Red Folder recipe – Millefeuille the posh custard square!
A classic pastry, seen in every French patisserie window that I have ever longingly pushed my face into. I present it here in it’s simplest form, but you can ice the top, add fruit, make a spectacular large round, to dazzle your friends. This recipe will make 5 individual pastries and as they are best eaten the same day, it is just enough for us.
There is something delightful about cutting through the ultra crisp pastry layers and melting into the smooth velvety texture of the filling. This little stunner is so versatile, and can be filled with flavoured cream, curd or chocolate and layered with or without any soft fruit of your choosing.
You can even make a savoury version, include a soft cheese and if using a vegetable par boil or your tower will not hold in the eating. Make it your own, but make it you must.
If you are game you can make your own puff pastry. I do not have the time these days, so I just use the store-bought stuff. This will rise more than homemade so the top tray will have to be heavy, and you may need to keep checking towards the end, but it is still less time-consuming than making your own puff pastry.
For this particular version, you will also need some cooled crème pâtissière, so you need to be organised and make this first.
- 1 vanilla bean (or 3 tsp of vanilla extract)
- 500ml milk
- 100g raw cane sugar
- 4 egg yolks
- 3 tbsp cornflour
- 3 tbsp custard powder
- 2 tbsp butter
Split the vanilla pod in half, scrape the seeds out with a sharp knife and drop them and the pod into a large pan, add the milk and bring to the boil gently. Just put the vanilla essence into the milk if you are not using the pod. Keep an eye on the pan but get on with the rest. Whisk the sugar, egg yolks, cornflour and custard powder together with a large balloon whisk until it is smooth. When the milk has reached boiling point pour half the hot milk into the egg mixture and whisk until combined. Add this back to the pan containing the other half of the hot milk. Essentially you are making a custard.
Now remove the pod, if you have used, and return to a low heat and still using the whisk keep it moving until thickened and starting to bubble. Lower the heat and allow to simmer still stirring for a further 5 mins and then remove from the heat and stir in the butter, this will give it a nice glossy smooth finish. Pour this quickly into another bowl and cover with clingfilm and allow to cool completely before using. This will store nicely in the fridge, as always in an airtight container, but you will have to warm it and whisk it back to a soft silky finish and allow to cool again.
When you are ready to make you millefeuille preheat the oven to 190°c. Roll out your pastry. I use the 400g rectangle blocks which measure 100mm x 170mm. I start by pushing the pastry out slightly to 200mm in length, then I cut in half along the longest length. Continue one piece at a time, by rolling out lengthways, working in one direction until you get as close as you can to 600mm. The pastry will naturally widen and shrink back. I chop this across the width into equal parts, repeat with the other half. I now have four very thin pieces of pastry. Transfer the pastry to an unlined baking tray. I bake two at a time.
Dust with icing sugar, then pop some greaseproof paper on top, then cover with another baking tray. This has to fit completely over the pastry underneath as it stops the pastry from puffing up. Depending on your oven and your baking sheets the pastry can take anything from 20 to 30 mins to cook so check after 20 mins, some ovens might take a little longer. You are going for a dark brown thin pastry, no puff, so that it is crispy enough to crack under the pressure of your fork. Once cooked leave to cool and transfer gently to a chopping board, repeat with the other sheets. You now have to cut the pastry carefully with a serrated knife and using a sawing motion. Try four pieces each giving you 16 rectangles if you have used the same size pastry as me. You will need 3 rectangles per millefeuille. I always have a piece over and make a mini mouthful of heaven.
Put aside 5 rectangles and lay the rest back out on the baking sheets. Fill a piping bag with the cooled (not cold) crème pâtissière and pipe eight little rounds per pastry dividing equally between the 10. Build your millefeuille by laying one piped rectangle on top of another and top with one of the plain reserved ones. You can now dust with icing sugar or coat with a little fondant icing made from a cup icing sugar and 2 to 3 tsp of warm water. It is traditional to add chocolate lines across the width and drag a toothpick through the length in opposite directions. I can never be bothered as by this stage the kettle is on and they are begging to be eaten. You can keep them chilled, but they are never the same the next day.
Now where is that pastry fork?