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Mille Feuille

Servings: 8
Mille Feuille
Pronounced: [meel-FWEE]

French for "a thousand leaves," this classic dessert is made with two large oblong pieces of crisp puff pastry spread with pastry cream, whipped cream, custard, jam or fruit puree. The pastries are stacked and topped with another pastry layer, which is generally dusted with confectioners' sugar. A serrated knife is used to cut the dessert into individual servings. Savory mille feuille can be filled with cheese and served as an appetizer. Mille Feuille are usually called "napoleons" in the United States. The origin of this pastry is unknown, but are most likely called "french" pastries at most bakeries and restaurants.

Puff Pastry:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups (3 1/2 sticks/14 oz./400g) cold unsalted butter
2/3 to 1 cup ice water
1 tsp. lemon juice
Flour, for rolling dough

Pastry Cream:
5 egg yolks
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 vanilla bean, split in half and scraped
Pinch of salt

Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Garnish: (optional)
Whipped cream
Mint sprigs

For the Puff Pastry:
1. Combine the flour, salt and 1/3 cup of the butter in a large bowl. Work flour with hands, breaking up butter into pieces until mixture resembles coarse meal. Make a well in the center and pour in the 2/3 cup ice water and the lemon juice. With a fork, gradually bring the flour into the well and mix until incorporated. If dough seems too dry, add the remaining water.
2. Knead very gently to make a semi smooth dough. Pat the dough into a flat 1-inch thick disc. With a knife mark an “X” across the entire width of the dough. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
3. In a stand mixer fitted, with the paddle attachment, add the remaining butter and beat until softened, about 2 minutes. With your hands, form the butter into a square that is about 1/3 smaller than the dough. Wrap butter in plastic. Refrigerate. Chill until firm.
4. Remove the dough and butter from the refrigerator. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Roll the corners of the dough out to about 1/4-inch thick forming a large X shape leaving the center of the dough unrolled. Place square of the butter in the middle of the X. Pull the rolled out corners up over the butter to completely encase the butter in dough.
5. Roll the dough into a 10 x 20-inch rectangle. Roll dough to evenly. Rotate the dough so it is horizontal to you. Do one envelop fold or one half turn. That is, fold the right side into the center then fold the left side to the center. Now fold dough in half. This is a completed full turn. Wrap dough in plastic. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
6. Repeat the full turn, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 2 hours. Do one more full turn and refrigerate for 2 hours. Now the dough is ready to use.

For the Pastry Cream:
1. In a medium bowl, stir together 1/3 cup milk with flour, salt and whisk until smooth. Add the yolks and 3 tbsp. sugar and whisk vigorously until mixture is smooth and pale lemon in colour.
2. In a heavy bottom saucepan, heat remaining milk with the remaining 3 tbsp. sugar and vanilla scraping over medium heat. Heat until milk just comes to a boil. While stirring the yolk mixture, slowly pour 1/4 of the hot milk into the yolk mixture. This will temper the egg yolks so they don’t start to scramble. Immediately pour yolk mixture into hot milk in the saucepan. Whisk over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Remove from heat immediately. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent skin from forming. Cool completely.

To Assemble:
1. Cut 1/3 off pastry square. Freeze remaining pastry or save for another use. Roll puff pastry to a very thin rectangle measuring 12 x 16-inches.
2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F/220 degrees C.
3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with water. Lay dough on top and poke with fork all over to prevent over rising. Chill 15 minutes.
4. Bake until golden brown and very crisp. Cool completely on rack.
5. Trim pastry so edges of rectangle are straight and even in shape. Divide the rectangle into 3 even strips, each about 4-inches wide.
6. Evenly divide cooled pastry cream onto two strips of puff pastry. Spread evenly. Lay one strip, covered with cream on top of first, lining up evenly. Top with final strip of puff pastry. Dust with confectioners' sugar. Chill for 1 hour before serving.
7. To serve, cut with serrated edge knife using sawing motion. If desired, garnish each with a strawberry half and serve with a dollop of whipped cream topped with a mint sprig.

Makes 8 servings

Date: January 29, 2007