For the finale “Showstopper” on the Great American Baking Show, we had to make a festive “Tower of Treats.” One of the treats I featured was a Mille-feuille with Bourbon Pastry Cream (and I added a little nutmeg to make it festive!) Making 3 completely different desserts in five short hours was no small feat. This final challenge felt more like a battle than a cutesy-type baking competition (which is evident by how exhausted we look in the finale pictures), but remarkably, we all finished! And the lovely people at Extra Crispy invited me to make a tutorial video for this dessert!
I wanted to make mille-feuilles because I think they’re just so darn cute. Wandering the cobblestone ruettes of Paris and stumbling upon boulangeries with their eye-catching pastries are some of my fondest memories from my semester abroad in Paris. And the flaky layers sandwiching a thick pastry cream in mille-feuilles always stood out as particularly special.
But this was a competition. I wanted to show the judges a technically challenging dessert. After a lot of uncertainty, some soul-searching with my favorite culinary producer Joel, and a couple of practice batches that ranged from somewhat-successful to What. The. Heck., I decided to just go for it and even up the ante by making the mille-feuilles with one of the most challenging types of dough: inverted puff pastry.
Puff pastry is already this mythical thing even experienced home bakers balk at. Making a traditional puff pastry (the flaky part of mille-feuilles and a number of other tasty dishes like salmon wellington and vol-au-vents) involves making a dough, encasing it over a giant block of butter, and repeatedly rolling it and folding it up like a letter, with lots of rest in the refrigerator in between each step.
If that isn’t bizarre enough, making an inverted puff pastry involves encasing dough in butter. Yes, you take a giant rectangle of pure butter and place dough inside of the butter. Then, you do the same rolling and folding. It’s much harder than it sounds. In fact, when Paul Hollywood stopped by my station to ask me what I was doing, he gave me that “another baker is about to bite the dust with the inverted puff pastry nonsense” look. As I was baking it, I had no idea how it would come out. But when I pulled it out of the oven, I was astonished at my success and I remember muttering to myself (or maybe it was a cameraman—), “I have never baked on such a high level before.” They came out perfect.
Oh, and Paul loved it.
But here’s the thing: although inverted puff pastry is rumored to make the flakiest of the already-very-flaky puff pastries, for something like a mille-feuille, a quick puff pastry works wonderfully. That’s because in a mille-feuille, I actually don’t want the pastry to rise. In fact, I put baking sheets on top of it while it’s baking to ensure that it doesn’t rise!
So, I’m sharing a slightly-adapted version of this recipe. I’m making the quickest of the “Quick Puff Pastry” recipes. I’ve discovered the cheat code to pretty much any recipe where you want your butter to stay cold (I’m talking puff pastry, pie dough, flaky buttermilk biscuits, everything!!) I’m using frozen butter in this recipe. Yes, you read that correctly. Frozen. Butter.
A frozen block of butter and a cheese grater work wonders here. Because the butter is actually frozen, you can do all of the turning and folding without resting the dough between each step. You make the whole block of puff pastry from start to finish in one fail swoop.
And while the puff pastry is resting, you can knock out the pastry cream. And then, you just roll out the dough, give it a final rest, and bake. Bake it until it’s completely brown throughout. If you under-bake it, the layers won’t fully form and you’ll miss out on all of the flakiness that makes puff pastry puff pastry.
So, here it is! I added some berries because they’re beautiful and the perfect tangy accompaniment. You can use any berries you please. Shout out to the wonderful Kat Kinsman and the rest of the fine folks at Extra Crispy for inviting me to make this super fun video! I hope you enjoy!
Raspberry Mille-Feuille Recipe
The full recipe is HERE
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