Recipe 9 of 61: Mille-Feuille/Napoléon

Mille-Feuille means a thousand leaves, which describes the many layers of flaky dough in this beautiful pastry. Doesn’t it just sound crispy and amazing? It’s made of layers of puff pastry with pastry cream between each layer, and sometimes fruit is added. If you’ve ever watched The Great British Baking Show, you would have heard every single person say “Oh, never make your own puff pastry. Just buy it.” That’s because store bought takes TWO LESS DAYS to make lol! But does it tastes just as good? Well, let’s find out!

Mille-feuille is easy and quick…if you buy frozen puff pastry…but that’s not how this recipe OR Jacquy works 🙂 Instead, the ingredients are rolled out into a rectangle, folded like a letter/book with lots of butter on the inside, rested in the fridge, folded again, rested again, folded again, rested again, folded again, rested again, folded again, rested again, folded again, rested again, folded again, and then rested again…over 2 days. And that is how you get all the layers. It’s actually easy to make but is definitely time consuming.

I was a little nervous about making this because it contains Jacquy’s pastry cream…and a lot of it. I haven’t had much luck with his recipe, and I was worried about ruining a gorgeous pastry with subpar pastry cream. Well, continue reading and see how it all turned out!


Mille-Feuille/Napoléon

Difficulty: 1/5. The only thing really difficult to this recipe is the time it takes

Taste: 5/5

Time it took me: 2 days. You have to be available every couple of hours as well as sometimes every half hour during the day. You are able to rest it overnight completely, thank God, so no waking up in the middle of the night lol


Making the détrempe

On Day 1, it’s time to make détrempe, which is the dough base. I’m learning all sorts of new words 🙂 From what I’ve heard, you say it like “de-trompfh”.

Puff pastry is made by hand, like pasta! It starts out with flour and salt that is made into a “volcano”. White vinegar and cold water are added to it inside the volcano along with a portion of the butter used in the recipe, then you make a “claw” with your hand, and slowly with a clockwise circular motion, start mixing the liquids/butter with the flour, carefully making sure none of the liquid seeps out. Once that’s mixed well, it’s shaped into a ball without kneading. This recipe must be done without kneading the dough (thus the circular motions instead) because that will over-activate the gluten, which will result in rubbery dough that shrinks in the oven…womp womp… Once in a ball, a 3/4-inch-deep cross is cut across the top, then in the fridge it goes. One hour.

If you noticed, I decided to switch up my usual watching of Harry Potter while I bake to Lord of the Rings 🙂

Wrapping the butter block and laminating the dough

The type of butter you use is crucial for puff pastry. It has to be butter with a fat content of 82 percent because it has less water in it. When you find inexpensive butter at the grocery store, it’s because it’s loaded with water. The extra water in the butter creates too much steam during the baking process which will make the dough rise a lot, but more water in the butter also means fewer solids, and your puff will eventually collapse.

First, cold butter is flattened into a book shape then placed into the fridge until the dough’s time is up.

At that point, the first fold of dough is made. Taken directly from the fridge, the dough is rolled out 18 inches x 7 1/2. You can see the butter is still bendable, but it’s not so cold that it’s cracking. The butter is placed on one side, then the dough is folded over it. Then the first turn happens. The dough is rolled out again 18 inches x 7 1/2, then folded like a book! It is then refrigerated for 30 minutes.

The reason why puff pastry takes so long is the alternating layers of butter and dough. There are so many folds, turns, rests, then rolling the dough out again and doing it all over to get more layers. When it’s done, it looks like the pages of a book, with more than 2,000 thinly and evenly rolled-out sheets. Isn’t that insane?! I’m so excited. I’ve made croissants and baklava before, and this sounds even cooler!

On Day 1, three more turns are made, with 1-2 hours after the second turn, then 30 minutes for the third and fourth. It is then rested overnight. See what I mean about needing to be available all day?

On Day 2, there are two more book folds and resting periods.

During the resting period, pastry cream is made. Once the pastry cream is ready, it’s whipped in a mixer for a minute before softened butter is added to make mousseline.

Yummy! Now, I was SO excited when I took the mousseline out of the fridge and it was stiff! For once, it had finally turned out! I put it in the mixer on high for a minute, and it became very soft again…womp womp…; however, the taste was phenomenal. Tim said he could eat a bowl of it by himself! I didn’t feel like putting it back in the fridge because I was impatient…although I’m sure that would have helped it pipe a lot easier. I just wanted to assemble the mille-feuille so I could eat it 🙂

The pastry is taken from the fridge and rolled out, then cut into quarters. This below, THIS BELOW makes everything worth it. Look at those layers!!! And now you see why it’s called mille-feuille, or, a thousand leaves.

Baking and Assembling

After the dough has been cut into quarters, you can take some of the quarters of dough and freeze them, if you don’t plan on using it all. It was such a good feeling to have a couple extra in the freezer for future use. At this point, one of our sweeties came in and said hello ♥︎

Jacquy suggests putting a baking rack on top of the pastry while baking…which I did. I purchased the exact baking rack he suggested; however, to me, I felt like the pastry in mille-feuille should have been thinner than what he suggested-mine actually came out the shape of the baking rack…

Yup, just like a book haha! If I had used a rack that didn’t have the middle line in it, the puff pastry wouldn’t have turned out so puffy in some areas and barely at all in others. Also, I rolled it out to the measurement he said, but the rack was too small, which is why there are holes in each corner from where the rack rested on the dough…oh well. I trudged on.

The baked puff pastry is dusted with powdered sugar, then placed under the broiler, carefully watched, until the top caramelizes. Mine caramelized too quickly in a few spots and burned, while another spot still had powdered sugar. Oh well. It definitely added to the flavor and was delicious.

Jacquy has specific measurements to cut the pastry to; however, mine turned out so bad, I really couldn’t follow it very well. I didn’t give up though because I wasn’t about to waste that puff pastry!

If I hadn’t used that baking rack, the layers would have been the same size! But…this is how you learn, right? 🙂

Mousseline is then piped into balls onto the first rectangle, then the second strip of pastry is placed on top. Each step is repeated again, until the last pastry piece is placed with the caramelized part facing up.

That last picture is of the back lol, you can really see the consistency of the pastry cream…I added raspberries to mine because I felt like it would need a kick of tartness. I was right. The puff pastry tastes like slightly thick pie crust. Add the pastry cream to it, which is also sweet, and you’ve got a sugar headache. But add the raspberries, and you can eat the entire thing in one go, like we did.

I didn’t really know how to eat it with it being so tall, so I just kind of smashed it down. It tastes the same no matter what it looks like 🙂 Also, the photo below definitely proves how flaky the puff pastry is!

Mille-Feuille is extraordinarily easy to put together, so it could be put together quickly before serving. Once it’s made, it starts to get soggy after 3-4 hours, but with how delicious it is, it definitely won’t last that long 🙂

So…..would I make this again? Yes, but not with homemade puff pastry. While it definitely tasted good, and I love knowing it was made with high-quality ingredients, puff pastry isn’t something I’ll be making again, besides for the other couple recipes that call for it in this book. The only way I’d use homemade again would be if I made a huge batch to make it worth my time…the problem is that it only lasts one month in the freezer. I’d have to have a bunch of recipes planned to use it. Lucky for us, chicken pot pie was on the menu, so nothing was wasted this time.

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