Since my last puff pastry endeavour, I still had half a half of puff pastry ready to be used. So last night I had the forethought to put it in the fridge in hopes of trying one of the scariest recipes in the book.
I’ve seen bakers attempt this one and fail so hard on Bake Off. There are lots of chilling times and 14 steps that span two pages.
But why not let the first bake of 2021 scare me? Seems apt, no?
I’m ignoring the rectangle measurement since I’m using half a half (also known as a quarter, but I like saying “half a half”). It says to make it 3mm thick, but I assume this is good enough. I popped it into the freezer for 20 minutes and kept reading ahead to prepare (and scare) myself.
After about 20 minutes in the freezer, I pulled it out to trim the edges and put it back. Then while it was chilling again, I started on the icing.
Since I’m doing half a half a box of puff pastry and the recipe calls for half a box of puff pastry, I halved the icing too, which came in handy because the viscosity of the egg white made it difficult to scoop out a full tablespoon.
With the icing sugar, egg white and lemon juice mixed together to make a spreadable icing, I covered it and set it aside.
Then I started on the crème pâtissière. I poured half the amount of milk into a pan, scraped a few seeds out of a vanilla pod I’ve had for ages, and added the rest of the pod to heat the milk until steaming.
Unfortunately I turned my back and suddenly the milk was boiling. I removed it from the heat, let the vanilla infuse and mixed together the egg yolks, caster sugar and corn flour. And as I type this, I realized I made an error.
Okay. I made a couple of errors.
The first error I made was I mis-measured the corn flour. I could have sworn I was reading it correctly to do half the amount of 40 grams of corn flour, but then I realized that the 40 grams was actually for the caster sugar, and I was only supposed to do half the amount of 15 grams of corn flour, so I had to quickly try to scoop out corn flour without scooping out egg. Then I added the sugar onto the corn flour and egg and this leads me to the other mistake I only just realized I made.
The recipe calls for two room temperature egg yolks. I read it as two room temperature eggs. But since I had already separated an egg and only used half a tablespoon of the white, I figured I’d just use that egg yolk and egg white and call it a day. Should have been just the egg yolk. But maybe the extra egg white plus the extra corn flour ended up cancelling out both mistakes.
Anyway, that seemed to mix together to be a good consistency, and then I poured the hot vanilla milk onto that while whisking before transferring it back to the pot.
And then I put it back on the heat to whisk until thickened, and when you’re doing a half recipe that goes a lot quicker than you realize.
So I took it off the heat again, let it cool a tad and added the butter.
Then I scooped it into a bowl and put the clingfilm directly on it (after testing to make sure it wasn’t super hot) so that a skin would not form (gross).
Then I moved on to whip the cream. I had exactly half of what I needed left in my fridge (note to self: buy cream for your coffee tomorrow), and since it was only a little amount, I used one of my remaining brain cells to be a genius:
Single mixer attachment! Thank you, thank you.
Now here’s where things get even more confusing.
I was told to take the trimmed rectangle out of the freezer and cut it lengthwise, which I did. Unfortunately, while cutting it, I broke it too.
So instead of ending up with half the amount of 8 small rectangles that are 4 x 11 cm, I ended up with one rectangle and two split squares. Not ideal, but it’s just for me and I don’t need to be impressed.
Then I topped that with another piece of parchment paper, topped it all with a second baking sheet and put it in the oven.
This allows it to bake without rising. Then I took the baking sheet off to finish it off so it turned golden brown.
Then I got the second rectangle out of the freezer and became even more confused.
All of the millefeuilles I’ve seen had icing placed on after the pastry was baked and then they were piped with stripes of black icing and then toothpicked so that it ends up with that zig-zag pattern. (Or is it herringbone?) Anyways, this recipe says to put the icing on the unbaked rectangles and then bake those until the icing is golden and the pastry is cooked through.
That seems super wrong, doesn’t it?
Now do you see why I’ve read and reread and reread this recipe? It also doesn’t help that the recipe doesn’t have a picture. I don’t need pictures of brownies. I know what those should look like. I need pictures of confusing French pastry recipes I’ve never attempted before, Mary and Paul! Take note!
Anyway, this is what I ended up with:
I would definitely get eliminated from the technical challenge.
With those cooled, I folded the whipped cream into the crème pâtissière.
Then I spooned some onto an un-icing-ed piece, topped with an icing-ed piece and as far as I can understand, that’s the recipe.
To eat it, though, I added another scoop of crème pâtissière because, you know, who can stop me.
And I have always wondered how it was eaten because it looks so dainty and delicate (or at least the ones I’ve seen online and on TV look dainty and delicate; mine looks quite messy). So if you’re curious, too, here’s the result:
The flavours were quite good and everything, but it is just so many steps. And it still confuses me. If you want a millefeuille, I suggest finding a French bakery. If you want the Eton mess equivalent, see above.
P.S. I made the most of the rest.
Happy Christmas, as Mary and Paul would say.
(And yes I am aware that it’s January 5. But 2020 was tough and my Christmas tree is pretty and still brings me joy so I’m not in a major rush to take it down.)