October’s Daring Bakers Challenge was very exciting. It was given by Suz of Serenely Sinful. We were asked to do TWO different tasks with this challenge: prepare a homemade puff pastry and use it to make a Napoleon, also known as a Mille Feuille. For those of you that don’t know what a Napoleon is, it is basically pastry cream sandwiched between 2 flat pieces of puff pastry. The top is often iced and given a nice chocolate drizzle for decoration. It is very European and popular in places like Morocco.
I’ve been wanting to make puff pastry forever now. It was on my baking “to-do” list (which is only about 200 items long…). I just kept putting it off because I knew it was going to be an intense job. But I am SO glad to have finally gotten the task over with because now I know that it isn’t as seemingly daunting as I thought! Seriously! You think puff pastry is going to be so labor intensive and difficult, but it really wasn’t. It was pretty easy to execute, it simply took a long time before coming to completion since you have to wait two hours between each roll and fold and there are like three of four of them. BUT! At the same time, each roll and fold takes less than ten minutes, so the actual work time involved isn’t bad at all. I will be going into more depth on my puff pastry experience on my next post.
The Napoleons themselves didn’t really interest me. I don’t like pastry cream all that much. It stems from my “blah” attitude towards pudding- it’s not my favorite thing. I would never choose to eat it, but I wouldn’t say no if it was offered to me. Pretty indifferent. So I decided to make a Napoleon with a less traditional filling- Mocha Mousse. Mocha is my favorite flavor so I thought this might interest me more than the standard vanilla pastry cream. The filling came out light and creamy, without an overpowering sweetness. But more importantly, paired with 2 layers of puff pastry, this dessert was almost 5-star worthy. It just felt so fancy! And it really was delicious. The puff pastry provided textural contrast to the creamy filling, which balanced everything out perfectly. After tasting this I decided that it reminded me of a very “full” cream puff. Lots of filling versus pastry, but with the same kind of contrast in texture. It was really wonderful and I am happy to have finally had the Napoleon experience! And although you can’t tell from the picture, thanks to the way I cut the Napoleons, my puff pastry was indeed flaky.
- 2 baked puff pastry layers, 9×13-inch each
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons orange liqueur, kirsch, or coffe liqueur
- 2½ tsp (1 envelope) unflavored gelatin
- ¼ cup cold water
- 1 cup egg whites (about 7 large egg whites)
- 1 cup sugar
- 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
- For the Vanilla Glaze:
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 2 Tb milk
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- For the Chocolate Glaze:
- 1 ounce bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped fine
- 2 Tb milk
- ¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
- Transfer one of the puff pastry layers to a parchment lined 9×13-inch pan.
- To start the mousse, whip the cream in a small bowl with the liqueur until it holds soft peaks. Cover and refrigerate.
- Sprinkle the gelatin over water and set aside to soften.
- Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a full boil over medium heat. Combine the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk by hand, just until smooth. Set the bowl over the pan of water and whisk gently, keeping the egg whites from setting in the bottom of the bowl, until the egg whites are hot (about 140°F/60°C) and the sugar has dissolved. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the softened gelatin.
- Place the bowl on the mixer with the whip attachment and whip on medium speed until the meringue has cooled to room temperature. Don’t overwhip or it will become grainy and ruin the mousse’s texture.
- While the meringue is whipping, remove the whipped cream from the refrigerator and whip again briefly if it has become watery. Once the meringue is cool (don’t cheat- warm meringue will melt the whipped cream and transform your mousse to soup), quickly fold about ⅓ of the meringue into the chocolate, then quickly fold in the rest. Fold in the whipped cream.
- Scrape the mousse over the pastry layer in the prepared pan. Smooth the top and carefully transfer the remaining layer on top. Cover the pan and refrigerate about 8 hours, or overnight to set the mousse.
- To unmold the pastry, grasp opposite ends of the parchment lining and lift it to a flat cutting surface. Use a long, serrated knife to trim the sides even. Then gently saw through the top layer straight through the filling and the bottom layer- cutting the pastry into 2- or 3-inch squares. Wipe the knife clean between each cut.
- For the Vanilla Glaze: Whisk all ingredients together in bowl until smooth.
- For the Chocolate Glaze: Microwave chocolate 15 seconds; stir chocolate, add milk, and continue heating for 10 seconds; stir until smooth.
- To Frost: Place napoleons on wire rack for glaze to run off of. Take individual squares and spread vanilla glaze evenly over top of pastry. Drizzle horizontal lines of chocolate glaze over vanilla glaze. Run tip of small knife or toothpick lengthwise through icing to make design. Let icing set, about 20 minutes.