Something I adore making! Always takes me back to the times I used to work in a cozy, hill-side café in Melbourne Australia. I was the only person doing pastry (and baking) as it was a small-scale operation and needless to say I let my creativity flow and there was a new flavor of mille-feuile almost every weekend.
Mille-Feuille a French phrase, directly translates to “thousand leaf/sheet”. As the name suggests, the decadent pastry has many layers of puff sheets that are made up of hundreds of layers themselves. Now if they reminded you of the vanilla slice or the custard slice, that’s probably because it is the origin of the mille feuille. A vanilla slice is usually a very thick slab of custard sandwiched between two thin puff sheets. A mille feuille is more decorative, could have multiple custard (or diplomat cream) layers and looks very sophisticated.
It is one of the simplest things you can make with a puff sheet, yet looks so elegant! Once you master the basics, feel free to give your own twists to this dessert!
About puff pastry
If you are using store bought frozen puff sheets, let the puff thaw in the fridge for 8-12 hours prior to starting this recipe. If you are making your own puff, it is best to start a day earlier so your pastry has plenty of time to rest before being formed in to turnovers.
The filling (custard vs pastry cream)
The custard used to make vanilla slice or this mille feuille is a thick custard. Feel free to use your favorite setting custard recipe, if you already have one. Even though we call it a custard in general, some recipes may include a bit of corn flour or plain flour as a thickening agent so it is technically a pastry cream. You can also flavor the custard (eg: chocolate, strawberry etc.)
You can also lighten up your pastry cream or custard by mixing it with some whipped cream. This is called ‘Diplomat cream‘ in pastry world and it is what I have used in this recipe. This is also my preferred filling as it holds the shape nicely when piped and sets in the fridge too.
If you don’t want to make custard or pastry cream, there are other stuff to use as a filling.
- whipped cream (flavored or just sweetened)
- mousse (chocolate/strawberry)
- hung yogurt (for a healthier version)
Make the custard the day (night) before or at least 8 hours prior to assembling. The custard (pastry cream) need to set to be able to pipe
Cook the custard, string constantly until the consistency is fairly thick. Check the picture. You should be able to see the bottom for a few seconds, when you drag the spatula.
The custard will continue to thicken as it cools.
Place the custard in a bowl and cover the top with a cling film to stop a skin forming. And then place in the fridge to chill. The custard should be set firmly before using.
You can whip the custard and use it as is. If making vanilla slice, use the custard without adding whipped cream.
If you are making Diplomat cream,
– Mix the custard back into a smooth texture
– Whip the cream and fold in the smooth custard
– Do not beat or mix just fold. Don’t loose all the air from the whipping cream
Diplomat cream is lighter in color, less sweet, fluffy and voluptuous than custard. Place this back in the fridge to chill and firm up until you bake the pastry
If you made your own puff, roll out to a rectangle (roughly 28cm by 20cm) Thickness no more than 2mm. Cover and place back in the fridge until the oven heats up!
Pre-heat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Place a rack in the center
If using store bought puff sheets, you might not want to roll out, but just make sure it’s not too thick.
When the oven is ready, pull the pastry out of the fridge.
Weigh down the pastry
Place the puff sheet on a tray, cover with a parchment and place another heavy tray on top. If tray is not heavy, place something heavy and heat proof on top of the second tray (like a cast iron skillet) This is to prevent the puff pastry from puffing up too much!
Now place this in the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the puff is slightly golden brown
After the 20 minutes, remove the top tray and parchment, dust with icing sugar and bake for a further 10 minutes until nice and golden. Sugar is optional but it will caramelize and give the top a nice deep golden color and a slight shine.
Once baked, remove the puff slab and let it cool.
Cut the puff sheet in to equal slabs. From this size, I could get exactly 14 peices/tiles.
We are almost done! Now all you have to do is build layers and decorate.
Pipe the filling or spread using a spatula on a tile and place another on top. If you wish add another layer or simply decorate and serve!
Can be stored in an air tight container in the fridge up to a day or two. The longer they sit the softer the puff becomes.
Best option is to store elements separately, and put together just before serving!