Classic millefeuilles are also known as Napoleons. They are filled with crème pâtissière (pastry cream) and sport a white and brown feathered top, just like this one. I have also included a recipe for Red velvet Napoleons (here), if you want to vary the flavours and fancy trying a slightly different method of layering the pastry. Both recipes are equally striking and simple to make but – like all things worth the effort – they will take a little time.
Before you start, make sure you have three large baking sheets that can fit inside your fridge. Line each of the baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cut the pastry into three equal pieces and then lightly flour a work surface. Take one of the pieces and roll it into a rectangle, slightly larger than 14 x 36cm, with the thickness of half a £1 coin (roughly 1.5mm). Repeat with the other two pieces of puff pastry, giving you three roughly equal rectangles of pastry. Fold up any excess pastry carefully so that the lovely layers inside the pastry don’t get lost, and pop it into the fridge (to use within a couple of days) or into the freezer (to use within a month).
Take one of the puff pastry rectangles and carefully transfer it onto one of the lined baking sheets. Repeat with the other pastry rectangles and lined baking sheets, and then put them all in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up and allow the gluten in the pastry to relax – this prevents the pastry from shrinking in the oven.
Put the milk in a medium pan with the vanilla and place over a medium heat, until just boiling. As soon as it just hits the boil take it off the heat. Pour 2 tablespoons of this hot milk mixture into the egg mixture in the bowl, stirring the egg mixture all the time. Add the rest of the milk to the egg mixture, whisking to combine.
When the mixture is fully combined, pour it back into the same pan that you used to heat up the milk. Place the pan on a medium heat and
Take the pastry rectangles out of the fridge, then take one baking sheet and cover it with a sheet of baking parchment, making sure that the whole of the pastry is covered. Then place an empty baking sheet or roasting tin on top of the baking parchment, to weigh the pastry down. This will stop the pastry from puffing up in the oven. Repeat with the other two baking sheets, so all three puff pastry baking sheets are weighed down. Place them in the oven and
Once the pastry is cooked, remove it from the oven and leave it to cool for a moment. Then, using oven gloves, carefully lift the baking sheets that are weighing the pastry down and gently peel off the baking parchment on top. Set the pastry aside to cool down for a few moments. Then slide one of the puff pastry rectangles onto a chopping board and using a large sharp serrated knife and a ruler, trim down each rectangle until it is 12 x 35cm in size. Use a pastry brush to gently brush off excess crumbs. Repeat with the other two rectangles, giving you three equal-sized rectangles.
Take the crème pâtissière and beat it well with a wooden spoon to loosen it. Half-fill the piping bag with the mixture – filling halfway ensures that the mixture does not squidge out of the top when you are piping.
Pipe the crème pâtissière all over one of the pastry rectangles. I usually start on the outside edge and then go all the way around the edge – I keep going round and round until I reach the centre of the pastry. Repeat with another pastry rectangle so you have two pastry rectangles covered with pastry cream. Put one of the covered pastry rectangles on top of the other and pop it into the fridge to set, so that the millefeuille does not collapse under its own weight.
Make up both fondants according to the packet instructions or use the recipes on here. Make sure both fondants are spreadable but thin enough to pipe. When you’re happy with the fondants, put the chocolate fondant in a small piping bag and set it aside, leaving the white fondant in the bowl.
Put the remaining pastry rectangle on a wire rack with one of the long edges facing you. Pour over enough of the white fondant to give a thin even layer, making sure you cannot see any pastry through it, then use a small off-set palette knife to quickly spread the fondant right to the edges.
Using scissors, snip off a tiny bit of the end of the chocolate fondant piping bag giving you a small hole that you can use to pipe a fine line. Pipe six fine, straight lines along the length of the pastry rectangle.
Take a toothpick or skewer and use it to gently drag down vertically through the chocolate lines. Then drag through the chocolate lines again, 2cm along from the first line, but this time move from the bottom to the top. Repeat this process, doing a line up and then a line down all the way along the pastry to make a pattern as shown in the photograph. I do about six lines in total.
Leave the fondant to set for 5 minutes, and then using a serrated knife, cut the rectangle into seven 5cm-wide strips all the way along the pastry from left to right. Wipe the edge of the knife with a damp cloth or paper towel between each cut. Arrange the pastry strips on a flat baking sheet and return them to the fridge to set.
Once the crème pâtissière is set, remove the layered pastry from the fridge. Place it in front of you with one of the long sides facing you and then, using a sharp large serrated knife, carefully cut it into seven 5cm-wide pieces. These will fit identically with the already cut and feathered fondant-iced tops. Finish each one with a feathered fondant-iced rectangle top and arrange on a serving plate. Serve and enjoy!
© Lorraine Pascale, 2017. Images: © Myles New, 2017.