Millefoglie—similar to its French name, mille-feuille—is Italian for "a thousand layers." It’s the go-to dessert for any Tuscan celebration, whether it’s a birthday, a baptism or even a wedding cake. It’s usually bought at a pastry shop and rarely made at home, despite being incredibly simple to make and can be whipped up in no time (especially if using store bought puff pastry, which—let's face it—is ok).
Use any fresh fruit you like with this; berries and cherries are easy and pretty, but you can also use stone fruit (cut into slices), kiwi fruit and others.
This is a very fresh, not overly sweet cake (there are only 3 tablespoons of sugar in the whole recipe), so feel free to dust generously or to taste with confectioner's sugar on top.
If you wanted to take a bit more time with this, then homemade puff pastry could be even more delicious, as is caramelizing the pastry while baking—dust with confectioner's sugar before putting in the oven. You can also be more indulgent and add whipped cream to the top of the dessert with the fruit, too.
Store cake in the fridge when not needed. It is best on the day it is made but can be kept up to three days. The pastry looses some of its crunch but this does not diminish how enjoyable it is.
If you want to serve more people with this, you can add an extra layer of puff pastry and increase the custard recipe by roughly 1/3: add an extra yolk, an extra spoon of sugar and of flour and 2/3 cup more milk. —Emiko
Combine yolks, sugar, flour, vanilla, and lemon zest in a saucepan and mix together. Add warm milk, a little at a time, stirring constantly until smooth. Cook on a very low flame, stirring with wooden spoon until mixture almost reaches boiling point. Cook a further 3-4 minutes on lowest setting. If you find it getting lumpy, take off the heat and whisk quickly to remove the lumps. Take off heat, then pour into a wide, shallow dish to cool completely and quickly.
Once cool, leave in fridge until chilled, then fold the whipped cream into the cooled custard. Keep in the fridge until ready to use (can be kept up to 3 days).
Prick pastry all over the surface with a fork then bake on cookie trays in a hot oven at about 390° F/200º C until golden brown and puffed, about 10 –15 minutes. If they puff too much, they can be poked further during cooking to release the extra air and they can also be trimmed with a serrated knife to even and flatten out the sheet after cooking. Leave to cool completely.
Set aside the "flattest" puff pastry sheet for the top. Place a layer of puff pastry on a serving plate or tray, then cover with half of the diplomat cream. Place another layer of pastry, then the rest of the diplomat cream. Place the final sheet of pastry on top of the cream, then layer with fruit. I like to slice the strawberries but leave other berries and cherries whole. If you’re not serving it immediately (or within half an hour), wrap in plastic wrap and store in the fridge. Take it out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving to take the chill off. Dust generously with confectioner's sugar before serving. Cut portions carefully with a serrated knife.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.