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Napoléons Recipe & Video

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A Napoléon, or Mille-Feuille, is a classic French Pastry. It consists of three layers of buttery crisp puff pastry alternating with two layers of Mousseline Cream (a delicious mixture of pastry cream and butter). The finishing touch is a liberal dusting of powdered sugar. 

Napoléons are made with puff pastry. This recipe is for the type of Napoléon that you would find at a French Bakery. Normally when you bake puff pastry it does "puff" up. But for this recipe we want the puff pastry to be golden brown and fairly flat, with a flaky and crisp texture (like a cookie). To achieve this result we have to "weigh down" the puff pastry as it bakes. This is done by putting two baking sheets on top of the puff before you place it in the oven. Now, you could use a commercial puff pastry for this recipe, but my preference is to use homemade Blitz Puff Pastry. What I like about this recipe is that you can make the puff pastry ahead of time and freeze it, and then when you need it, simply defrost it in the refrigerator overnight.

Homemade Napoleons are often filled with just pastry cream, but for this recipe we are using a Mousseline. As I said above, Mousselline is a mixture of pastry cream and butter. The butter is beaten into the pastry cream to make it richer tasting and firmer in texture so it can be piped. The important thing when making Mousseline is to have the pastry cream and butter at the correct temperature (70 degree F) (21 degree C). If either the pastry cream or butter is too cold, the Mousseline may curdle. But if this happens, don't worry, it can be fixed. Fill a larger bowl with hot water and place your mixing bowl with the pastry cream and butter, for a couple of minutes to warm it up, and then simply beat until smooth.

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Napoléons: On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a square slightly larger than 10 inches (25 cm). Then, with a sharp knife or pizza wheel #ad, trim the four edges of the puff pastry to make a 10 inch (25 cm) square. (See video for demonstration.) Place the puff pastry on a parchment lined baking sheet. Using a dough dorker #ad or the tines of a fork, prick the puff pastry. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill until firm (one to two hours).

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

Take the puff pastry from the refrigerator. Place a sheet of parchment paper on top the pastry. Then place two baking sheets on top of the parchment paper to 'weigh' the pastry down (this will prevent the puff pastry from rising during baking). Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown all the way through. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack. Remove the two baking sheets and parchment paper and let the puff pastry cool to room temperature.

Pastry Cream: In a medium-sized heatproof bowl, whisk 1/2 the sugar (25 grams) with the cornstarch. Whisk in the egg yolks until you get a smooth paste.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the milk, remaining sugar (25 grams), and salt just to boiling (until the milk just starts to foam up.) Remove from heat and slowly add to the egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. (If you get a few pieces of egg (curdling) in the mixture, pour through a strainer.) Pour the egg mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, reduce heat slightly, and continue to whisk mixture constantly for another two minutes until it becomes thick. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla extract. Pour into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a skin "crust" from forming. Cool to room temperature. If not using right away, refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days. 

Mousseline Cream: Have the pastry cream and butter at 70 degrees F (21 degrees C). Then put the pastry cream in the bowl of your electric stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment (can also use a hand mixer). Beat on medium high speed until nice and smooth. Add the butter and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy and very smooth (about 2 - 3 minutes). Place the Mousselline in a pastry bag, fitted with a 1/2 inch (1 cm) plain tip (I used an Ateco #804).

Assemble: Trim the edges of the puff pastry into a 9 inch (23 cm) square, using a serrated knife. Then cut the puff into 3 - 3 inch (7.5 cm) strips and cut each strip into 6 equal pieces (you will have 18 small rectangles). Place 12 of the puff pastry rectangles on a small baking sheet. Pipe mounds of the Mousseline on the 12 rectangles of puff pastry. (See video for demonstration.) Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator until the Mousseline is firm (about 15 to 30 minutes).

To assemble the Napoléons: Take one rectangle of puff with the Mouselline and top with a second rectangle of puff topped with Mousselline. Gently press. Finish with a rectangle of puff (so you have three layers of puff pastry and two layers of Mousselline). Repeat to make 6 Napoléons. If not serving right away, refrigerate. Just before serving, dust the tops of the Napoléons generously with powdered sugar.

The assembled Napoléons are best consumed within 24 hours.

Makes Six - 3 x 1 1/2 inch (7.5 x 3.75 cm) Napoléons.

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9 ounces (250 grams) puff pastry (preferably homemade Blitz Puff Pastry, but can use store bought)

Pastry Cream:

1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar, divided

2 tablespoons (15 grams) cornstarch

3 large (51 grams) egg yolks, at room temperature

1 cup (240 ml/grams) whole (full fat) milk

pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

Mousseline Cream:

Pastry Cream, at room temperature (70 F) (21 C) (See Above)

6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature (70 F) (21 C) (preferably European style)

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