I am a day late posting this, but the important part is I am posting it.
This month, for the Daring Bakers’, Suz of Serenely Full challenged us to make mille feuilles.
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!
‘Mille-feuille’ is French for ‘a thousand leaves’ (or ‘layers’), which is very apt, as it contains both layers of puff pastry (usually three) and layers within each pastry sheet. It can be filled with layers of jam; mainly raspberry, whipped cream or cheese, and usually topped with powdered sugar, or fondant. It is then usually decorated or garnished with a coat of fondant, with chocolate strings made into a design. It may even contain a filling of pastry cream, as per our challenge recipe.
The challenge required us to make puffy pastry from scratch. Now, I am not a novice to puff pastry- having made it before. Check out my Puff Pastry 101 post here. But I have never tried to make or eaten mille feuilles. So it was something new.
Making puff pastry (or pâte feuilletée) basically involves a simple pastry dough, which is folded around sheet of butter (the beurrage). You then roll out your butter pastry package, fold it, roll it out, fold it, etc. – creating seams of butter that will puff up into distinct crispy layers when baked.
I thought it would be a lot of work, since that’s what I remembered from my first time making puff pastry. But when I started making it, it seemed pretty doable. This challenge also made me realize that it isn’t that difficult or time consuming to make homemade puff pastry. You do need time on your hand to make puff pastry, but most of it is resting time. And I guess the weather helped too. Since it has cooled down, it was easier to roll and shape, with the butter not melting before folding.
For the final mille feuilles, I made them round, hoping that I will be able to pull off a spider web, in the spirit of halloween. But my decorating skills are a little lacking. To be fair to myself, I don’t have all the correct tools and now am going to stock up on them and improve on my skills.
Also, I should have technically cut the unbaked pastry sheets in circles first and then baked them, instead of baking them and then cutting out the circles. There was a lot of mess, as the pastry sheets once baked are very flaky. I still managed to get circles. Since I wanted to have plenty of mille feuilles bites to send to V’s office, I used my smallest cutter, making it more difficult to get a perfect spider effect (since I lack the skills anyway!) I also made a few rectangular shaped ones.
Notes to keep in mind while making Mille Feuilles:
- The crème pâtissière needs overnight chilling to properly set. I made the crème pâtissière and the pastry dough one day, then baked the pastry layers and assembled my mille-feuille the next.
- The puff pastry recipe requires you to chill your dough after every two turns, but if your kitchen’s a bit warm or you think the butter might be melting, you can chill it after each turn.
- You’ll need lots of flour on hand for the rolling and folding.
- Pastry: you will need about 30-40 minutes for making the dough/rolling/folding, approximately 2-2.5 hours chilling time, and 25 minutes for baking (more if you need to bake in more than one batch).
- Pastry cream: About 30-40 minutes, plus overnight chilling. This can be made a couple of days in advance.
- Icing/Assembling: Approximately 30-40 mins, plus several hours chilling time.
Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:
- The puff pastry dough will keep in the fridge for up to two days. Any leftovers can be well wrapped up & frozen for a year. Thaw for 30 minutes on the counter or overnight in the fridge.
- The completed mille-feuille can be made a day or two in advance; it will last 2 or 3 days in an airtight container in the fridge, though will become less crisp.
A bunch of creative filling ideas:
Banoffee mille- feuille
Lemon and ginger mille-feuille
Chestnut and pear
Chocolate mille-feuille with blackberries and cassis
Mushroom, goat cheese and hazelnut mille-feuille
Blue cheese mille-feuille with glazed red onion
- 1¾ cup (250g) all-purpose flour
- Scant ¼ cup (50g) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
- 1 teaspoon (6 gm) salt
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 ml) cold water
- 14 tablespoons (200g) butter , cut into small pieces and at room temperature
- 3½ tablespoons (30g) plain flour
- additional flour for rolling
- 2 cups (450ml) whole milk
- ¼ cup (1¼ oz)(35 gm) cornflour/cornstarch
- 1 cup less 1 tablespoon (200gm) (7 oz) caster sugar
- 4 large egg yolks (if you’re making the royal icing, reserve two egg whites)
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ cup (2 oz) (60gm) unsalted butter, cubed
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla essence
- 1 x batch pâte feuilletée/puff pastry (see above)
- 1 x batch crème pâtissière/pastry cream (see above)
- 2 ¾ cups icing sugar
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 2 large egg whites
- ½ cup (80gm) dark chocolate
- Put the flour into a bowl with the salt and the cold, cubed butter. Lightly rub the butter and flour between your fingertips until it forms a mealy breadcrumb texture.
- Add the cold water and bring together with a fork or spoon until the mixture starts to cohere and come away from the sides of the bowl.
- As the dough begins to come together, you can use your hands to start kneading and incorporating all the remaining loose bits. If the dough’s a little dry, you can add a touch more water.
- Knead for three minutes on a floured surface until the dough is smooth. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- While the dough is chilling, take your room temperature butter and mix with the smaller amount of plain flour until it forms a paste.
- Place the butter paste between two sheets of clingfilm, and either with a rolling pin or your hands shape it into a 4.5”/12cm square. You can use a ruler (or similar) to neaten the edges.
- Refrigerate for about 10-15 minutes so the butter firms up slightly. If it’s still soft, leave it a bit longer. If it’s too hard and inflexible, leave it out to soften a touch. You want it to be solid but still malleable.
- Once the dough has chilled, roll it out on a floured surface into a 6”/15cm square. Place the square of butter in the middle, with each corner touching the center of the square’s sides (see my post on making puff pastry- link given above).
- Fold each corner of dough over the butter so they meet the center (you might have to stretch them a little) and it resembles an envelope, and seal up the edges with your fingers. You’ll be left with a little square parcel.
- Turn the dough parcel over and tap the length of it with your rolling pan to flatten it slightly.
- Keeping the work surface well floured, roll the dough carefully into a rectangle ¼ inch /6 mm in thickness.
- With the longest side facing you, fold one third (on the right) inwards, so it’s covering the middle section, and ensure that it is lined up
- Then, fold the remaining flap of dough (on the left) inwards, so you’re left with a narrow three-layered strip (see the post on Puff pastry 101 link given above).
- Repeat steps 7, 8, 9.
- Wrap up in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes.
- Repeat steps 7, 8, 9 twice.
- Wrap up in clingfilm and chill again for at least 30 minutes.
- Repeat steps 7, 8, 9 two final times.
- Wrap up in clingfilm and refrigerate until needed. The dough keeps a couple of days in the fridge.
- Mix the cornflour/cornstarch with ½ cup of milk and stir until dissolved.
- Heat the remaining milk in a saucepan with the sugar, dissolving the sugar and bringing the milk to the boil. Remove from heat.
- Beat the whole eggs into the cornflour/milk mixture. Then beat in the egg yolks. Pour in ⅓ of the hot milk, stirring constantly to prevent the eggs from cooking.
- Now, bring the remaining milk back to the boil, and add the eggy mixture, whisking as your pour. Keep whisking (don’t stop or it’ll solidify) on a medium heat until the mixture starts to thicken.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and thoroughly whisk the pastry cream. At this stage the pastry cream can look slightly lumpy, but a good whisking soon makes it smoother. If you’re worried about the pastry cream continuing to cook off the heat, you can transfer it to a stainless steel/ceramic bowl.
- Beat in the butter and vanilla until fully incorporated.
- If you haven’t already, pour the pastry cream into a stainless steel or ceramic bowl, and then place clingfilm over the surface to stop a skin forming. Refrigerate overnight to give the pastry cream time to further thicken.
- Preheat oven to moderately hot 200 °C /400°F/gas mark 6.
- Lightly dust your work space with flour and remove your dough from the fridge.
- Roll into a large rectangle, the thickness of cardboard, about 12”/30cm x 18”/46cm.
- Cut into three equal pieces and place on a baking tray. If you don’t have space for all three, you can bake them separately. Or if you making rounds, then using your cutter, cut rounds and place on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Prick the pastry sheets all over with a fork.
- Place another sheet of greaseproof paper over the top and then a heavy baking tray. This will prevent the layers from puffing up too much.
- (Suz mentioned using a pyrex dish to add more weight to ensure that the pastry sheets are evenly weighted down. Next time I will follow this advice.)
- Bake each sheet for about 25 minutes in a moderately hot oven 200 °C /400°F/gas mark 6, removing the top layer of greaseproof paper/tray 10 minutes before the end for the tops to brown. Keep an eye on them and lower the temperature if you think they’re browning too much.
- Remove the baked sheets from the oven and leave on a wire rack to cool.
- Once the pastry has cooled, you’re ready to assemble your mille-feuille. Get a sturdy flat board, your pastry and the chilled crème pâtissière from the fridge.
- Lay one sheet on the board and spread half the crème patisserie evenly over the top.
- Take the second sheet and place it on top, pressing down lightly with your hands to ensure that it sticks to the filling.
- Spread the remaining crème pâtissière and place the last sheet of pastry on top, pressing down again. (Don’t worry if there’s some oozing at the sides. That can be neatened later.)
- Pop in the fridge while you prepare the icing / chocolate.
- Melt the chocolate in a bain marie, stirring periodically. Once melted, transfer to a piping bag (or plastic bag with end snipped), resting nozzle side down in a glass or other tall container.
- Whisk 2 egg whites with 2 teaspoons lemon juice until lightly frothy.
- Whisk in about (2 cups) of the icing sugar on a low setting until smooth and combined. The mixture should be thick enough to leave trails on the surface. If it’s too thin, whisk in a bit more icing sugar.
- Once ready, immediately pour over the top of the mille-feuille and spread evenly.
- Still working quickly, pipe a row of thin chocolate lines along the widest length of your pastry sheet. You can make them as far apart/close together as you like.
- (Again, don’t worry if it looks messy. It can be neatened later on.)
- STILL working quickly, take a sharp knife and lightly draw it down (from top to bottom) through the rows of chocolate. A centimeter (½ inch) or so further across, draw the knife up the way this time, from bottom to top. Move along, draw it down again. Then up. And so on, moving along the rows of chocolate until the top is covered in a pretty swirly pattern.
- This (http://moroccanfood.about.com/od/tipsandtechniques/ss/How-To-Make-Millef…) is a better idea of what you should do.
- Once you’ve decorated your mille-feuille , with a clean knife mark out where you’re going to cut your slices, depending on how big you want them to be and leaving space to trim the edges.
- Chill for a couple of hours to give the icing (etc.) time to set.
- With a sharp knife, trim the edges and cut your slices.