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Raspberry millefeuille


Catherine Adams prefers to use weight measurements for all ingredients, which is usual practice for pastry chefs. You'll need four wine corks cut with a serrated knife to 3cm for this recipe. To serve the millefeuille, carefully slice portions at 5cm intervals using a serrated knife.

You'll need

1.2 kg butter puff pastry (or three 375gm sheets; see note) For scattering: caster sugar To serve: raspberries, icing sugar and raspberry coulis (optional)   Crème pâtissière 450 gm milk Scraped seeds of ½ vanilla bean 115 gm caster sugar 110 gm egg yolk (about 5 yolks) 20 gm each cornflour and plain flour 500 gm thickened cream 10 gm titanium-strength gelatine leaves (about 2 leaves; softened in cold water for 3-5 minutes)

Method

  • 01
  • Roll out puff pastry on a lightly floured surface to a 24cm x 40cm rectangle. Cut pastry into two 24cm x 15cm pieces and one 24cm x 10cm piece, wrap each separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate to rest (30 minutes). Roll out each of the large pastry pieces to a 3mm-thick, 40cm x 20cm rectangle, trim edges, wrap separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate to rest (40 minutes).
  • 02
  • Scatter caster sugar generously over work surface, place the small piece of pastry on top, then sprinkle it generously with more sugar. Roll out pastry to a 2mm-thick 45cm x 20cm rectangle, flipping pastry and adding more sugar as you roll. Trim edges, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate to rest (40 minutes).
  • 03
  • Preheat oven to 210C. Place a piece of unsugared pastry on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Place a 3cm-high cork in each corner of the tray, place a wire rack on top of corks and transfer to oven. Reduce oven to 190C and bake, turning pastry occasionally, until just puffed and golden (20-30 minutes), then set aside to cool. Preheat oven to 210C and repeat with remaining piece of unsugared pastry.
  • 04
  • Preheat oven to 210C. Place sugared pastry on an oven tray lined with baking paper and transfer to oven. Reduce oven to 180C and bake until puffed and light golden (10-15 minutes). Remove from oven, carefully place a piece of baking paper on top, then place another oven tray op top, gently press to flatten and flip over. Remove original tray and baking paper, return to oven and bake until light golden (15-25 minutes). Remove from oven, carefully place a piece of baking paper on top, top with an oven tray, gently press to flatten and return to oven, with oven trays sandwiching pastry, until the pastry is caramelised (5-10 minutes; flipping as necessary to ensure an even colour; take care and use oven mitts). Remove from oven, remove trays and set pastry aside to cool.
  • 05
  • For crème pâtissière, bring milk, vanilla seeds and half the sugar to the simmer in a saucepan over medium heat, then set aside to infuse (1 hour). Whisk yolks and remaining sugar in a bowl until creamy, add cornflour and sieved flour and whisk until smooth. Heat milk mixture over medium-high heat until just before simmering, then add to yolk mixture, whisking continuously. Pour mixture into a clean pan over medium heat and bring to the boil, stirring continuously, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Pass through a fine sieve into a bowl, cover directly with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming and refrigerate until chilled and firm (4 hours to overnight).
  • 06
  • Place a quarter of the crème pâtissière in a large bowl. Warm cup thickened cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Squeeze excess water from gelatine and add to warmed cream, stirring to dissolve. Transfer to the quarter of crème pâtissière and whisk to combine. Fold in remaining crème pâtissière, then whisk remaining thickened cream in an electric mixer to firm peaks and gently fold into crème pâtissière. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm plain nozzle and refrigerate until chilled (45 minutes).
  • 07
  • Trim each piece of pastry with a serrated knife to 30cm x 14cm and set aside.
  • 08
  • Dot a board or serving platter with a little cream mixture (this keeps the pastry in place) and top with a sheet of unsugared pastry. Pipe rows of cream mixture on top to cover, then cut edges cleanly with a paring knife. Top with caramelised pastry and cover with cream.
  • 09
  • Top with remaining sheet of unsugared pastry and refrigerate to set the cream (30-40 minutes). Top with raspberries, dust with icing sugar and serve with raspberry coulis.

Note If you're short on time, use Carême puff pastry; this recipe needs three of the 375gm sheets.


Millefeuille

This dessert is all about great puff pastry and crème pâtissière - a combination that just works so well. French for a thousand leaves, the millefeuille usually consists of three layers of puff pastry sandwiched together with some form of cream. Because the puff pastry is so important it's best to make your own; otherwise buy an all-butter puff pastry such as Carême. In summer, bear in mind that puff is harder to work with on a hot day, so you need to work quickly, and if it gets too warm, cool it in the fridge and keep any pieces you're not working with in the fridge, too. A level piece of stone or marble to roll it out on helps because it keeps cool.

The top and bottom layers of pastry, the puffy layers that create the thousand-leaf effect, are made slightly thicker than the third. This I roll smaller and thinner, and I dust it in sugar to make a crisp caramelised centre layer to add crunch.

To ensure the thicker pieces rise to an even height, I cut four corks down to the same thickness I want the pastry and place them in the corners of a baking tray and put another tray on top to stop it rising beyond that height.

The oven needs to be hot at first (210C) to get the initial "puff"; if it's not hot enough the butter starts to melt out of the pastry before it cooks properly. After that, reduce the temperature (to about 190C) so the pastry cooks through to the centre without getting too dark on top. If it starts to darken too quickly, reduce the temperature a little more.

I cook the sugared piece of pastry for the centre at a slightly lower temperature so the sugar doesn't burn (about 180C). It also starts in a hot oven so the butter starts to cook the pastry layers, but you don't want it to get crisp yet; I later place a tray on top to weight the pastry down which helps to caramelise the sugar. Turn the pastry once to ensure it cooks evenly - use an oven mitt for this.

The pastry can be made a day ahead and keeps well in an airtight container. If the humidity has softened it slightly, refresh it in a hot oven (180C) for three to five minutes, but cool it before assembling the millefeuille.

The pastry cream, meanwhile, is very versatile and can be made a couple of days ahead. As it heats, I stir it with a wooden spoon, scraping the base of the pot (if it gets lumpy, use a whisk to break down the lumps). Maintain the temperature at just below boiling to allow the starches to absorb as much liquid as they can.

Crème pâtissière folded with thickly whipped cream works in small millefeuilles, but for a large one I add a little gelatine to make it more stable. Once it's cooked, cover it directly with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming and refrigerate it until it's chilled and firm; then you can fold in chilled whipped cream to loosen and aerate the texture. Return it to the fridge in a piping bag to firm up again (for about 40 minutes). You can flavour the cream with nut pastes, such as hazelnut or chestnut, pieces of praline or even a splash of liqueur (if you add more liquid, you may need to increase the gelatine).

To assemble the millefeuille, trim the pastry edges for presentation (though it's not necessary) and pipe the pastry cream between the three layers and place it in the fridge for a good 30-40 minutes to set the cream. You can assemble it up to four hours ahead, but take it out of the fridge about 30 minutes before serving to take the chill off the pastry.

For a contrast with the buttery pastry and cream, serve it with something on the tangy side, but not high acid. Berries are great, or stone fruit, but stay away from citrus and pineapples. And a dusting of icing sugar gives it that extra Christmas appeal.


At A Glance

  • Serves 12 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 12 people

Featured in

Dec 2013

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