Saturday, November 7, 2009
Chocolate Mille Feuille (Napoleon)
I actually baked the other night. With all that's been going on, I've not been in the kitchen much. Basic nourishment for the boys, some rice for me... But, we had company and they are close friends of Jonas and it seemed right that we be festive. So, with a crowd pleasing lasagna for the main course, I prepared a mille feuille for dessert. Truly, a very simple pastry to prepare, and always a hit.
I tried it this time with chocolate, something I'd not done before, and yes, it worked quite nicely.
In France it is easy to find good quality puff pastry (pâte feuilletée) in the refrigerator section of any grocery store. When in the US I go to the freezer section and get the frozen sheets of puff pastry from Pepperidge Farm which need to be defrosted in a fridge overnight before using. Thus, when preparing this dessert, it is round in France, and square in the US.
Ingredients for 8-10 portions
3 sheets of puff pastry (this will be 2 boxes of Pepperidge Farm flaky pastry dough found in the freezer section, or 3 sheets from your favorite specialty bakery store)
For the cream:
1 liter/1 quart whole milk
4 egg yolks and 2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour or corn starch
100 grams/5 oz 60% dessert chocolate chopped in small pieces
Heat the milk in a heavy bottomed sauce pan with the chocolate, whisking gently for the chocolate to melt. While the milk heats, blend your egg yolks and egg, sugar and flour till light yellow in a mixing bowl. When your milk is hot, pour a third of it slowly into the egg mixture whisking all the while. Then pour the mixture back into the sauce pan and whisk steadily till it starts to bubble and thicken. The flour (or corn starch) prevents the eggs from curdling too quickly.
When thickened and just bubbling pour/scrape the cream out onto a lined cookie sheet and place in the refrigerator to chill. (trick from my pastry man)
Lay your flaky pastry sheets out on baking pans, poke holes with a fork throughout to prevent them from puffing in the oven and bake at 400F / 200C till nicely brown. (15-25 minutes). It is important to let them get really brown. Just take a look at any pastry shop's mille feuille, they aren't scared to cook the pastry. It gives more flavor and texture this way. Remove the sheets from the oven and let cool.
To put it together, place one pastry sheet on your cake plate, spread half the cream, then lay the next sheet, spread the rest of the cream, then the final sheet. You can finish off the mille feuille with powdered sugar or a glaze of powdered sugar and lemon juice and/or Grand Marnier, or sprinkle fresh berries, or chocolate drippings à la Jackson Pollock… as the mood takes you. Chill till ready to serve. This time I improvised a home-made chocolate glaze with a very concentrated simple syrup of water and sugar and melted chocolate. The measurements were completely hokey -- 1/2 cup water to start with, 5 oz of chocolate, and I believe 2 cups of sugar... then gently cooked till the texture looked right, cooled a bit and poured on top.