Mille-Feuille is one of France’s most famous signature pastries. Translated as ‘thousands sheets’, this pastry is also known with the names Napoleon, custard slice and vanilla slice. It consists of three puff pastry sheets, filled and layered with two generous layers of pastry cream, or crème pâtissière. However, nowadays there are many different variants, with either chocolate or fruits. The top layer of Mille-Feuille can be either with icing sugar, cocoa powder, almonds, while more variants that are creative might be included, such as glazing with ingredients like white and dark or milk chocolate. What is very interesting is that, although well known as a French pastry, Mille-Feuille has its own alternatives in multiple countries around the world! For instance, in Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina it is called krempita, in Slovenia kremna rezina, krémeš in Slovakia, tompouce in the Netherlands, cremeschnitte in Germany, Switzerland and Austria or gâteaux Napoléon in Canada…the list is endless! Not only that, but nowadays you can find Mille-Feuille with green matcha, pistachio, blueberry, strawberries or even a baklava style one!
History of Mille Feuille
The exact origin of the particular dish is rather unknown. Nonetheless, there are some theories:
Chef François Pierre de la Varenne published the pastry recipe in Le Cuisinier François in 1651, which was one of the earliest French cookbooks. Later on, Antonin Carême elevated the recipe and he is known for generally developing the French cuisine. Initially, Mille-Feuille was named gâteau de mille feuilles, or “cake of a thousand leaves.”
In 1867 though, the pastry chef Adolphe Seugnot presented the Mille Feuille as his own personal specialty and idea. This is the reason why, up to today, Seugnot has sometimes been credited with the creation of it, despite the fact that there are referrals to the pastry even from the 17th century.
Mille-Feuille is also called Napoleon, but no confusion to be made with the French emperor! The correlation is the one made with the Italian city of Naples. In the Roman times, there used to be a tradition of similar pastries with puff pastry sheets and cream in between. Because of this tradition in Naples, this style of pastry was called ‘Napolitain’ (from Naples).
For an amazing crunchy, rich in flavour and creamy Mille-Feuille recipe you will need the following main ingredients:
- Frozen puff pastry sheets (or homemade)
- Pastry cream, crème patisserie (or homemade)
- All-purpose flour
- For icing: Any chocolate of your preference (melted)
- 2 egg whites
- Lemon juice
The list of ingredients is defined depending on the variant you will choose to prepare.
How to make it:
First, you will need to prepare the pastry and the filling. Gather the ingredients together and preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. If you are using frozen puff pastry sheets, make sure to follow the package directions and thaw it. Then, it is time to gently roll out the puff pastry rolls, making sure the thickness is the one of a cardboard. The shape can be anything you like! You can use a sharp knife to cut the dough in the shape of your preference. Place the dough into a baking pan, with some baking sheet above it, and use a fork to pierce the dough’s surface.
Bake the dough until it gets a brown golden color – it will need around 20 minutes, depending on the oven you are using. Let the dough rest and cool down for some minutes. When it is cold, it is time to finally ‘build’ the Mille-Feuille! At this stage, you can have the opportunity to trim the edges of the sheets that are uneven or make the necessary corrections.
Start by applying the generous layer of pastry cream on the bottom layer of puff pastry. Then on top of it put another puff pastry sheet and ‘stick’ it to the cream layer. Continue with as many layers as you wish, although three are mostly recommended.
Now the fun part: Decoration! You can use white, dark or milk chocolate and with the eggs, sugar and lemon juice you can prepare a delicious icing. Accompany your Mille-Feuille with coffee or tea and indulge into the unique sweet taste of this French delicacy!
CHEFIN Australia. 2022. Mille-feuille is a three layers of French pastry dipped in vanilla cream.. [ONLINE] Available at: https://chefin.com.au/dictionary/mille-feuille/. [Accessed 20 July 2022].
Gourmandise. 2022. Mille-Feuille: A Little History — Gourmandise. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.gourmandise.com/blog/strawberry-mille-feuille-a-little-history#:~:text=The%20History%20of%20Mille%2DFeuille,later%20perfected%20by%20Antonin%20Car%C3%AAme.. [Accessed 20 July 2022].
Dessert Advisor. 2022. The Mille-Feuille: Discover its History and Creative Varieties!. [ONLINE] Available at: https://dessertadvisor.com/2021/07/02/mille-feuille/. [Accessed 20 July 2022].
Written by Ioanna Mavridou
Ioanna holds a Bachelor’s degree in Translation from the Ionian University in Corfu and has also studied her Master’s in Communication at Gothenburg University in Sweden. A digital communications enthusiast, she has completed a professional Social Media & Digital Marketing certification. She speaks Greek, English, Swedish, German and Russian. She is a Communications Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament.