Mille-Feuille: French Napoleon Pastry

Mille-Feuille Homemade Napoleon Pastry

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  • Total: 85 mins
  • Prep: 60 mins
  • Cook: 25 mins
  • Chilling time: 2 hrs
  • Servings: 8 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
818 Calories
41g Fat
102g Carbs
12g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 818
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 41g 52%
Saturated Fat 9g 46%
Cholesterol 60mg 20%
Sodium 445mg 19%
Total Carbohydrate 102g 37%
Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
Total Sugars 51g
Protein 12g
Vitamin C 1mg 4%
Calcium 119mg 9%
Iron 4mg 24%
Potassium 276mg 6%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Mille-feuille (pronounced meel-foy) is a classic pastry of Italian origin but made famous by the French. Similar to a napoleon, it consists of crispy layers of puff pastry filled with rich custard pastry cream. The top is then garnished with glossy royal icing and often elaborate designs made out of chocolate or colored icing. Because of the multiple layers of puffed-up, buttery pastry, the dessert looks as if it's made up of "a thousand leaves" of pastry, thus the mille-feuille name. Often confused for a napoleon, which is filled with almond cream rather than pastry cream, the mille-feuille is a wonderfully appealing blend of flavors and textures, perfect for satisfying your sweet tooth at tea time or over coffee.

A mille-feuille isn't difficult to make at home, especially if you use frozen puff pastry dough. But be mindful that it is a time-consuming process, so allow ample time for prepping, baking, assembling, and chilling. Mille-feuille can be assembled a day or two in advance of serving. Have parchment paper on hand for baking the pastry layers and be sure to allow additional prep time if making your puff pastry dough from scratch.

Ingredients

For the Pastry and Filling:

  • 1 1/2 pounds puff pastry (or 1/2 batch homemade pâte feuilletée)

  • 3 cups pastry cream

  • Optional:

    1/2 cup heavy cream (whipped to medium peaks)

  • 2 tablespoons flour

For the Royal Icing and Decoration:

  • 80 grams bittersweet chocolate (melted)

  • 2 large egg whites

  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar/350 grams confectioners' sugar

Steps to Make It

Note: While there are multiple steps to this recipe, this dessert is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and baking.

Prepare the Pastry and Filling

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for filling
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. If using homemade puff pastry dough, have it ready and chilled. Or thaw store-bought frozen puff pastry dough according to the package directions.

    Puff pastry
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. Heat the oven to 400 F/200 C.

  4. If you want to lighten the texture of the pastry cream, fold the optional whipped cream into it. Cover and refrigerate until assembly time.

    Mix filling
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Bake the Pastry Layers

  1. On a lightly floured surface, gently roll out the puff pastry dough into an elongated rectangle, the thickness of a thin piece of cardboard.

    Dough is gently rolled out
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into three equally sized pieces.

    Dough is cut into three pieces
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. Transfer the dough to a baking pan (or pans) lined with parchment paper and pierce the dough all over with a fork.

    Dough is pierced with a fork
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  4. Cover the dough with another sheet of parchment paper and place a baking pan or pie weights on top to weigh down the dough as it bakes.

    Weighing down the dough with a baking pan
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  5. Bake the weighed-down dough, in batches if necessary, for about 25 minutes or until the dough is deep golden brown. The weights and the top layer of parchment paper pan can be removed for the last 5 minutes of baking or so to help crisp up the dough. 

    Dough is baked
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  6. Transfer the baked pastry layers to racks to cool completely.

    Dough is transferred to a rack to cool
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Assemble the Mille-Feuille

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Assemble ingredients for mille-feuille
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. Have at hand the baked puff pastry layers, the pastry cream, and the ingredients for frosting and decorating. If the baked pastry layers look unevenly sized, you'll have the chance to trim the edges for a uniform look after you've assembled the pastry.

  3. Start by distributing half of the pastry cream over one layer of baked puff pastry.

    Cooled puff pastry is covered with pastry cream
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  4. Top with another layer of dough, pressing gently to adhere it to the pastry cream below.

    Pastry cream is topped puff pastry
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  5. Spread the remaining pastry cream over the second layer of pastry, top with the third layer of pastry, and again press down gently. Reserve.

    All three layers of of the mille-feuille is complete
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Decorate the Mille-Feuille

  1. Melt the chocolate in a saucepan over very low heat and transfer it to a pastry bag or decorating tube fitted with a fine round tip. Alternatively, you can use a small plastic bag with a pierced or snipped corner to make a tiny opening. Reserve.

    Melted chocolate in a pastry bag fitted with a tip
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. Using a standing mixer or mixing by hand, make the royal icing by beating the egg whites and lemon juice just until foamy. Add most of the confectioners' sugar and mix on low speed until very smooth and glossy.

    Confectioners' sugar is added to the eggs and lemon juice
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. Add more confectioners' sugar if necessary to achieve a consistency so that when the icing is drizzled back into the bowl from the beaters, it will sit briefly on the surface of the icing before sinking back in.

    Whisking the royal icing
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  4. Pour the royal icing immediately over the top layer of the assembled pastry and spread it evenly over the entire surface with the help of a spatula. Some of the icing might drip over the edges.

    Frosting the pastry with royal icing
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  5. Working quickly before the icing sets, drizzle the chocolate across the icing in evenly spaced parallel lines. Don't worry if some of the chocolate drips over the edges or if your lines look sloppy. After trimming the edges the appearance will be very refined.

    Decorating with lines of chocolate icing
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  6. Drag the tip of a thin, sharp knife through the lines of chocolate, spacing them evenly from one side of the pastry to the other; go first in one direction and then in the opposite direction to make a chevron pattern. This creates the most classic mille-feuille decorative pattern.

    Chocolate icing decorated in a chevron pattern
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  7. Before trimming the edges or cutting into individual portions, refrigerate the assembled mille-feuille for at least two hours, or freeze for at least 30 minutes if pressed for time.

Serving the Mille-Feuille

  1. Once properly chilled, and using a long, very sharp knife, cut 1/4 inch off the edges of the pastry all around to make a neat and evenly proportioned rectangle.

    The sides of the mille-feuille are trimmed with a knife
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. Carefully transfer the trimmed mille-feuille to a serving dish and refrigerate again if not serving immediately, or cut into individual portions to serve.

    The finished mille-feuille are served on a plate
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. Enjoy.

For Best Results

  • Keep in mind that frozen puff pastry dough isn't the same as frozen phyllo dough. The two are not interchangeable in this recipe. Always select an all-butter puff pastry for the best flavor and texture.
  • When assembling the mille-feuille, it's best to work on a flat surface for easy transfer of the finished pastry to a serving dish. 
  • When cutting the mille-feuille, a long, very sharp nonserrated knife will make the cleanest cut through the icing.

Strawberry Mille-Feuille

Another delicious version of this classic uses strawberries in the filling for added flavor and texture:

  • Thinly slice 1 cup of clean strawberries and place them on top of the pastry cream when assembling. Once the three layers of pastry have been used, dust with confectioners' sugar on top for a decorative touch instead of using the royal icing and chocolate.

How to Store

  • Keep any leftover mille-feuille in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days—although the pastry will become less crisp with each passing day. Alternatively, freeze the dessert well wrapped for up to six months; thaw overnight in the fridge before serving.