Daring Bakers :: Layering Up: Mille-feuille/Napoleon

I've been on a bit of a baking hiatus over the last few weeks. My thesis was due on the 26th and so I needed to cut out all forms of procrastination. Even so, I still ended up pulling two consecutive all-nighters in the days before it was due, spending every waking moment sitting in front of my computer typing like a mad woman. It was an absolute relief to get that done.

Now that my Masters degree is over, it leaves me with a lot more free time. Not a concept I am yet used to, but I am sure I will soon acquire a taste for it.

The thesis deadline left me with a day to fulfil the Daring Bakers Challenge, so I eagerly set about baking it. My sleep deprivation and general lack of looking after my health for the two weeks prior quickly caught up with me and I fell sick soon after baking this and so I am posting this late. But this dessert was so good it will be worth the wait.

Our October 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Suz of Serenely Full. Suz challenged us to not only tackle buttery and flaky puff pastry, but then take it step further and create a sinfully delicious Mille Feuille dessert with it!


I, admittedly, am usually far too lazy to make my own puff pastry, and so this was the first time I'd made it from scratch. If you've never had home made puff pastry before, let me tell you: you are missing out. This was the most incredible pastry I have ever had in my entire life. I am in love. It was a struggle to not eat it all on the spot. It will be a struggle to eat the packet stuff ever again.

The process is time consuming in that there are multiple steps to letting the pastry rest, but the process itself is very simple.

First you make the dough and the beurrage, or butter block.  

You roll out the pastry, put the beurrage on top…

… then fold it into a neat little package.

You then roll them out into a long, thin rectangle. 

Fold it into thirds and repeat. And repeat. And repeat. 

What results is the most lovely, golden, flaky pastry you will ever consume. This version is so buttery and delicious. It almost tastes like shortbread. We sat there eating the offcuts, musing about how amazing it tasted, trying to wait until assembly before consuiming the rest.

I cut the pastry into rectangles, then assembed with strawberries and chocolate custard.

I dusted the tops with icing sugar and used this skewer technique to make a caramelised lattice. 

You can fill it however you want. I did a few with stawberries, and filled the rest with just chocolate custard. Let your favourite filling be your guide.

Mille-feuille

Ingredients

Chocolate Custard
1 tbsp custard powder
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp dutch processed cocoa powder
55g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
250ml milk
1 egg, beaten
20g butter
100g dark chocolate

Puff Pastry

1¾ cup (250g) plain/all-purpose flour
¼ cup (1¾ oz)(50g) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1 teaspoon  salt
150 ml cold water
200g (7 oz) butter (for the beurrage), chopped and at room temperature
30g plain flour (for the beurrage)

Method

Chocolate Custard

  1. Blend custard powder, cornflour, sugar cocoa and vanilla in a pan with a little of the milk to make a smooth paste; stir in remaining milk.
  2. Stir over the heat until the mixture boils and thickens
  3. Remove from heat; stir in egg, butter and chocolate until smooth and well combined. 
  4. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled. 

Puff Pastry

  1. Using your fingertips, rub the chilled butter into the largest quantity of flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs
  2. Make a well in the centre; add the cold water and use a fork or spoon to gradually work in the flour. As the dough begins to come together, use your hands to knead it together
  3. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for three minutes, or until smooth and elastic; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for half an hour. 
  4. Meanwhile, combine the room temperature butter and the smaller quantity of flour to create your beurrage. Place between two layers of plastic wrap; using a rolling pin, flatten and shape into a 12cm square. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes. 
  5. When the dough has chilled, roll it into a 15cm square. Place the beurrage in the middle so that each corner faces the length of the dough. 
  6. Fold each corner of the dough to create an envelope-shaped parcel.
  7. Turn over the parcel and tap it with the length of your rolling pin to flatten. On a floured surface, roll your dough into a large, thin rectangle. Fold the dough over into thirds, then repeat the previous step. 
  8. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes. 
  9. Repeat steps 8 and 9, then repeat step 8 a final two times. You may use immediately, or refrigerate until required. 
  10. To bake the puff pastry, preheat your oven to 200°C. 
  11. Roll your pastry into a large, thin rectangle. Cut into portions that will fit onto your baking tray. Place pastry onto a greased or lined baking tray; prick pastry all over with a fork, then lay another sheet of baking paper on top of it. Use another baking tray or heavy dish to weigh down the pastry.
  12. Bake pastry for 15 minutes, remove the baking tray and baking paper, then bake for a further 10 minutes (or until golden brown). Allow to cool. 

To assemble
Cut your pastry into desired-sized pieces. You may use three large pieces and cut into individual portions later, or you may want to cut individual-sized portions from the beginning. Place your first layer of pastry on a serving dish, dollop with fresh fruit and custard, then top with another layer of pastry. Repeat. 

You'll find the printable version of this recipe here.

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9 thoughts on “Daring Bakers :: Layering Up: Mille-feuille/Napoleon

  1. How on earth did you manage to produce such a beautiful mille feuille after two all nighters?? That is so impressive. I love the glossy, rich chocolate custard & strawberries, that perfect pastry and the really striking effect of the caramelised lattice. Simply gorgeous.

    Congratulations on finishing your thesis/Masters!

  2. You should be very proud of yourself for all of your achievements- scholarly and in the kitchen. Fantastic job on your first time making puff pastry. Isn’t it just a wonderful thing??? Love the burnt lattice top as well…
    Best, Sandie

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