Chocolate Mille-Feuilles

Substituting cocoa powder for a little of the flour in puff pastry will produce crisp chocolate mille-feuilles. The flavour, though distinct, is delicate, so avoid cluttering the dish with colourful fruit; even the usually compatible orange or cherries will upstage the pastry. A few toasted almond flakes or hazelnuts would be all right but best of all is to explore a chocolate theme throughout and serve the pastry, still warm, with cocoa pastry cream filling and a few shavings of dark chocolate for decoration.

If you have made puff pastry before, this variation is simple. If you have not, then remember to rest the pastry well every time you roll it.

This pastry recipe makes more than you need to serve four – unless you are very hungry – but it freezes beautifully. Divide the pastry in half and use one part only for the mille-feuilles.

Ingredients

Puff pastry

  • 1 lb (450 g) strong flour
  • oz (40 g) cocoa powder
  • 1 oz (25 g) icing sugar
  • 1 lb (450 g) unsalted butter
  • a pinch of salt

Pastry cream

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 oz (100 g) caster sugar
  • 1 oz (25 g) cocoa powder
  • 2 oz (50 g) plain flour
  • 1 pint (600 ml) milk

To Complete

  • 4 fl oz (120 ml) double cream
  • 4 oz (100 g) dark chocolate

Method

The Puff Pastry

  1. Sieve the flour, cocoa powder and icing sugar together. Melt 2 oz (50 g) of the butter, and add this, 8 fl oz (250 ml) water and a pinch of salt to the flour. Knead this into a smooth, firm paste and rest it in the fridge for half an hour.
  2. Roll out the paste into a square about 3/4 in (2 cm) thick. Flatten the remaining butter – I do this by sandwiching the butter between its own wrapping papers, and then flattening it with a rolling pin. Place the flattened butter in the centre of the paste and fold the edges of the square over so it is completely covered.
  3. Roll the paste into a long rectangle 3/4 in (2 cm) thick, and then fold the two ends to meet at the centre. Again fold the two ends to meet in the middle. Leave this to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  4. This rolling and folding process is known as a double turn. You will need to repeat this three times, giving four double turns in total. Take care to rest the pastry well between each.
  5. Divide in two, and store one-half in the fridge (or freezer) for another day. Roll out the pastry as thinly as possible. Put the pastry on to a baking tray and prick the surface all over with a fork. Rest this in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  6. Bake in a hot oven, preheated to 400°F (200°C) Gas 6, for 10 minutes until crisp. Cut the pastry into 2½ in (6 cm) squares. You are going to build them into mille-feuilles so they should be exactly the same size and shape.

The Pastry Cream

  • Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until they are white. Stir in the cocoa powder and flour. Bring the milk to the boil and whisk on to the other ingredients. Strain back into the saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring. Pour into a bowl to cool. If you sprinkle a little sugar over the surface, no skin will form.

To Complete

  • Whisk the cream and fold it into the chocolate custard. Put a tablespoonful of this on to a puff pastry square and top with another square. In this way build up each of the mille-feuilles so that there are four layers of chocolate puff pastry sandwiching the pastry cream. Grate some dark chocolate to decorate the plate.
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