Saturday, October 27, 2012

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Mille-Feuille (Napoleons)

Our October 2012 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Suz of Serenely Full.  Suz challenged us to not only tackle buttery and flaky pastry, but then to take it a step further and create a sinfully delicious Mille Feuille dessert with it!

Mille-Feuille is french for a "thousand layers" referring to the layers of puff pastry in this delicate dessert.  The three layers of pastry are alternated with creme patissiere or pastry cream.  The Italians (and most Americans) call this pastry a Napoleon. 

The puff pastry is fairly easy to make without butter, by substituting it with Earth Balance butter substitute.  Be sure to use the sticks and not the whipped version.  Otherwise, the only other change to the original recipe was to reduce the salt because Earth Balance has a lot of salt already.  I did cut the recipe in half so that this made only four servings. (Plenty for me and Mr. RK)

The pastry cream was the real challenge because of all the eggs.  Rather than spend days and expensive ingredients experimenting with the recipe offered, I went to the web and adapted a vegan recipe from Innocent Primate Vegan Blog  I added melted chocolate and instant coffee to create a mocha creme, that was excellent.  

I decorated the tops with some powdered sugar, a piped swirl of melted chocolate chips and some halved chocolate covered coffee beans.

Mille-Feuille takes a full day to make, but it's worth it!

Mille-Feuille (Napoleons)
Serves 4 - Use organic ingredients whenever possible

For the Pastry Creme:
1/2 cup + 4 tablespoons full fat canned coconut milk
1 1/2 tablespoons agar flakes
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup chopped semisweet baking chocolate
2 tablespoons instant coffee granules (I use Mt Hagan organic)
1 stick (8 tablespoons) Earth Balance butter substitute at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt

Mix 1/2 cup coconut  milk with the agar flakes and let it stand for 10 minutes.
Bring the coconut milk and agar to a boil and cook on low for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Mix 2 tablespoons of the remaining coconut milk with the cornstarch.
Whisk the cornstarch mixture into the coconut milk mixture.
Dissolve the coffee granules with the last two tablespoons of coconut milk.
Whisk this mixture into the coconut milk and starch.
Add the chopped chocolate and whisk until it's melted.
Continue to cook everything until it's thick.
Remove this "goop" from the heat and let it cool.
In a food processor, combine the Earth Balance, sugar, vanilla, salt and mocha "goop"
Process until everything is combined and smooth.
Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

For the Puff Pastry:
7 tablespoons Earth Balance sticks
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons unbleached flour
2 tablespoons cold Earth Balance 
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon ice cold water
pinch of salt
1 3/4 tablespoons unbleached white flour

1. Cut the larger quantity of butter into smallish pieces and set aside at room temperature.

2. Put the larger quantity of flour into a bowl with the salt and the cold, cubed butter.

3. Lightly rub the butter and flour between your fingertips until it forms a mealy breadcrumb texture.

4. Add the cold water and bring together with a fork or spoon until the mixture starts to cohere and come away from the sides of the bowl.

5. As the dough begins to come together, you can use your hands to start kneading and incorporating all the remaining loose bits. If the dough’s a little dry, you can add a drop of water.

6. Knead for three minutes on a floured surface until the dough is smooth.

7. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

8. While the dough is chilling, take your room temperature butter and mix with the smaller amount of plain flour until it forms a paste.

9. Place the butter paste between two sheets of clingfilm, and with your hands, shape it into a 4.5" square. You can use a ruler (or similar) to neaten the edges.

10. Refrigerate for about 10-15 minutes so the butter firms up slightly. 

11. Once the dough has chilled, roll it out on a floured surface into a 6” square. Place the square of butter in the middle, with each corner touching the centre of the square’s sides.

12. Fold each corner of dough over the butter so they meet the centre (you might have to stretch them a little) and it resembles an envelope, and seal up the edges with your fingers. You’ll be left with a little square parcel.

13. Turn the dough parcel over and tap the length of it with your rolling pan to flatten it slightly.

14. Keeping the work surface well floured, roll the dough carefully into a rectangle ¼ inch  in thickness.

15. With the longest side facing you, fold one third (on the right) inwards, so it’s covering the middle section, and ensure that it is lined up.

16. Then, fold the remaining flap of dough (on the left) inwards, so you’re left with a narrow three-layered strip.

17. Repeat steps 14, 15, 16.

18. Wrap up in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes.

19. Repeat steps 14, 15, 16 twice.

20. Wrap up in clingfilm and chill again for at least 30 minutes.

21. Repeat steps 14, 15, 16 two final times.

22. Wrap up in clingfilm and refrigerate until needed. The dough keeps a couple of days in the fridge.

To put it all together:

1. Preheat oven to moderately hot 200 °C /400°F/gas mark 6.
2. Remove your dough from the fridge.
3. Roll into a large rectangle, the thickness of cardboard, to about 6" by 9" on parchment paper.
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 parchment paper over the top and then a heavy baking tray. This will prevent the layers from puffing up too much.
(I found my baking tray wasn't heavy enough, so also used a pyrex dish to add more weight. Just ensure that the pastry sheets are evenly weighted down.)
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 parchment 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.Spread half of the pastry creme on one piece of pastry. 

10. Take the second sheet and place it on top, pressing down lightly with your hands to ensure that it sticks to the filling.

11. Spread the remaining crème pâtissière and place the last sheet of pastry on top, pressing down again.

12. Cut into four equal pieces, cleaning and drying your knife between each cut.  Trim the outside edges to make them even.

13. Dust the tops with powdered sugar.

14. Decorate as desired.


  1. I cannot find canned coconut milk in the grocery store. Anyone have any suggestions where I might find it without having to pay shipping costs? Want to make this recipe! Looks gret!

  2. AndreaW-Try the website They have several canned organic coconut milks. They also have excellent prices on body care items. If you order $49.00 it's free shipping.