This week’s recipe for the Modern Baker Challenge is one of several versions of mille feuille, which consist of a filling (usually sweet, but sometimes savory) between baked layers of puff pastry. Mille feuille is French for “thousand leaves”, a reference to the delicate layers exhibited by the puff pastry when it is baked.
To make the Napoleons, I began by baking a pastry layer, which I then cut to fit a foil-lined pan.
Next, I made a richly flavored chocolate mousse to go between the pastry layers. Most of the chocolate mousse recipes I’m familiar with are made fluffy by the addition of either whipped cream or egg white meringue to a chocolate pudding base. So I was surprised to see that Nick’s recipe utilizes both whipped cream and meringue. I had no doubt that this would make a stunning mousse.
Another interesting twist to Nick’s recipe is a secret that I recently picked up from Dorie Greenspan‘s Around My French Table – the addition of unflavored gelatin to the mousse. As I learned when I made Dorie’s citrus-berry terrine, French chefs (both home and professional) see gelatin as just another pantry staple and use it for many things, including strengthening whipped cream and stabilizing mousse that’s destined to be used as a filling, as in this recipe.
I spread the mousse over the baked pastry layer in the pan.
Then I topped the mousse with a second pastry layer, compressed it gently, and chilled it in the fridge overnight.
The next day, I removed the pan from the refrigerator and unmolded the pastry by lifting it out of the pan, peeling away the foil, then transferring the pastry to a cutting board with a large cake spatula.
I trimmed the edges of the pastry, then cut it into serving-sized pieces. I dusted the Napoleons with powdered sugar and cocoa, then plated them with a few raspberries.
My family is accustomed to my cooking and baking, which often includes exotic ingredients and fancy plating. But even they were impressed with these pastries, which we all agreed looked like they had come from a fancy bakery.
And the taste? Well, let’s just say it lived up to the appearance. The mousse was rich and deeply flavored. And the pastry was crisp, buttery, and flaky.
This is a dessert worthy of your best dinner party. It’s also perfect for a weeknight family supper.
Margaret wrote the official post for this recipe. You can read about her experience here.