I’m going to argue (not that there’s anyone arguing against me about this) that the mille feuille is one of the most perfect desserts and they’re as many reasons to love it as there are layers in the dessert itself. Creamy, flaky, and delicate, this French dessert can be literally translated as a thousand leaves. The flavours of a traditional mille feuille are simple but the textures are incredible. The contrast between the crisp shards of puff pastry and the luscious crème pâtissière makes it an irresistible dessert for me. I think the love of mille feuille is something that can be passed on because my mom will never give up the chance to order one if she sees it on a menu.
I grew up eating a less traditional mille feuille, but rather a variation of it. In Hong Kong-style bakeries (the type I frequented most growing up), mille feuille were presented as a 拿破侖 (‘Napoleon’) or 法式千層酥 (French-style thousand layer pastry). What makes a Hong Kong-style mille feuille distinct is the components of the pastry. It is often layered with puff pastry, sponge cake, buttercream, meringue, and walnuts. I’ve always loved the the combination of puff pastry and cake in a Hong Kong-style mille feuille. It wasn’t until later in life that I had a more traditional French mille feuille. If you were to ask me about the most memorable mille feuille, I would, without hesitation, say the one from La Pâtisserie des Rêves in Paris. Disclaimer: I’m a bit biased because Paris is my favourite place on earth and everything I eat there is my ‘favourite.’ For example, my favourite croissant? Enjoying Pierre Herme’s Isaphan with my mom in Jardin du Luxembourg.
This Valentine’s Day, I’m making a special mille feuille for my mom, to thank her for giving me her love of the dessert and unconditional love, always. For a successful Valentine’s Day mille feuille at home, two things are essential: very good quality puff pastry and heart-shaped biscuit cutters to shape the pastry. When looking for store-bought puff pastry, make sure to get one that is made with butter and as few ingredients as possible. Some cheaper brands of puff pastry will include ingredients like modified palm and canola oil and additives to create the many layers in the pastry but you want to try to find a puff pastry made just real butter, flour, water, and salt. It makes all the difference. Instead of only making a traditional vanilla pastry cream for these layers, I decided to add two additional flavours to it: strawberry and lychee. Between the layers of puff pastry is vanilla pastry cream, whipped strawberry ganache, and fresh lychee fruit. It is inspired by the Isaphan croissant my mom and I enjoyed on the sunny day spent at Jardin du Luxembourg. To serve the mille feuille, I’m using this beautiful marble platter from Williams Sonoma Canada and their blush-coloured napkins that are perfect for the occasion.
Strawberry Lychee Mille Feuille
Puff Pastry Layers
- 1 package frozen puff pastry, defrosted in the refrigerator
Vanilla Pastry Cream
- 177 ml (3/4 cup) whole milk
- 177 ml (3/4) heavy cream
- 4 tbsp granulates sugar, divided
- 1 vanilla bean (or 1 tbsp vanilla extract), split and seeds scraped
- 4 egg yolks
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
Whipped Strawberry Ganache
- 130 g (2/3 cup and 2 tbsp) strawberry chocolate, roughly chopped (Note: alternatively you can use white chocolate and 4 – 5 tablespoons of freeze-driedstrawberry powder to achieve a similar flavour)
- 240 ml heavy cream
- 6 fresh lychee fruit
- Icing sugar, to dust
Puff Pastry Layers
- Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
- Once puff pastry has defrosted, gently dust your work surface with flour. Using a rolling pin, roll out puff pastry to roughly 1/8 of an inch in thickness.
- Using heart-shaped cutters, punch out as many cut-outs as you can and transfer to baking sheet. You can gather and re-roll any scraps, but I don’t recommend doing it more than once. Transfer baking sheet to the freezer to allow cut-outs to firm up, about 10 minutes.
- Place a second layer of parchment on top of the cut-outs and place a second baking sheet on top of the first. This will weigh dough the puff pastry when baking to create even layers.
- Bake until pastry is a deep golden brown, about 10 – 12 minutes. You want to let the pastry baked uncovered by the second baking sheet and parchment for the last minute.
- Allow pastry cut-outs to cool completely before assembling.
Vanilla Pastry Cream
- In a small saucepan, heat milk heavy cream on medium heat with vanilla bean and 2 tablespoons of sugar until it starts to simmer. Turn off heat, cover pot, and let mixture steep while preparing eggs.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together yolks, the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Slowly pour in the hot milk mixture while whisking the egg mixture, this will prevent the eggs from cooking.
- Return mixture to the pot, while turning back the heat to medium-low. Keep whisking the mixture as it thickens, 3 – 4 minutes. The pastry cream is ready when it starts to bubble slowly.
- Take the pot off the heat and whisk in the softened butter. Strain the pastry cream into a clean bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Let pastry cream cool in the fridge before using. If pastry cream gets to congealed while cooling, use a whisk or spatula to loosen the pastry cream. Transfer to a piping bag fitting with a piping tip.
Whipped Strawberry Ganache
- Place chopped chocolate in a heat proof bowl.
- In a small pot, bring heavy cream to a bowl. Carefully pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Allow the mixture to sit for a couple of minutes, until chocolate has softened. Using a whisk, whisk the mixture until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and transfer the bowl to the fridge. Allow the mixture to cool completed, about 2 – 3 hours.
- When mixture is chilled and mille feuille is ready to be assemble, transfer ganache mixture to the bowl of a stand mixture fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk of medium-high speed until medium peaks form. Transfer to a piping bag fitting with a piping tip.
- Place first layer of pastry down on a plate or cooling rack. Pipe and even layer of vanilla pastry cream. Place second layer of puff pastry. Pipe even layer of strawberry ganache. Gently place a few pieces of chopped lychee fruit. Place third layer of puff pastry. Dust with powdered sugar for serving.
- Place pastries on serving platter of choice and serve immediately.