It was love at first bite ! At the tender age of eighteen with my first ever full wage packet clasped in my hands I remember visiting Carwardines Coffee House in Corn Street, Bristol which was just around the corner from my new office. My mission was to buy myself a treat to celebrate my first ever full time job. Treat in hand, a cup of fine roasted coffee and aplate bearing a posh french dessert I retreated to a window seat and started to enjoy my treat. The dessert on my plate, was a cream slice, as I knew it then, and I remember every mouthful with a pleasurable sigh even to this day.
Later, I came to find out that there was much more to this treat than I had imagined and the humble cream slice as I knew it (also known as a vanilla slice or a custard slice) is also more famously known as the Mille-Feuille.Fast forward quite a few years, factor in a move to Dubai, and a love of trying new places for coffee and cake and my love for Mille Feuille has been rekindled as I stumbled across this indulgent dessert once more recently at the French Bakery and it’s now become a staple Friday treat.
Since rekindling my love of Mille-Feuille I’ve been on a mission to find the best in Dubai, which I will cover in a separate post. In the meantime I was invited by Chef Jeremie, the Pastry Chef at the Sofitel Dubai Downtown to spend a few hours with him making Mille-Feuille.Here’s how this sexy little dessert is made and why you need two days to make it properly !
Classic Puff Pastry
350g unsalted french butter *
500g plain flour
300 ml cold water
*french butter is typically used as it has less water content which makes it more ‘elastic’ to stretch and roll
Melt the butter in a saucepan then add to a food processor with the other ingredients
Using a food processor with a paddle or dough hook slowly mix the ingredients together
As soon as the ingredients are mixed together to form a soft dough (this will take about a minute) stop the processor and finish mixing the dough together by hand *
Why – You don’t want to over beat the dough as the gluten will make the dough too stretchy which means it will then contract when cooking.
How to Fold and Roll Puff Pastry
Sprinkle some plain flour onto your working surface
Using a rolling pin roll the pastry out into a square shape approx 15 x 15 inches
Take the block of butter and also roll into a square block approx 15 x 15 inches
Place the butter onto the pastry so that it is positioned on the pastry diagonally across the corners (see photo below)
Fold the corners into the middle so that the butter is completely enveloped in the dough
Completely seal the butter in the dough by using the rolling pin
Then roll the dough out into an oblong – only roll it one way.
Once you have a long rectangle of dough fold the dough – bring the left hand edge two thirds across the dough, then the right hand side across to cover that
Turn the dough 90 degrees and roll out into a long rectangle and repeat the fold above – so bring the left hand edge two thirds across the dough and cover with the right hand across to cover that – it’s complicated I know !
This is called one Turn.
Chill the dough for at least four hours, remove the dough from the fridge and repeat with a further 2 folds then chill again.Repeat this until you have done 3 x turns each with 2 x folds – this makes the lovely layers of pastry which puff pastry is famous for.
NB Everytime you are not working with the dough, cover it with clingfilm to stop it drying out.
PS – don’t worry, if I’ve completely confused you then take a look here for how to roll and fold the pastry.
To bake :
After the final chill, roll the pastry out on a floured surface into a rectangle approx 5 mm thick roughly 8 inches wide by 16 inches long.
Prick the surface of the pastry with a fork
Place the pastry on a baking tray and cover with another weighted tray (this will stop it rising too much)
Bake in a convection over for approximately 30 minutes at temperature 170.
Once baked, cover the pastry in icing sugar and then blast in a hot oven (210) until the sugar is fully melted and has a crisp brown sheen.
Leave the pastry to cool.
Folding the Dough
Traditionally when learning to cook at Chef school chefs are taught the following :
To get the beautiful buttery layers associated with the flaky pastry, you chill and fold the pastry twice per day for two days. Firstly you make two folds in the morning, then rest the dough in the fridge for four hours, then you make a further two folds and chill overnight. The following day you make 2 further folds, then roll the dough out, rest it for a further hour, roll out again and then bake. This process is one which supports Slow cooking as opposed to what gets shown on TV particularly on the Great British Bake Off when the pastry is made quickly sometimes with fairly disastrous results.
Pastry Cream (Cream Patisserie)
10g Unsalted butter
45g Egg Yolk
20g Custard Powder
5g Plain Flour
1 Vanilla Bean
This makes approx 500g Pastry Cream
Heat the milk, with the vanilla seeds and pod (Chef uses Vanilla from Madagasgar) plus add half of the sugar and butter and heat slowly.
Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl add the remainder of the sugar, the custard powder (or corn flour), and the plain flour and mix well.
Add the egg yolks and throughly mix together until the mixture has turned white in colour (you can do with a hand whisk or in a food processor).
Bring the milk mixture to a boil and add a little to the egg mixture and thoroughly mix in, then add more of the milk to the egg mixture mixing very fast as you don’t want the eggs to scramble.
Transfer the contents of the bowl into a saucepan and reheat thoroughly beating continuously as you don’t want it to burn.Keep mixing until it reaches boiling point and mix for a further 15-20 seconds until it has formed a thick consistency.
Transfer intoa flat dish covered in cling film and spread thinly on the bottom of the dish, cover with clingfilm and transfer into the fridge to chill quickly.
To make Light Pastry Cream
500g Pastry Cream
40g Gelatine Mass *(or 1 sheet of gelatine)
150g Whipped Cream
Whip the cream until it is still and forms peaks
Remove the chilled pastry cream, and mix it with the gelatine mass (or 1 sheet of gelatine which has been added to some warm water – follow the instructions on the pack).
Fold the pastry cream/gelatine mixture into the whipped cream and put back into the fridge to chill
To assemble :
Trim off the edges of the pastry and cut equal size oblongs of pastry(roughly 2 inches wide) – typically you will get approx 6 pieces from the sheet of pastry (note – keep the best 2 pieces for the top pastry piece).
Remove the light pastry cream from the fridge and put it into a piping bag with a round large nozzle.Pipe the filling on all of the bases (except the top pieces) you will want equal dots of pastry cream along the sides and perhaps a continual run of pastry cream in the middle (see image)
The mille feuille should be assembled with 1 bottom piece of pastry topped with 1 layer of pastry cream, a further layer of pastry, another layer of pastry cream and then topped with 1 final layer of pastry – (this should be the best one that you held back earlier).
Decorate with icing sugar and cut fruit of your choice.
Thanks to Chef Jeremie and the team at the Sofitel who made my class so interesting, fun and informative and who made it look so easy. I’ve made this at home a few times now (cheating with pre-bought pastry) and it’s not as easy as it seems – but even if it doesn’t look so pretty as Jeremie’s – I have to say it tastes great 🙂
I had a private cooking class at Sofitel Dubai Downtown