Mille feuille is a classic pastry, and very popular in confectionery shops in Brazil. Brazilians are fond of their confections and confectionery shops are very popular. They are wonderfully decadent, usually “sit down” eateries with glassed counters containing all sorts of fancy pastries and delicate sweets. And mille feuille, (or as we call it in Portuguese, mil folhas) was one of my absolute favorites growing up.
Because most people don’t know how to pronounce mille feuille, they are also commonly called napoleons. Mille feuille just means “a thousand leaves, or layers”. But whatever you call them, they are so beautiful to look at and so fragile to consume I was too intimidated to make them. Then recently I got a hankering for one, which led me to online research, and eventually, to a test run for Steve and Pops.
My test run was last weekend. Not only did it taste JUST like the ones I would get in Brazil, but Steve and Pops were in love. And it was not at all hard to make! Just a few steps and a little time commitment, and anyone can make this gorgeous French pastry, and end up looking like a pro. So, don’t let the length of the recipe scare you off. I wanted to describe every step to make it as easy as possible for you.
Admittedly, I cannot claim my mille feuille is as beautiful and delicate as one made by an experienced French pastry chef. But I’ll tell you what, it is more than good enough to impress.
how to make mille feuille
The chilled pastry cream I made a few hours before. It needs time to cool so you want to make it ahead of time. You can even make it the night before. To make pastry cream, see my Triple Berry Tart recipe. BTW, I place plastic wrap on the cream right after taking it out of the pan. It helps prevent a dry film from forming over the top.
Start with the pastry.
Preheat the oven to 400° F.
Unfold one defrosted puff pastry sheet and cut into three equal lengths. Place the cut lengths onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. If your baking sheet is large enough, you can bake both puff pastry sheets at one time. Since my baking sheets are not large enough, I baked them one sheet at a time.
The goals is to get these guys really golden brown and flaky without allowing them to puff up.
So, first, you dock them, which simply means making a bunch of little holes with the tine of a fork.
Then you dust them by randomly sprinkling pinches of granulated sugar on top.
Cover them with another length of parchment paper.
And place another baking sheet on top so that the bottom of the top baking sheet makes contact with the puff pastry and the parchment paper that covers it.
Bake for 15 minutes.
Then remove the top baking sheet and parchment paper and bake for another 8 minutes.
Take them out and flip them over. Although starting to turn golden, they are not nearly crispy enough. Put them back in for another 8 minutes.
Take them out and place on a cooling rack. See how dark golden they are? That’s the color you want.
ALLOW THEM TO COOL COMPLETELY! Be patient. If they are still even a little warm, your pastry cream and icing will be a mess. Let them come to room temperature before attempting to assemble the mille feuille.
Once the puff pastry sections have cooled, mix the icing by whisking all the ingredients except the powdered unsweetened cocoa. Add the milk a bit at a time so that you get a nice, thick spreadable icing that is not too runny.
Take about 1/4 of the prepared icing and the cocoa and whisk together in another bowl. This will be your color and flavor accent for the beautiful design that goes on top of the mille feuille.
Spread 1/4 of the pastry cream over one section, top with another section, and spread another 1/4 of the pastry cream on that one. Top that one with a third section.
Try not to let the pastry cream run down the sides but spread right to the edge of the puff pastry.
Then spread about 1/2 of the white icing over the top, covering the entire top layer of pastry.
Draw some lines at about 1-inch intervals by piping the chocolate icing out of a small cut in a plastic bag.
Pull a toothpick down the length of the pastry, dragging the lines of the chocolate into the white icing, creating an intricate pattern.
For this one, I pulled the toothpick in the same direction 3 times. For the second assembly, I alternated the lines in different directions to create a more intricate pattern that you can see on the plated portion.
Serve, or chill until ready to serve. Keep in mind that the moisture from the cream will eventually seep into the fall-apart flakiness of the puff pastry if you wait too long to serve. But it should keep for a few hours.
When ready to serve, cut with a sharp knife or pizza chopper using downward only movement. Do not saw back and forth or you will dislodge the layers of pastry on the soft pastry cream.
Look at that thing of beauty! I am thrilled that I overcame my fears and made the effort to learn how to create this spectacular dessert. Because it tastes 10 times better than it looks!
If you have never had mille feuille, you are missing out. And once you taste it and fall in love, don’t be afraid to make your own at home! You saw my steps. There is no perfection to my technique. But the taste is pretty darn perfect, and at the end of the day, that’s what really matters!
- FOR THE PASTRY CREAM
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
- 3 egg yolks
- 1⅓ cups milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- FOR THE PUFF PASTRY
- 1 17.3-ounce package of puff pastry sheets (2 sheets), thawed
- granulated sugar for dusting
- FOR THE ICING
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons corn syrup
- 2 tablespoons, or as needed, milk
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- FOR THE PASTRY CREAM
- Prepare the pastry cream a few hours or a day in advance.
- Mix the corn starch, flour, egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of an upright mixer.
- Mix until pale yellow in color, scraping the sides frequently. Set aside.
- Heat the milk and vanilla on medium just until it simmers. Then remove from heat.
- Temper half of the heated milk into the mixer bowl, whisking as the milk is added.
- Continue whisking to fully incorporate.
- Add the egg and milk mixture back into the pan with the remaining milk.
- Return to the flame and cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens and bubbles. Continue cooking for 1-2 minutes more.
- Pour into a clean bowl, immediately cover the top with a sheet of plastic wrap directly in contact with the hot cream. This will prevent a hardened film from forming on top as the cream cools.
- Allow to come to room temperature. Then refrigerate for at least an hour.
- FOR THE PUFF PASTRY
- Preheat the oven to 400° F.
- Unfold one defrosted puff pastry sheet and cut into three equal lengths. Place the cut lengths onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. If your baking sheet is large enough, you can bake both puff pastry sheets at one time, for a total of 6 cut sections. Otherwise, bake them three at a time.
- Dock the pastry sections by piercing repeatedly with the tines of a fork. Make sure entire surface is docked.
- Then sprinkle lightly with pinches of granulated sugar.
- Place another length of parchment paper on top and weigh the pastry sections down by placing a second baking sheet upright over the parchment paper.
- Bake for 15 minutes, the remove top baking sheet and parchment paper.
- Return to oven and bake for 8 minutes, then remove and flip the pastry sections over. Bake for another 8 minutes until dark golden brown.
- Place on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
- FOR THE ICING
- Once the puff pastry is at room temperature, mix the icing by whisking all the ingredients except the powdered unsweetened cocoa. Add the milk a bit at a time to achieve a nice, thick spreadable icing that is not too runny.
- Take about ¼ of the prepared icing and the cocoa and whisk together in another bowl. This will be the color and flavor accent for the design that goes on top of the mille feuille.
- FOR THE ASSEMBLY
- Spread ¼ of the pastry cream over one section of puff pastry, top with another section, and spread another ¼ of the pastry cream on that one. Top that one with a third section.
- Try not to let the pastry cream run down the sides but spread right to the edge of the puff pastry.
- Then spread about ½ of the white icing over the top, covering the entire sheet.
- Draw some lines at about 1-inch intervals by piping the chocolate icing out of a small cut in a plastic bag.
- Pull a toothpick 3 times, about 1 inch apart, down the length of the pastry, dragging the lines of the chocolate into the white icing, creating an intricate pattern. Pull toothpick in one direction only or alternate the pulling of the toothpick in the opposite direction for a more intricate design pattern.
- Serve, or chill for until ready to serve.
- Cut individual portions with a sharp knife or pizza chopper using downward only movement. Do not saw back and forth or you will dislodge the layers of pastry on the soft pastry cream.