Layers of flaky French pastry and the most perfect vanilla pastry cream come together in this popular cream pastry, also known as a Mille Feuille.
*This recipe makes two Classic French Napoleons for a total of 12 servings. It can easily be halved, if 6 servings is preferable.
- 1 recipe Perfect Vanilla Pastry Cream, chilled for at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours.
- One 17.3 oz. pkg puff pastry sheets
- about 1/4 cup powdered sugar – for sprinkling
Prepare the puff pastry:
NOTE: I’ve heard from a few readers that the long bake time in this recipe has resulted in overdone puff pastry. After making this recipe many, many times, I can attest that the long bake time works well in my kitchen every single time. I don’t have a good explanation for why the bake time is sometimes too long for others. It’s a mystery I hope one day to solve. ***UPDATE! I think one reader might have solved this mystery. It has to do with how thawed your puff pastry is. I’ve added her exact words below, in the notes.
In the mean time, to prevent overcooking, peek under the top baking sheet and check the pastry after 15 minutes of baking. If it’s already getting brown, go ahead and remove the top baking sheet and bake for another 5-10 minutes until golden brown. The goal is to end up with puff pastry that is only slightly puffed, golden brown, and flaky.
- Thaw the puff pastry according to the package directions.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Unfold both sheets of pastry and divide each into thirds by cutting along the fold lines, giving you 6 rectangles of pastry. Lay the rectangles on the parchment covered baking sheet, spacing them about 1/4-inch apart.
- Cover the pastry with another sheet of parchment paper and lay another baking sheet on top. This will prevent the puff pastry from rising too much and give the pastry nice, flaky layers.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes. Remove the top baking sheet and the top layer of parchment and bake for another 5-10 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and let cool completely before assembly.
TO ASSEMBLE THE NAPOLEONS:
- Lay one sheet of baked puff pastry on a serving dish and spread about a 1/2-inch thick layer of pastry cream evenly over the top. Layer another rectangle of pastry over the cream, repeat with another 1/2-inch thick layer of pastry cream and top with a third pastry rectangle. Press on the top of the Napoleon slightly just to evenly distribute the layers. Repeat with the remaining pastry rectangles and pastry cream. Cover the Napoleons with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
- Dust the tops of each Napoleon with a thick layer of powdered sugar right before serving.
- Slice each Napoleon into 6 slices, using a serrated knife. *TIP: Hold on to the sides of each pastry layer as you slice through it, sawing gently with the knife, allowing the knife to do the work of cutting through the fragile layers of pastry without pressing down too hard.
- I’ve had a few readers write to me to say that the long bake time has resulted in burnt puff pastry for them. This has been a mystery to me because I’ve made this recipe more times than I can count, and never ended up with burnt pastry. Recently, one reader wrote in with what I think might be the problem. Here’s what she said: “Yesterday I made a batch of pastry in the oven after ‘defrosting’ the puff pastry on the counter for 1 hour from frozen – this then took 50 min to cook to golden brown in the oven at the temp you suggested. Today I had one sheet of puff pastry left that was in the fridge. This took 20 to bake to perfection. So I believe the cooking time is varying for folks so much as it depends on the stage at which the frozen puff pastry has defrosted.”
- To make the Napoleons easier to slice, before serving, place them in the freezer for 30-60 minutes. (This is optional, and might not even be necessary if they are well chilled.)
- Category: French Pastry
Keywords: Napoleon, dessert recipe, pastry cream