The vanilla slices topped with fondant icing of my childhood are a little too cloying now I’m an adult. I much prefer this, with lashings of buttery crème mousseline and the added crunch and darker sweetness of a caramelized sugar topping. The puff pastry for this mille-feuille is baked between two baking sheets so you get the beautiful, buttery flakes but without the added volume.
INGREDIENTS - MAKES 6
- 320g packet of ready-rolled puff pastry
FOR THE CREME MOUSSELINE FILLING
- 1 quantity Crème Pâtissière (see recipe here), completely, cooled and set
- 250g unsalted butter, cubed and chilled slightly
- Zest of 1 large orange
FOR THE TOPPING
- 100g Demerara sugar
- 2 large baking sheets and 2 pieces of baking paper
- Cook’s blowtorch
- Disposable piping bag fitted with 8mm nozzle
- Confectioner’s knife/sharp serrated knife
Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/Gas 6.
Place a piece of baking paper on one of the baking sheets and unroll the pastry on to it. Prick the pastry well all over, then cover with the second piece of baking paper, and the second baking sheet. If the baking sheets have shallow sides, have the first sheet upside down, then the second sheet the right way up on top. Bake for 30–35 minutes, or until the pastry is a deep golden brown.
When the pastry is baked, cut it lengthways with a sharp knife into three equal strips and allow to cool. When cool, sprinkle the Demerara sugar generously over each strip, then, with the cook’s blowtorch, caramelize the sugar.
For the crème mousseline, put the crème pâtissière into a mixing bowl and beat it to slacken it. I do this in the freestanding electric mixer with whisk attachment, but it could also be done in a mixing bowl with a handheld electric whisk. Once the crème pâtissière is loosened, beat in the zest, then slowly add the butter cube by cube, beating constantly on medium. It will take about 5 minutes to incorporate all the butter, and the mixture should be thick.
Fill the piping bag with the crème mousseline and pipe it into neat rows along the length of one pastry strip. Place another pastry strip gently on top, then pipe the remaining mousseline on to this. Gently place the third and final strip of caramelized pastry on to the mousseline, then place the whole thing in the fridge to chill for at least two hours. (I build this up on a baking sheet so that I don’t have to run a risk of breaking the whole thing in half, and I can easily pop it into the fridge.)
When the mille-feuille has chilled, the crème mousseline should have set quite firmly. With the sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, cut the whole thing in half crossways, then slice these two halves into three, to end with six neat mille-feuilles. If the mille-feuille was properly chilled, the mousseline should be firm enough to saw through without the cake collapsing in on itself, so long as you don’t put too much pressure on when cutting.