I am literally shaking my butt in my chair as I type this. Jason is used to this behavior, though the cat is like, "WTF," but I don't even care. Is that shocking, though? We all know how excited I get about food, right? Especially sweets! /swooooooon
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving! And while traditional desserts for this holiday are usually pumpkin or apple pies and the like, I decided to go rogue and made mille-feuille instead. It was an amazing way to spend some of my day yesterday. I also never got out of my pajamas and played a lot of Dragon Age: Inquisition. Oh, and I ate a questionable amount of chocolate chip cookies.
Mille-feuille (also known as Napoleons or Neapolitans in bakeries across the U.S.) translates to "a thousand layers" because of the delicious puff pastry it's made with. Where it originated from seems to be a mystery. Some say it was invented in France, while others claim it came from Naples, Italy. I have no opinion on this. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
I absolutely love this dessert. Whenever I was allowed a treat at the bakery as a kid, I either went for this or something with all the chocolate. We also always made sure this was in an assortment of treats each holiday.
I've been stalking Trader Joe's the last month or two for their puff pastry sheets because I really wanted to make mille-feuille and have it for you before the holiday. And a couple weeks ago, they finally had some in stock! It's a seasonal item, so it's only available during the holiday season.
Why Trader Joe's brand? Well, for me, it's a personal preference. Their brand is one of the few you can find made with actual butter that's budget-friendly. And butter is what makes puff pastry shine! You can pick up whichever brand you'd like. Pepperidge Farm is the easier one to find as most common grocery stores have it (though, not made with butter) whereas Trader Joe's isn't as available to access depending where you live. Alternately, you can hit up a specialty market for Dufour brand, which is the king of ready-to-buy puff pastry. Budget be damned!
If you really wanted to, you could make your own puff pastry, but that involves a lot of work. It's something I'd like to do one of these days for the fun and experiment of it, but that day is not today. Until then, store-bought is fine with me! You can read more on buying vs making puff pastry on The Kitchn.
When using store-bought puff pastry, making mille-feuille is relatively easy, but it involves a little patience and your undivided attention during the hands-on steps of making the pastry cream. For the puff pastry, you have to pierce the pastry entirely before baking (pictured above). This is to keep the pastry from puffing like mad.
As for the pastry cream, you have to mix together hot milk with raw egg yolk and you have to do that without cooking the egg. By doing that, you have to add the hot milk to an egg mixture with flour and sugar very slowly. And during the steps when asked to whisk, you really have to whisk! No breaks. Okay, maybe a 5 second break to switch hands or quickly shake your hand out, but you have to immediately get back to it! Whisking will allow the cream to thicken and avoiding this very important step will result in a very sad pastry cream.
Once it comes to making the icing, it might seem tricky at first because you're whisking a decent amount of sugar with a small amount of milk, but it will blend! Just think of it as a tiny workout for your arms for the first minute or so. The final product will be a thick, but pour-able sauce. Getting the feathered pattern might also look tricky, but it's actually very easy! You take some melted chocolate and draw lines with it down the pastry after icing (I used a spoon), then take a knife and drag it through the lines crosswise in one direction and repeat that in the opposite direction. Don't worry, the icing will set once the dessert is chilled in the fridge.
Now that you've learned the important steps, go make this! And absolutely come back to tell me how it came out. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to gawk at the mille-feuille in the fridge as I won't be able to eat any until tomorrow.
Kitchen Tools Used:
- Baking Sheet
- Pyrex 1 Quart Measure Cup
- 2 cups whole milk
- 4 egg yolks
- ¼ cup flour
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, or ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 16 ounce package puff pastry, 2 puff pastry sheets
- Flour for dusting
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- ¼ cup whole milk
- 2 dark chocolate squares
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Pour milk into a small, heavy-bottom saucepan and simmer over medium heat until just before boiling; you'll know it's done when it's steaming. Remove from heat.
- In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt, sugar, and flour until combined (I used my pyrex 1qt cup I measured the milk in).
- Using a ladle, scoop some of the hot milk and slowly pour it into the egg mixture while whisking constantly. It's very important you do this slowly as you want to temper the eggs, not cook them. Do this until about half of the milk is in the egg mixture.
- Bring the saucepan back to the stove over low heat. Whisk the hot milk while pouring the egg mixture back in and continue to whisk constantly until thickened. This will take 3-4 minutes; don't stop whisking!
- Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, and place in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, allowing the wrap to touch the top of the pastry cream (this will prevent the cream from forming a skin).
- Place in the fridge to chill for at least thirty minutes (this can be made a couple days in advance).
- Lightly dust your counter or cut-proof board with flour. Roll out puff pastry and cut each sheet into thirds.*
- Using a fork, prick each sheet entirely (see image earlier in the post for example).
- Place parchment paper on your baking sheet(s). Add puff pastry and don't allow them to touch.
- Place in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes, until the bottoms are golden. Remove from oven and let cool about fifteen minutes.
- While the puff pastry is cooling, make the icing by adding powdered sugar and milk into a bowl and whisk together until thoroughly combined; the icing will be thick, but pour-able.
- Melt the chocolate in a small double boiler or in the microwave using a small bowl.
- Assembly time!
- Take one sheet and top with a quarter of the pastry cream. Spread all over evenly. Top with another sheet and repeat with another quarter of the cream.
- Add the third sheet upside down and top with half of the icing. You can do this by adding a couple tablespoons at a time or streaming it down the pastry. Using a butter knife or icing spatula, spread evenly.
- Using a small spoon, drizzle four or five lines of chocolate down the pastry, lengthwise.
- Take your butter knife and create a feathered look by dragging the knife crosswise through the chocolate lines, about an inch apart. Then drag the knife through lines in the opposite direction.
- Repeat steps 15-18 for the remaining puff pastry sheets.
- Chill in the refrigerator for at least three hours before cutting.
- Use a serrated knife to carefully cut into pastry. Each pastry log can be cut into 5-6 servings, depending on preference.
Pastry cream recipe slightly adapted from The Kitchn.