Mille-Feuille: French Napoleon Pastry

Mille-Feuille Homemade Napoleon Pastry

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 18 mins
Chill: 2 hrs
Total: 2 hrs 48 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Yield: 8 pieces
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
828 Calories
41g Fat
104g Carbs
12g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 828
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 41g 52%
Saturated Fat 9g 46%
Cholesterol 60mg 20%
Sodium 446mg 19%
Total Carbohydrate 104g 38%
Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
Total Sugars 53g
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 French pastry that's known as millfoglie in Italian. Both names mean "a thousand leaves" due to the appearance of the cake's multiple layers of puffed-up, buttery pastry. The mille-feuille is a wonderfully appealing blend of flavors and textures; it's simultaneously rich and light, flaky and creamy. While it's not too sweet, it will satisfy your sweet tooth at tea time or over coffee.

Like a Napoleon, which traditionally uses almond cream, mille-feuille consists of crispy puff pastry layers filled with rich custard pastry cream. The top is then garnished with glossy royal icing and elaborate designs of chocolate or colored icing.

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

2:13

Click Play to See This Decadent Mille-Feuille Come Together

Ingredients

For the Pastry and Filling:

  • 1 1/2 pounds frozen puff pastry, or 1/2 batch homemade pâte feuilletée

  • 3 cups store-bought pastry cream (or homemade)

  • Optional: 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped to medium peaks

  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

For the Royal Icing and Decoration:

  • 80 grams bittersweet chocolate, melted

  • 2 large egg whites, room temperature

  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

  • 350 grams confectioners' sugar

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, the 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. Preheat oven to 400 F / 200 C.

    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. If you want to lighten the texture of the pastry cream, fold the optional whipped heavy 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 18 to 20 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 or so of baking 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. If the baked pastry layers look unevenly sized, you'll have the chance to trim the edges for a uniform look after assembling the pastry.

    Assemble ingredients for mille-feuille
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. 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
  3. Top with another layer of dough, pressing gently to adhere it to the pastry cream.

    Pastry cream is topped puff pastry
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  4. 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, lemon juice, and confectioners' sugar on low until the mixture is very smooth and glossy. This should take at least 7 to 10 minutes.

    Confectioners' sugar is added to the eggs and lemon juice
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. Add more confectioners' sugar or water, 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. Immediately pour the royal icing 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.

Serve the Mille-Feuille

  1. Once properly chilled, use a long, very sharp knife to 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. Enjoy.

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

Raw Egg Warning

Consuming raw and lightly-cooked eggs poses a risk for food-borne illness.

Tips

  • 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.

Recipe Variation

  • Replace the raw egg whites with meringue powder or pasteurized egg whites.
  • Cut the puff pastry into uniform 3-inch squares or 3-by-1 1/2-inch rectangles. Bake, cool, fill, and decorate the individual pastries as directed. Alternatively, bake the puff pastry and cut it into even pieces before filling and icing.
  • Omit the icing and sprinkle with powdered sugar, then use a pastry bag and fine tip to decorate with the semisweet chocolate.
  • The strawberry mille-feuille is an equally delicious version of this classic dessert. To make it, thinly slice 1 cup of clean strawberries and place them on top of each layer of pastry cream when assembling. Instead of the icing and chocolate, dust the top with confectioners' sugar.

How to Store Mille-Feuille

Keep any leftover mille-feuille in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days; 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.

Where Does Mille-Feuille Come From?

The exact origin of mille-feuille is unknown. It may be from either Italy or France, though French chefs were responsible for making it famous. The first known written mille-feuille recipe appeared in a 15th-century French cookbook by François Pierre de la Varenne. Mille-feuille is sometimes called a Napoleon, and this name points to a possible connection with Naples, Italy.