RECIPE: Three recipes are used to make up Napoleons. I have described how I went with making the puff pastry dough in my post on pork and fennel sausage rolls. I made no changes to Felder’s recipe for crème pâtissiére, and also followed Julia Child’s recipe for Napoleons with no alterations.
COMPONENTS: When making the puff pastry for the sausage rolls, I made a double quantity so I’d have enough for this recipe as well. Julia Child describes two ways of preparing the pastry for the Napoleons: baking larger sheets that are cut later, or cutting the dough into the finished size then baking. Having found it difficult to cut through the puff pastry of purchased vanilla slice, I opted for baking the pastry at the desired finished size. This ended up being a lot of work, because after rolling the pastry, I then had to cut the finished shape, and ease it onto a baking sheet. Moving the pastry resulted in some of them becoming a bit misshapen. It was then an intensive process to bake each sheet with another sheet pressed on top. This needed to have some weight because if too light, it allowed the pastry to puff up too much. I followed Julia’s tip of poking the pastry with a fork every five minutes and pressing down on the upper sheet to continue flattening the pastry. This also gave me the opportunity to turn the pastries around to get an even bake, as the centre was slower. I added gelatine (golf leaf) to the crème pâtissiére and it set perfectly, almost too well. Finally, the icing was very simple with a chocolate coffee glaze, both taking only minutes to prepare.
ASSEMBLY: The pastry pieces were generally flat and the right shape. When it came time to spread the custard on the pastry layers, it had set so well after the addition of the gelatine that it was hard to get nice and smooth. My biggest challenge is the final presentation of my pastries, and I’m not happy with the finished look of the custard in this recipe, but at least it set so the layers didn’t collapse! My vanilla icing had set by the time I put on the chocolate glaze, so I didn’t get the nice drag through to get the right pattern – it was more of a cut. Definitely have the chocolate glaze ready in a piping bag to add as soon as the icing is spread so it blends better. I also didn’t alternate the direction of the pattern, so it isn’t as pretty as it could be.
IMPRESSION: These tasted amazing and everything worked except my final presentation of the pastries. You could easily shortcut the whole process by using frozen puff pastry. If I was making them again, I’d try baking the pastry in large pieces that are then cut once they have been filled with custard. With a sharp knife, I think it’s achievable.
Napoleons recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol 1 by Julia Child
Crème pâtissiére recipe from Patisserie by Christophe Felder