Puff Pastry Cream Slices with Coffee Icing

Francia Kremes

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    8 to 10 slices

Appears in

A member of the Napoleon pastry family, this dessert of crisp puff pastry layers sandwiched with a thick strata of cream-based filling is even richer than its French cousin. (By the way, Napoleons were originally Italian, and called Neapolitans, but the recipe was appropriated by French bakers, who changed the name.) Napoleons are usually prepared with classic pastry cream, but the Austro-Hungarian baker can’t bear not to add whipped cream, a step that lightens the filling. Some bakers forego the pastry cream altogether and slather a slab of gelatin-stabilized whipped cream between only two layers of pastry. In either case, the Viennese call these Cremeschnitten. But in Budapest, where the dessert is usually topped with a simple coffee icing, it’s called Francia kremes.

The trick to making Napoleons, Creme schnitten, and similar confections is to bake the puff pastry into firm, crisp, but unpuffed layers. This takes some cajoling, as this pastry is supposed to puff. The pastry must be pierced well with a fork or pastry docker (this useful tool for evenly perforating puff pastry can be found at professional bakery suppliers and many kitchenware shops), weighed down with a heavy pan (a baking sheet is too light), and baked at varying temperatures to dry out the interior.

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Ingredients

Icing

  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso coffee powder
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon boiling water
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Cream Filling

  • cups milk, divided
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • cup sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons golden rum
  • 2 envelopes (4 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
  • cups heavy cream

Method

  1. Turn a 15½ X 10½-inch jelly-roll pan upside down, and cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the underside. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry slightly larger than the paper, and slide it onto the paper. Transfer to the underside of the pan (the pastry will shrink slightly). Roll out the pastry again on the pan so it fits the paper. Using a fork or a pastry docker, pierce the pastry well. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and freeze for 20 to 30 minutes.
  2. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 400°F. Using a pastry wheel or a very sharp knife, trim the pastry to make an even rectangle. Cover with another sheet of parchment paper, and top with a large roasting pan (the pastry must be completely weighed down). Bake until the pastry is set and beginning to brown at the edges, about 20 minutes.
  3. Reduce the heat to 350°F, remove the roasting pan and the top parchment paper, and leave the oven door open for about 30 seconds to drop the temperature. Close the door and continue baking until the pastry is golden, about 15 minutes. Remove the pastry from the oven; leave the oven on. Cool the pastry for 10 minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut into three strips, each about 3½ X 15½ inches (the center will still appear slightly uncooked). Return the strips to the oven and bake for 10 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and golden brown. Turn off the oven, prop the door ajar, and cool the pastry in the oven.
  4. To make the icing: Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water in a small bowl. Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl. Add the coffee and whisk until smooth, adding additional droplets of water if needed to get a pourable icing.
  5. Place the center strip, smooth underside up, on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Pour all of the icing over the strip. Using an offset spatula, spread the icing over the pastry, letting the excess run down the sides. Let stand until the icing sets, about 20 minutes.
  6. To make the filling: Pour ½ cup of the milk into a medium saucepan, sprinkle with the cornstarch, and whisk to dissolve. Whisk in the sugar and yolks. Heat the remaining 1 cup of milk in a saucepan or microwave oven. Whisk into the yolk mixture and bring to a full boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla. Transfer to a large bowl set in a larger bowl of ice water and let stand, stirring often, until the pastry cream is cooled.
  7. Meanwhile, combine the water and rum in a small heat-proof bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Let stand until the rum soaks up the gelatin, about 5 minutes. Place in a skillet with ½ inch of simmering water and stir constantly until the gelatin dissolves. (Or cook in the microwave on medium power at 10-second intervals, scraping down the sides and stirring well with a small rubber spatula after each interval, until the gelatin is completely dissolved.) Let stand until the gelatin is tepid, but still liquid.
  8. In a chilled medium bowl, beat the cream with a handheld electric mixer at high speed just until soft peaks form. With the mixer running, pour the gelatin directly into the blades and beat until the cream is stiff. Stir one fourth of the whipped cream into the pastry cream, then fold in the remaining whipped cream. Don’t worry if the filling looks slightly lumpy; it will even out during spreading and chilling. Let the filling stand in the ice-water bath, folding occasionally, until chilled and firm enough to spread, 10 to 15 minutes.
  9. Place one of the un-iced pastry strips on a 15½ X 10½-inch cardboard rectangle. Using an offset spatula, spread with half of the filling. Top with the second strip and the remaining filling, pressing gently to even the filling layers. Top with the iced strip. Refrigerate until the filling is chilled and completely set, at least 1 hour and up to overnight.
  10. To serve, use a serrated knife to cut crosswise into 8 to 1O slices. Serve chilled.

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