Mille-feuille (meel-foy) – a classic French pastry which means, literally, ‘thousand leaves’ – not that there’s really 1000 layers in puff pastry, though apparently it comes close. It’s taken me way too long to finally make mille-feuille, and even longer to pronounce it correctly!
I distinctly remember first tasting one of these delightful pastries, with its crisp pastry layers and creme patissiere filling. I was lucky enough to be in the country that created it, and I recall thinking it was the most decadent thing I’d ever tasted. And, also the messiest!
Which brings me to the subject of eating mille-feuille. So diabolically difficult is it, that you can even Google ‘how to eat mille-feuille’! It seems that the simplest way to eat it (though messy) is to grab it in your hands and eat it like a sandwich. A slightly more genteel way is to use a very sharp serrated knife and cut it into bite sized pieces. Or, if you’re like my mother, you attack it one layer at a time – dipping the pastry into the cream as you go. Going at it with a dessert fork is not likely to end well.
Thanks to Stylist.co.uk for their recipe. While they suggested using orange zest and orange liqueur, I went with a classic vanilla bean flavour instead. While, strictly speaking you should use proper puff pastry to make it as light and airy as possible, I simply used some home-made rough puff pastry I had in the freezer – it won’t give you quite the same light and airy result that puff pastry will, but it’s just as delicious. Bon appetit!
- 375g (13.2 oz) ready-made butter puff pastry (I used home-made rough puff pastry)
- Handful of sugar
- 250ml (8.4 fl oz) full-fat milk
- 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
- 3 egg yolks
- 50g (1.7 oz) caster sugar
- 1 tbsp of cornflour (corn starch)
- 100ml (3.3 fl oz) double cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 200g (7 oz) raspberries
- 1 tsp of icing sugar (confectioner's sugar)
- Optional: Raspberry sauce, to serve
- Roll out pastry on a floured surface to a 30cm (12 inch) square. Put pastry on a baking sheet, brush off flour then sprinkle with sugar. Prick with a fork (this will stop it from puffing up and making it difficult to layer). Chill for 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 220°C (430°F). Bake pastry for 15 minutes, until golden.
- Heat milk with vanilla bean and seeds.
- While waiting for the milk to heat up, whisk yolks with caster sugar and cornflour until thick and pale.
- Whisk in hot milk then put back into the pan over a medium heat until custard comes to the boil. Let it boil for one further minute, then remove from heat and stir until smooth. Put in a bowl and place cling film over the custard. Chill in the fridge until cold.
- Whip cream until firm. When the custard is cold, mix together the custard and cream, along with the vanilla extract. Cover and chill until needed.
- Cut the pastry into 3 equal strips (10x30cm / 3.9 x 11.8 inches) and cut each strip across into 6 pieces. Layer 3 pieces with pastry, cream and raspberries. Repeat to make 6 mille-feuilles. Dust with icing sugar and serve with a jug of raspberry sauce, if using.
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Sigma 30mm 1.4 DC ‘Art’ lens / Natural lighting