Smoked Salmon Mille-feuilles {ModBak}

Although we have launched headlong into the Cookies, Bars & Biscotti section of the Modern Baker Challenge, I still have a few blog posts to finish up in the Puff Pastries section, including this one. I made this recipe quite some time ago; it has just taken me until now to upload the pictures and post it.

This is a rich, savory hors d’oeuvre, perfect for a fancy cocktail party or as an appetizer for a dinner party. And as fancy as it looks, it’s really easy to put together.

I started with a baked puff pastry layer made using homemade puff pastry. I layered the baked pastry sheet with smoked salmon and a mixture of cream cheese, butter, and chives.

Having pre-baked the puff pasty layer and mixed the cream cheese, here’s how easy it was to assemble:

This was really delicious. The salty, smokey salmon played well against the rich puff pastry and filling. The only thing I would do differently next time would be to cut the portions smaller, as the pastry and filling are really rich. Of course, that didn’t stop me from eating several of the them.

If you need an appetizer to put out with drinks at the start of a nice dinner party, this is an easy hors d’oeuvre with tons of “wow” factor. Just be sure to cut them small. And don’t put out too many of them, or your guests might not be hungry for dinner.

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Feuillettés with Berries & Cream {ModBak}

For the Puff Pastry section of the Modern Baker Challenge, I’ve decided to take a more organized approach to baking and posting the recipes. In previous sections, I made the recipes roughly in order (although not always) and wrote and published posts as I finished each recipe. As a result, I would often publish several recipes in a row over the course of a few days and would usually finish the section well before the end of the allotted time frame.

At the beginning of the month, as we moved into the Puff Pastry section, I decided to institute “Modern Baker Mondays”. As the name implies, I’ll be posting the recipes on Mondays. I’m going to post one per week, in the order the recipes appear in the book, regardless of when and in what order I actually bake them.

This week’s Modern Baker Mondays offering is the last in a series of sweet mille-feuille, which included chocolate-filled Napoleons and raspberry mille-feuille. The feuillettés are similar to the raspberry mille-feuille, the main differences being size (the feuillettés are mini mille-feuille) and the use of crème anglaise instead of pastry cream.

The feuillettés are comprised of four components — crème anglaise, macerated berries, whipped cream, and disks cut from a baked pastry layer.

Crème anglaise

 Making the crème anglaise is the most time-consuming part, but it’s not difficult. And it’s so good, you may find yourself making it again to use for other things, like berries and cream or crème anglaise ice cream.

Once everything is prepared, it’s just a matter of putting the feuillettés together. This simply involves layering pastry disks, whipped cream, berries, and crème anglaise. So easy a child could do it. Really.

Feuillettés, some assembly required

 We had fun putting these together, and even more fun eating them.

Feuillettés with berries and cream

 This was a simple, stunning, and delicious dessert. It would make the perfect finish to a summer dinner party.

Raspberry Mille Feuille {ModBak}

This week’s recipe for the Modern Baker Challenge is raspberry mille feuille, a light, creamy, custardy dessert. 

Mille feuille (pronounced “meel fwee”) is French for “thousand leaves”, a reference to the many-layered puff pastry that forms the base of this dessert. Like the Napoleons that I made recently, the mille feuille is made with a baked pastry layer. In this case, the filling is a vanilla custard layered with raspberries and whipped cream.

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned my love for King Arthur’s pastry cream mix and noted that I generally use it whenever a recipe calls for pastry cream. This time, however, I decided to follow Nick’s recipe and make my own pastry cream. The recipe called for milk, sugar, cornstarch, egg yolks, butter, and vanilla. It came together quickly and made a delicious pastry cream.

I covered the pastry cream and refrigerated it overnight. The next day, I baked and cooled a pastry layer, whipped some cream, and set about assembling the dessert.

For the baked layers, I cut the puffed pastry into three circles. The recipe called for 9-inch disks, but I made mine smaller, as I was scaling the recipe down.

With my pastry circles, homemade whipped cream, raspberries, and pastry cream at the ready, assembling the mille feuille was a breeze.

I began by putting a dollop of pastry cream on a plate.

I covered the cream with a pastry disk.

Since I would be serving the mille feuille on the same plate, I slid pieces of waxed paper under the disk to keep the plate clean. I covered the pastry layer with pastry cream,…

…added raspberries,…

…then spread whipped cream over the berries.

I repeated the layering and finished with the third baked pastry disk.

Then I compressed the mille feuille, smoothed the filling around the edges, and pressed crushed pieces of pastry dough around the outside.

When I was ready to serve the mille feuille, I topped it with a bit of whipped cream and some raspberries.

The scaled down version, for which I used half recipes each of the pastry cream and whipped cream, yielded six generous servings.

We really enjoyed this dessert. My father-in-law, who happened to drop by while I was putting it together, raved about it. It was easy to assemble, and the results were both visually stunning and delicious. 

This was another over-the-top dessert from The Modern Baker that can make any home cook look like a professional pastry chef. If you don’t have this book on your cookbook shelf, you’re really missing out.

Baked Puff Pastry Layer {ModBak}

The second recipe in the Puff Pastry section of The Modern Baker is, like the instant puff pastry, used as a base for many of the recipes that follow. I was a little nervous the first time I made the pastry layer, as I knew another recipe would rise or fall based on how well I did making the base.

The recipe isn’t particularly difficult, although the technique was new to me. I began by flouring a pastry mat and rolling out a quarter batch of puff pastry dough.

The dough was very firm when I got it out of the fridge. I pressed it with the rolling pin using short strokes rather than rolling from end to end. This flattened the dough and  began to soften it.

Once the dough had softened up a bit, I rolled it (without going over the ends), turned it 90°, rolled again, and continued turning and rolling until I had a thin rectangle of dough. 

A few more turns and rolls, and the dough was the size of my 10 x 15-inch pan. I checked the size by laying a piece of parchment cut to the size of the pan on top of the dough.

To transfer the dough to the pan, I folded it in thirds, then lifted it to the parchment-covered jellyroll sheet.

I fit the dough in the pan, then covered it loosely with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for a few hours before baking it.

When I was ready to bake the dough, I preheated the oven to 350°F. Once the oven was heated, I took the dough out of the refrigerator, uncovered it, and pricked the surface of the dough with a fork.

This is where the recipe got interesting. In order to keep the pastry layer flat while baking, I covered it with parchment,…

…then topped it with another jellyroll pan.

I baked the pastry layer for 20 minutes, then grabbed both pans and flipped them over and baked the dough for another 15 minutes on the other side. (The recipe called for baking the pastry for 15 minutes, then flipping the pan and baking an additional 10 minutes. Even though my oven heats correctly, it took an additional five minutes on each side. I suspect this is because my pans are double insulated airflow pans.) I took the pans out of the oven, lifted the top one off, then checked the pastry for doneness. It was crispy and nicely browned.

I replaced the top pan and cooled the pastry layer between the pans to keep it from curling as it cooled. Then I removed it from the pans and let it rest on cooling rack until I was ready to use it.

One of the classic uses of a baked puff pastry layer is for a dessert called “mille-feuille”, which translates to “thousand leaves”, referring to the layers that well-made puff pastry exhibits.

Nick’s instant puff pastry dough, prepared this way, is perfect for mille-feuille, Napoleons, and any other recipe requiring a thin, shatteringly crisp pastry layer. But a word of warning: most recipes require you to cut the pasty layer to the size or shape needed for that particular application. The layer cuts beautifully, but it may take some resolve on your part not to shove all the scrap pieces in your mouth.

More resolve than I have.