Mille Foglie all’Albicocca

Napoleon Cake with Apricot Filling

Layers of baked puff pastry stacked with a filling are usually known as mille foglie (thousand leaves). Infinite variations of fillings and flavorings are possible. This version, with a filling of rum-scented apricot preserves and a lemon pastry cream, is found commonly throughout Italy. Feel free to vary the kind of preserves or to use another flavor of pastry cream, such as rum or even chocolate. A layer of sliced or whole berries may be used over the preserves, or you may add a thin layer of whipped cream over the pastry cream.

Since this recipe uses only three-fourths of a batch of pasta sfogliata, you can use the rest for Farfalle,, or a few Cannoncini,.

Ingredients

    Pastry Cream

  • cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • cup sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

    Apricot Filling

  • ½ cup apricot preserves
  • 2 tablespoons white or dark rum

Method

For the layers, roll out the pasta sfogliata on a floured surface into a 10 × 15-inch rectangle. Cut the dough into 2 rectangles, each 10 × 7½ inches, then roll each into a 10 × 15-inch rectangle. Pierce the rectangles of dough all over with a fork and slide each onto a 10 × 15-inch pan, lined with a piece of parchment or buttered wax paper. Chill the layers of dough several hours or overnight.

While the layers are chilling, prepare the pastry cream: bring the milk, lemon zest, and half the sugar to a boil in a nonreactive saucepan. While the milk is coming to a boil, whisk the egg yolks in a bowl and whisk in the remaining sugar. Sift the flour over the yolk mixture and whisk it in. Whisk one-third of the boiling milk into the yolk mixture. Return the remaining milk to a boil, and, beginning to whisk the milk first, pour in the yolk mixture, whisking constantly until the cream thickens and boils. Boil, whisking, 1 minute. Whisk in the vanilla.

Pour the pastry cream into a clean bowl, press plastic wrap against the surface, and chill.

Bake the layers at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until they are an even, deep golden color. Change the position of the layers in the oven several times, top to bottom and back to front, to help them bake evenly. Check the layers frequently while they are baking: if they begin to puff excessively, pierce the bubbles in the dough with a fork so that the layers remain flat.

Remove the baked puff pastry layers to a cutting board and cut each layer into a 9-inch square and a 4½ × 9-inch rectangle. Return the baked layers to the pans and cool. Crumble all the scraps finely and reserve for finishing the mille foglie.

For the apricot filling, combine the preserves and rum in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Strain the mixture into another pan, return to low heat, and reduce until sticky, about 5 minutes, according to the original density of the preserves.

To assemble the mille foglie, place one of the puff pastry squares on a 9-inch square of stiff cardboard. Spread with half the apricot filling and allow to cool. Then spread with half the cooled pastry cream. Place the 2 rectangles on the pastry cream; spread first with the other half of the apricot filling and then, after the filling has cooled, the other half of the pastry cream. Place the second square layer on the pastry cream and use a pan to press the whole together gently.

Smooth the sides with any filling that oozes out, using a thin metal spatula, and press the reserved crumbs against the sides with the palm of your hand.

Dust the top of the mille foglie generously with the confectioners’ sugar and keep in a cool place for no more than 3 or 4 hours before serving.

For advance preparation, make all the component parts early in the day but only assemble a few hours before serving.

Use a sharp, serrated knife to cut the mille foglie into rectangles or squares for serving.

Confectioners’ sugar for finishing

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