I have heard stories of my great gran’s mind blowing Napoleon cake. Sadly I wasn’t given an opportunity to taste it, just the wrong timing. Her cake had had a delicious glossy filling between the flaky pastry layers and never any fruit in there. She obviously had made the pastry herself, having to start a day before with rolling and cooling and rolling again. In old age despite the demands for her Napoleon, she never made it any more saying something like “can’t do with all this rolling”. When I asked my mother, why she didn’t offer help, she couldn’t answer. And therefore I have to start from the very beginning of exploring the way to the perfect Napoleon.
I have no excuse apart from my inner feeling that strongly prohibits from making a puff pastry myself. Quite likely I would waste a lot of time, make a big mess and end up with some sticky no flake no puff dough. So I did buy the pastry.
For the creamy filling, I invested much more time in, investigation time mainly. Most of the Napoleon recipes I came across were made with a quite regular custard like filling including whole eggs, a lot of milk and flour, plus sugar and should not me boiled. I opened my French cookbook as I remembered seeing something like the glossy filling my mother was describing – Creme Patisserie or the pastry cream.
1 pack of puff pastry
6 egg yolks
30g corn flour
1tsp vanilla extract with seeds
Heat the oven to 200 degrees. If the pastry is pre-rolld divide into 4 rectangles and roll a bit more but only in one direction. The rectangles might look a bit uneven after rolling, trim them with a knife and put the strips on the side. Bake each sheet until slightly golden and puffed. Collect the strips and roll into a sheet, however big then, cook the scrap sheet a bit more crisp-brown and cool.
For the pastry cream, heat the milk and 1/2 of sugar until it starts to boil, but then remove it immediately. On the same time cream the egg yolks and the other 1/2 of sugar until pale and creamy. Sift the flours on the egg yolk-sugar mixture. Pour the hot milk a little at the time to the egg mixture, whisk until well-combined. Then pour it to a clean saucepan and heat to boil and boil for 2min. while stirring. Remove from the hob and add the butter, stir. Transfer Creme Patisserie to a bowl and cover with cling-film to prevent the skin forming on top.
I decided to add to my Napoleon some home-made plum & Cointreau jam which I blended smooth.
Assemble: Pastry layer in the bottom, cream layer, pastry (which I had to slightly press down as it was too puff up), jam, pastry, cream, pastry, cream and on the top crumble the scrap sheet that should flake easily as it is browner and more fragile. And then, leave it to the fridge for a good while, mine will probably get 9h if I manage to resist.