Glitz and Glam

Doesn't that just look scrumptious? Admit it: right now, you wish you were sitting at my kitchen table, facing this beauty. Well, there's no need for you to come all the way here, because you can make it yourself. This dessert is bit more complicated than the recipes I usually post, but it is well worth the fuss. Actually, it really isn't fussy, or complicated, it's just that there are a few steps to follow before you can get the end result. On the bright side, each element in the dessert is a gem in its own merit, and can be used for any other dessert you may wish to create yourself.

For the rhubarb mille-feuilles, you will need: a sheet of puff pastry (store-bought, frozen or fresh, is perfectly acceptable); enough poached rhubarb to feed everyone; and some crème légère. Despite its name -it literally means 'light cream'- crème légère is far from light, calorie-wise. However, it does have a most heavenly texture, all light and airy, and silky-smooth. It will turn any dessert into a billowy creation. Crème légère is one of the many variations on custard cream (crème pâtissière), a basic filling one absolutely needs to master. Classic French pâtisserie relies on pastry cream as a filling for fruit tarts, but come summer, custard just feels too stodgy: on the other hand, fill a pastry shell with crème légère, top with fresh berries, and you would think you were in heaven.

Crème Légère
Yields about 625mL/ 2½cups

125mL/ 1cup milk
2 egg yolks
70g/ 1/3 cup (minus 2 tsp) sugar
17g/ 5tsp corn starch
125mL/ 1cup whipping or double cream

Pour cold water in a thick bottom pan, swirl around and discard. Pour the milk in the wet saucepan, and scald.*
In the meantime, whisk together yolks, sugar and corn starch.
When the milk comes up to the boil, remove from heat, and pour half over the yolks, whisking vigorously as you go: this is called 'tempering', and will prevent the yolks from becoming scrambled eggs.
Return milk to the stove, adding the yolk mixture.
Keep whisking until the custard thickens and starts bubbling.
Remove from heat, and pour custard into a bowl.
Cover with cling film, making sure that the plastic is in direct contact with the custard: this will prevent steam from condensing onto the cream's surface. 
Refrigerate the custard, and leave to cool down completely.
Meanwhile, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Refrigerate.
When the pastry cream is completely chilled, loosen it up by beating it, then gently fold in the whipped cream.
Use as needed.

Hang on to those egg whites! They can be frozen for later use, or they will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days, just in case you're thinking of making an egg white omelette or meringues. I've just noticed that the package of puff pastry I usually buy has no instructions whatsoever as to how it should be baked. If your puff pastry doesn't come with instructions either, here is how I prefer to bake puff pastry destined for dessert grandeur:

Sweet Puff Pastry
Yields 1 sheet

1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed if frozen
Granulated or coarse sugar

Heat oven to 220'C/ 425'F.
Lightly flour your work surface, and unroll the puff pastry.
Dust the dough's surface with flour, and roll out until the pastry is about 5mm/ ¼" thick.
Pick up the pastry by rolling it onto your pin, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Sprinkle with sugar, and gently press it into the dough.
Cover with another sheet of parchment paper, and place another baking sheet on top.
Refrigerate for about 10 minutes, or place in the freezer for 5.
Bake for 10 minutes.
Remove the top sheet and paper, and continue baking for another 5 minutes.
Leave to cool completely, before trimming with a serrated knife.
Will keep in an airtight container for about 5 days.

Now we are ready to assemble the mille-feuilles. You can build a whole sheet of mille-feuilles, but it will be easiest to assemble individual portions. Cut the puff pastry into rectangles, counting at least two per person. Using a butter knife (or you can go all Martha, and use a pastry bag), smear a dollop of cream on a piece of pastry. Layer with a few spears of poached rhubarb, and top with another rectangle of puff pastry. If you have enough, you can add another tier. Finish off with a light dusting of powdered sugar if you want.

Bon app'!

*From the Department of Gadgets You Never Knew You Needed:
It's not actually a gadget, and you most likely already have it in your kitchen: it's cold water. It would seem that a thin layer of water at the bottom of a pot will form a steam barrier between the hot metal and the milk, thus preventing it from sticking to the pot. It sounds far-fetched, but this trick actually works (most of the time)!


  1. It really does look scrummy. I would love a slice.


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