Mille Feuille (1,000 leaves/layers) is still my favorite pastry. Specifically Mr. Pierre Herme's version filled with chocolate and praliné. Oh wow, I need to go get one of those soon.
I had dinner with a friend a few weeks ago at my apartment. She made delicious Korean BBQ ribs and I made the classic version of a vanilla mille feuille. The key to having a good mille feuille is to show off the two contrasting textures - crispy puff pastry with light and creamy vanilla cremé.
Want to give it a go? I think you should! It is a perfect surprise for Thanksgiving or Christmas! The best part is that you can make the pastry dough a day or two in advance. Just freeze the dough until its ready to be baked! OR if you really are pressed for time or simply don't want to attempt this somewhat daunting recipe - go ahead and buy frozen puff pastry from the market. Lets be honest, sometimes there is just NO time.
Pate Feuilletage Inverse (Puff Pastry dough)
Oven: 450F or 230C
In your mixer, combine butter and flour until smooth and homogenous. Form this into a cube and wrap with plastic. Refrigerate until ready to use.
140g Water (approx.)
In your mixer, combine all ingredients to create a firm detrempe (read:dough). This is a
Press together the ends of the butter to close everything up. Place the dough with the longest seam to your left, as if it is a book (an upside down one). Roll the dough out to about 10 cm x 35 cm long. Now you will give the dough its first "turn". Visually divide the dough into thirds. Fold the top third down and fold the bottom third up. It will end up looking like this.
Repeat this three more times to total four turns keeping the long seam to the left. Remember, if the dough gets too warm and starts sticking to your table wrap it and refrigerate it until firm again (15 mins-30 mins).
PHEW! The hard part is over. Now let your dough rest in the refrigerator for an hour or so. When you are ready, roll out the dough to the size of a baking sheet (normally 40cmx60cm). This size will give you enough servings for about 12-13 people. The thickness should be about 1 cm and it should be even in thickness all the way through. After you have rolled it out, let the dough rest in the fridge again for an hour because it is elastic and will retract a little. (This is when you would want to freeze the dough if you want!!)
Bake at about 190C/375F until golden brown and crispy. (If you can manage, flip the pastry half way through - probably about 30 minutes).
Now, pastry cream.
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
80g corn starch
220g egg yolks (about 6)
50g butter, unsalted, cut into pieces
In a medium saucepan, bring the milk, cream and vanilla to a boil. In another bowl mix the sugar, starch and egg yolks together. When the milk boils, pour half of the milk onto the egg mixture and mix immediately.
Put the milk back on the heat and add the egg mixture into the pot. Put on medium heat and mix constantly until the cream is thick and reaches a boil for 1 minute. Always mix! You don't want to burn the bottom of the cream :)
Scoop out onto a tray covered in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold. You can also put it in the freezer for about 5-10 minutes to cool it faster and then store in the fridge.
Now, combine the cooled pastry cream with about 25% whipped cream.
Cut the puff pastry into three even sections lengthwise. Fill a pastry bag with the cream and pipe the cream on top of the first layer of puff pastry. Spread the cream with a spatula so it is evenly distributed and without holes. Place second layer of puff pastry on top. Repeat the layer of cream and top off with another layer of puff pastry. Top with a sprinkle of icing sugar or anything else you would like! In this photo I used the extra bits of puff pastry and crunched them up into small pieces to put all around the outside. Just cover the sides with left over cream and then press the crunchy bits into it.
VOILA! Phew, now go have a drink!