Strawberries & Cream Mille-Feuille
- Prep time 45 minutes
- Cook time 35 minutes
- Makes 8
I live for the first strawberries of the spring. When something is that good and so fresh, you just don’t need to do much to it. Which is why one of my favorite ways to eat strawberries is atop a towering mille-feuille. For my favorite version, I keep it very simple with one filling, three layers of puff, and plenty of lightly sweetened strawberries on top. —Erin Jeanne McDowell
Test Kitchen Notes
This is one of the easiest, most prettiest spring and/or summertime recipes you can find, featuring a bunch of fresh strawberries and layers of puff pastry and cream. Any time you're tasked with bringing dessert, you should turn to this gorgeous mille-feuille recipe. The homemade pastry cream really puts this mille-feuille over the top. It's made of milk, vanilla bean, sugar, cornstarch, and egg yolks and comes together quickly. No need to make homemade dough thanks to the magic of store-bought puff pastry. Assembling the dessert is the best part, and the end result is something you and your guests will fawn over. You can also make it up to 5 hours ahead, so it's perfect for entertaining.
Erin, who developed this recipe, talks more about mille-feuille and why she loves making it: "There are a thousand wrong ways to pronounce this fancy French term, which means 'a thousand leaves' or 'a thousand layers.' These are also known more simply as Napoleons or custard slices, depending on where in the world you order it. It’s a simple dessert made from crisp layers of puff pastry that are sandwiched together with creamy filling. Very traditionally, it can be topped with a layer of icing, usually poured fondant swirled with melted chocolate. But the brilliant thing about a dessert this simple is that there is no one way to do it. You can alternate fillings inside the layers; you can use multiple textures (like pairing jam with the cream); and you can incorporate garnishes, like fresh fruit inside or on top." —The Editors
1 1/2 cups
(345 g) whole milk
vanilla bean, split and scraped (or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste)
(99 g) granulated sugar, divided
(28 g) cornstarch
(130 g) large egg yolks
(680 g) puff pastry (1 recipe rough puff pastry or 2 boxes Dufour brand)
all-purpose flour, for dusting
(1 L) strawberries, halved or quartered
(13 g) vanilla sugar (or granulated sugar)
(175 g) heavy cream
Powdered sugar, for dusting
- Make the Pastry Cream: In a medium pot, bring the milk, vanilla bean, and about half of the granulated sugar to a simmer over medium heat.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the cornstarch and the remaining half of the granulated sugar to combine. When the milk is nearly at a simmer, whisk the egg yolks into the cornstarch mixture.
- Gradually pour about one-third of the warm milk mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to combine. Return the mixture to the pot, whisking well to combine.
- Continue to cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly (I usually switch to a silicone spatula at this point to make sure I can get into the corners/edges of the pot), until the mixture just comes to a boil—a large bubble breaking the surface from the center of the pot, not just small bubbles around the edges, 3-5 minutes.
- Strain the mixture into a shallow dish and cover directly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until fully chilled.
- Make the Puff Pastry Layers: Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C with the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the puff pastry in half. Roll one half out on a lightly floured surface into a large rectangle (about the size of the baking sheet) about ¼ inch thick.
- Transfer the pastry to one of the prepared baking sheets. Trim with a pastry wheel or knife so the edges are straight. Repeat with the second piece of puff pastry.
- Cut each of the sheets into 12 rectangles (about 4 by 2 inches; you can eyeball it by cutting the pastry in half horizontally, then into 6 even strips vertically). Dock the rectangles well with a fork.
- Place a piece of parchment paper on top of each pan of pastry rectangles. Place another baking sheet on top of the parchment—this helps weigh the pastry down during baking so it doesn’t puff up too much.
- Bake the pastry for 15 minutes. Remove the top baking sheet and parchment and continue to bake for 4 to 5 minutes, until very golden brown. Let cool completely.
- In a medium bowl, toss the strawberries with the vanilla sugar.
- In a stand mixer or by hand, whip the cream to medium peaks. Once the pastry cream is fully cooled, fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream gently to combine. Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag and snip a ¼-inch opening from the end.
- Assemble: Place one layer of puff pastry on a plate or platter. Pipe dots - or a squiggly back and forth line of filling all over the pastry, then top with another layer. Repeat until there are three layers of pastry and three layers of filling, then arrange the strawberries on top.
- Repeat with the remaining pastry, filling, and strawberries. Dust with the powdered sugar. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to 2 hours (the pastry will eventually absorb moisture from the cream and become softer instead of crisp).
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