 6 minutes. After that, remove the baking sheet and bake for 6 more minutes, or until pastry strips are golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Now, prepare the glaze. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, corn syrup, and melted butter. Add milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you reach a consistency that is pourable, but still thick. Transfer 1/4 of the glaze to a separate bowl and whisk in cocoa powder to create the chocolate glaze. Spoon the chocolate glaze into a piping bag fitted with a small round tip. Alternatively, you can use a Ziploc bag with the tip cut off.

Take one of the cooled pastry strips and flip it over. Pour white glaze over the surface of the strip, spreading it evenly with an offset spatula. Pipe lines of chocolate glaze lengthwise across the pastry strip. Drag a toothpick horizontally across the chocolate glaze to create a pattern. Alternate the direction you drag the toothpick in each line.

Remove chilled pastry cream from fridge. Spread half of the pastry cream evenly over one puff pastry strip. Top with the second puff pastry strip, pressing gently to adhere. Spread the remaining pastry cream over this strip. Then, top with the glazed puff pastry strip.

Refrigerate for 1 hour to let it set before slicing and serving. To store, keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days. The mille feuille gets soggy with time.

Recipe from Peanut Butter and Julie
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