Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mille Feuille with Chocolate Pastry Cream

Chocolate Mille-Feuille

Ok, this is my last post about the ICE pastry class, I promise (that class anyway, I'm taking another in October)! Mille-Feuille means 1000 sheets in French, because after all the folding you do with the puff pastry dough, you have nearly 1000 layers in the end. When I was in Paris in July, Pierre Herme had a new dessert called the Deux Mille Feuille - 2000 layers! I'm not sure if he really did double the customary number of folds, but it was one of the best things I've ever eaten: perfectly flaky caramelized puff pastry filled with praline and praline pastry cream (here is a picture). Ana and I had planned to do a coffee pastry cream with chocolate sauce drizzled on top, but we didn't have the espresso powder on hand that day, so we settled for chocolate instead. It was delicious, and I'll definitely be making it again. Next time, I'll try the fondant glaze on top - Fanny at Foodbeam has a great tutorial here. And I was really amazed that I could cut it without ruining it after it was chilled for a couple of hours!

I had always thought of dough as taking a lot more time and being more tedious than cakes, but after my week of pastry, I think I'll be getting out the rolling pin a lot more often these days. I've already made another batch of the classic puff pastry since class ended, and I did all 6 turns of the dough in less than 2 hours - much less time than I spend on a layer cake.

I've been looking up laws about getting my kitchen licensed so that I can start selling some of my baked goods, and apparently there's this distinction between PHF's (potentially hazardous foods) and non-PHF's, and pastry cream falls into the PHF category. Residential kitchens are not allowed to prepare (for sale) PHF's. This makes me really sad, because I can totally imagine catering some sort of party and putting cream puffs or eclairs or mille-feuilles on the menu... I wonder if there's a loophole somewhere. Please let me know if you have any more info on this topic!

Ok, time for the first faculty meeting of the year. Hopefully there won't be too much bad news in the budget discussions...

Recipe for Mille-Feuille (aka Napoleon)

1 batch quick puff pastry (or 1/2 batch classic puff pastry)
chocolate pastry cream (recipe below)
slivered almonds to decorate

Roll the puff pastry into two rectangles, approximately 12" by 18" each. Slide onto parchment lined baking sheets, and refrigerate about an hour to let the dough rest.

Preheat the oven to 350

Dock the dough (that is, use a fork or pastry docker to poke holes all over the dough). Place another sheet of parchment paper on top of the dough, and then top with another sheet pan or cookie sheet. The extra weight will help keep the dough from puffing.

Bake for about 30 minutes, turning the pan often. The dough should be very golden when done. Cool between the pans to keep the pastry from warping. No matter how perfect your original rectangle was, the dough has probably changed shape while baking - this is why it's best to cut the dough after baking rather than before.

When the pastry is cool, carefully trim each piece to a perfect rectangle with a serrated knife; use as little pressure as possible as the pastry is extremely delicate. Next trim each of the two rectangles into three strips that are exactly the same size (you may need to re-trim some of the pieces to make them the same size). You'll make two large Mille-Feuilles, each with three layers of puff pastry.

Place one strip of puff pastry on a plate or piece of cardboard. Spread a thick layer of pastry cream on top, and top with a second layer of puff pastry. Spread a thick layer of pastry cream on top of the second layer, and top with the third strip of puff pastry. Smooth the sides of the pastry, and press slivered almonds on the sides if desired. Dust the top of the pastry with powdered sugar. Repeat with the remaining three strips of puff pastry and pastry cream.

To serve, slice each mille-feuille into narrow rectangles. It will be much easier to cut after refrigerating for 2 hours. (Alternatively, you could slice the pastry into small servings before decorating with almonds and powdered sugar.)

Recipe for Chocolate Pastry Cream

2 cups milk
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
4 egg yolks
4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick), cut into several small pieces
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted

Dissolve cornstarch in 1/2 cup of the milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat.

Beat the eggs and yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Slowly pour the milk/sugar mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly (you don't want to cook the eggs). Strain.

Return to heat (medium/high flame), and continue whisking until the cream thickens. After the cream comes to a boil (little blips, not an active boil), cook one more minute. Your arm will feel like it's going to fall off at this point!

Remove from heat, and stir in the butter and vanilla and melted chocolate. Cool in the refrigerator or over an ice bath. The ice bath will cool the cream more quickly.

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