Our October 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Suz of Serenely Full. Suz challenged us to not only tackle buttery and flaky puff pastry, but then take it step further and create a sinfully delicious Mille Feuille dessert with it!
Puff pastry has been on my list of things to try forever. I have always been intimidated by the process and although we have made laminated dough before when we made croissants but still, I felt puff pastry was a tad too complicated! So when this month’s challenge was announced I was really excited! it is time to give puff pastry a try!
I have to say it was much easier than what I thought it would be! Sure it is time consuming and it takes you a while to wrap your head around all the instructions and folds but when all is said and done you realize that puff pastry isn’t as complicated or demanding as you thought it would be. Thank you Suz!
This challenge was not only about making puff pastry from scratch, oh no! We were daring bakers after all and we had to face the challenge of turning our puff pastry into Mille feuille. Mille Feuille is a french pastry dessert. The name translates into a “thousand sheets” refering to the layers of the puff pastry.Traditionally, a mille-feuille is made up of three layers of puff pastry (pâte feuilletée), alternating with two layers of pastry cream (crème pâtissière), but sometimes whipped cream, or jam are substituted. The top pastry layer is dusted with confectioner’s sugar, and sometimes cocoa, or pulverized seeds (e.g. roasted almonds). Alternatively the top is glazed with icing or fondant in alternating white (icing) and brown (chocolate) stripes, and combed.
I chose to fill mine with pastry cream and dust it with confectioner’s sugar and all I have to say is that this way heavenly! Crisp, crunchy buttery layers of puff pastry that crackle when you bite into them. Alternated with a velvety smooth pastry cream. The perfect combination and contrast between crunch and silky smooth. Buttery and sweet. Beautiful and sinfully delicious.
Pâte feuilletée /Puff Pastry
Servings: Makes 8-10 mille-feuille
250g all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
50g melted unsalted butter (room temperature)
150g cold water
for the beurrage:
175g cold butter
Additional flour for rolling/turning
Place the flour and salt in a bowl or on your counter top
make a well in the center
Add the water and slowly start to incorporate flour from the rim till you will get a paste
Add the melted butter and continue incorporating the flour
Don’t over work the dough you just want to bring it together until the mixture starts to cohere and come away from the sides of the bowl or off your counter
Knead for three minutes on a floured surface until the dough is some what smooth.
Shape into a square and make a few cuts in the surface of the dough that do not go all the way through (this helps the dough relax in the fridge)
Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
While the dough is chilling, take the cold butter and place it between two sheets of cling film, and with a rolling pin shape it into a square about the size of your dough.
You can use a ruler (or similar) to neaten the edges.
Refrigerate the butter square for about 10-15 minutes so the butter firms up slightly. If it’s still soft, leave it a bit longer. If it’s too hard and inflexible, leave it out to soften a touch. You want it to be solid but still malleable.
Once the dough has chilled, roll it out on a floured surface into a square.
Start rolling out the corners of the square as you can see in the picture, making sure you leave the center thicker than the rolled corners.
Place the butter square in the center of your rolled dough
Use the rolled out dough to enclose the butter, folding one rolled part at a time.
The end result should resembles an envelope(make sure you seal up the edges with your fingers.)You’ll be left with a little square parcel.
Turn the dough parcel over and tap the length of it with your rolling pan to flatten it slightly.
Keeping the work surface well floured, roll the dough carefully into a rectangle ¼ inch /6 mm in thickness
With the shorter side facing you, fold the top third towards you, so it’s covering the middle section, and ensure that it is lined up .
Brush off the flour from the part you just folded.
Fold the lower third over the top third that you just folded, so you’re left with a narrow three-layered strip (see below).
You have now finished one turn (a turn consists of rolling out the dough into a rectangle then folding it into thirds the way you fold a business letter)
Turn the dough rectangle 90 degrees
Do one more turn by repeating the steps of rolling out the dough into a rectangle then folding it into thirds
Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Do 2 more turns
Wrap up in clingfilm and chill again for at least 30 minutes.
Do two final turns
Wrap up in clingfilm and refrigerate until needed. The dough keeps a couple of days in the fridge.
Pastry Cream / Crème Pâtissière:
1 and 1/4 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon corn flour/cornstarch
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Whisk the eggs and egg yolks
Add the cornstarch and the flour and whisk untill combined
Place the milk and sugar in a saucepan with the sugar, dissolving the sugar and bringing the milk to the boil. Remove from heat.
Add the hot milk little by little to the egg mixture while whisking (You want to slowly heat the egg mixture). Make sure you stir constantly to prevent the eggs from cooking.
Place the mixture back into the pan and cook over medium heat while whisking (don’t stop or it’ll solidify) till the mixture starts to thicken.
Continue to whisk till the mix bubbles
Remove the saucepan from the heat and thoroughly whisk the pastry cream. At this stage the pastry cream can look slightly lumpy, but a good whisking soon makes it smoother. (N.B. If you’re worried about the pastry cream continuing to cook off the heat, you can transfer it to a stainless steel/ceramic bowl.)
Add the vanilla and whisk until fully incorporated.
If you haven’t already, pour the pastry cream into a stainless steel or ceramic bowl, and then place clingfilm over the surface to stop a skin forming.
Refrigerate overnight to give the pastry cream time to further thicken. (you need the over night chilling for the cream to set completely, if you use it sooner it will be somewhat runny)
Mille-Feuille/ Napoleon/ Custard Slice
Servings: Makes 8- 10
1 x batch pâte feuilletée/puff pastry (see above)
1 x batch crème pâtissière/pastry cream (see above)
1. Preheat oven to moderately hot 200 °C /400°F/gas mark 6.
2. Lightly dust your work space with flour and remove your dough from the fridge.
3. Roll into a large rectangle, the thickness of cardboard.
4. Cut into three equal pieces and place on a baking tray. If you don’t have space for all three, you can bake them separately.
5. Prick the pastry sheets all over with a fork. 6. Place another sheet of greaseproof paper over the top and then a heavy baking tray. This will prevent the layers from puffing up too much.
7. Bake each sheet for about 25 minutes in a moderately hot oven 200 °C /400°F/gas mark 6, removing the top layer of greaseproof paper/tray 10 minutes before the end for the tops to brown. Keep an eye on them and lower the temperature if you think they’re browning too much.
8. Remove the baked sheets from the oven and leave on a wire rack to cool.
9. Once the pastry has cooled, you’re ready to assemble your mille-feuille. Get a sturdy flat board, your pastry and the chilled crème pâtissière from the fridge.
10.Cut the puff pastry sheets into rectangles to make individual Mille feuille.
11. Pipe the pastry cream on top of the first layer of puff pastry
12. You can add a layer of sliced fruit or cruched nuts before placing the second layer of puff pastry on top of the pastry cream and press gently to make sure the pastry adheres to the cream
13. Pipe another layer of pastry cream
14 top with the final layer of puff pastry
15. dust with powdered sugar
Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:
The puff pastry dough will keep in the fridge for up to two days. Any leftovers can be well wrapped up & frozen for a year. Thaw for 30 minutes on the counter or overnight in the fridge.
The completed mille-feuille can be made a day or two in advance; it will last 2 or 3 days in an airtight container in the fridge, though will become less crisp.
The puff pastry recipe requires you to chill your dough after every two turns, but if your kitchen’s a bit warm or you think the butter might be melting, you can chill it after each turn.