Ah, mille feuille, my love affair with these started in Geneva, as all good love affairs should. Actually, I lie, it was just over the border from Geneva in a little village called Prévessin-Moëns, France. I was there with a friend, spending the week at CERN on “work experience”, as all good physics nerds do. My gosh we had THE BEST week: the walk each morning through the fields, over the French-Swiss border, looking at Mont Blanc in the beautiful October sunshine and ending the week with a chocolate fuelled tour of Geneva. Take me back.
Anyway, the whole week I kept practising my French and people kept replying in English. I was clearly not convincing. Except, in the little bakery in Prévessin where the whole conversation was conducted in French, I clearly have the important stuff sorted.
Since then, I’ve been obsessed but always a little scared to attempt making them. I am no pastry chef, but then I decided that I’d have a go. They wouldn’t be pretty, or the proper way I’m sure, but something to satisfy the craving. I was going to visit my Geneva travel buddy and thought that the perfect occasion had arrived. They were definitely a cheat’s version but we can’t all be pastry chefs. Nothing will beat that first Mille Feuille, from a small French bakery, in a cosy hotel room after a chilly October evening’s walk. Nor did this version beat the one I just ate from Patisserie Valerie but, they do hit the spot and aren’t too difficult at all. Sometimes you need a kitchen hack. I used this recipe as a guide.
Ingredients: (Makes ~5)
- One sheet of puff pastry
- 250 ml of full fat milk
- 1 tsp of vanilla extract
- 60 g of egg yolks (3-4 yolks)
- 62 g of caster sugar
- 10 g of custard powder
- 15 g of cornflour
- 25 g of butter
- 50 g of whipping cream, whipped
- Icing sugar to dust
- Piping bag (or plastic freezer bag and snip off the corner)
- First bake the pastry: Preheat the oven to 220°C. Place the rolled pastry onto a baking paper lined large baking tray and poke it all over with a fork. Cover with a second sheet of baking paper and then a baking tray and place baking beans or something heavy and oven-proof on top, to stop the pastry ‘puffing’. Bake until golden brown, about 30 mins or so, rotate half way through. Remove from the oven and once cooled slightly, slice into ~15 rectangles (or a multiple of 3).
- In a large saucepan pour the milk and add the vanilla. Bring to the boil and then take off the heat.
- In a bowl put the egg yolks, sugar, custard powder and cornflour. Pour in a third of the warm milk and mix well, this will temper the egg yolks.
- Place the saucepan back onto the heat and add the yolk mixture. Whisk quickly until it boils and then remove from the heat and stir in the butter. It should have formed a thick custard.
- Pour the custard into a bowl and cover with clingfilm, make sure the cling film touches the top of the custard to prevent a skin forming (you learn something new everyday!).
- Place the custard into the fridge to chill.
- Once the custard is cold, fold in the whipped cream.
- Place the custard mixture into a piping bag with a wide nozzle (or just the bag with no nozzle).
- Assemble the mille feuile by piping custard onto a rectangle of pastry, add a second rectangle, another layer of custard and then top with a pastry layer and sprinkle with icing sugar.
- Repeat until you’ve used up all your pastry squares.