Thursday, March 11, 2010

Classic Napoleons

Top 10 "Most Difficult" Recipes: #5 Napoleons
Total Batches: One
Time: Three days (including the time to make the puff pastry from scratch)
Butter: Over a pound
Difficulty: The hard part is not eating 8 napoleons in one sitting. Otherwise they only require patience to make.

I'm going to post the puff pastry recipe tomorrow with the next dish. For the Napoleons, you will need roughly 1.5lbs of puff pastry. If you're using store bought, buy 2 boxes of puff pastry (20oz) and be prepared to eat some leftover diplomat cream.

Roll the puff pastry to a depth of 3mm and divide into three equal rectangular pieces (roughly 6.5 x 16"). If you're using the store bought dough, unfold/roll three sheets of pastry, no need to cut. Dock (poke holes) the pastry heavily, using a fork or a pastry docker. Then place each piece of puff pastry onto a pan lined with a sheet of parchment and set another piece of parchment on top. Weight the pastry with a second pan.

If you're going to be baking the sheets in installments, keep the uncooked puff pastry in the fridge. Bake the weighted sheets for 20-30 minutes at 375°F until the pastry is golden brown and dry throughout. Feel free to remove the second pan from the top of the pastry in the last 10 minutes of baking to facilitate browning.

Cool the puff pastry to room temperature on a wire rack.

Trim any uneven edges with a sharp serrated knife.

Lay a couple generous sheets of plastic wrap across a baking sheet and set one of the pieces of pastry into the center. Now you're ready for the cream...

Diplomat Cream
adapted from Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft
yields 2lbs of pastry cream
320 mL whole milk
75 grams granulated sugar
28 grams unsalted butter
28 grams cornstarch
113 grams of eggs (roughly 2 large eggs)
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds only (or 5 mL pure vanilla extract)

480 mL heavy cream
7 grams granulated gelatin
60 mL water

Combine 240mL of the milk and 33 grams of the sugar into a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Add the butter and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Meanwhile, in a bowl whisk the cornstarch with the remaining milk and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla bean seeds and mix until completely smooth.

When the milk comes to a boil remove from heat immediately and pour a third of the hot milk into the bowl with the eggs and cornstarch while mixing with the whisk. Return this mixture to pan with the remaining hot milk and set over medium heat stirring constantly with the whisk.

Cook the mixture until it comes to a boil, has thickened and the whisk leaves a trail in the mixture.

Pour the mixture into a stainless steel bowl set into an ice bath and allow to cool, stirring occasionally.

Sprinkle the gelatin over a small bowl containing 60ml of cool water and allow to bloom for 5 minutes.

Mix the gelatin into the pastry cream (it should still be warm, that's okay. It should be warm for this step). Strain through a fine mesh sieve into another non-reactive metal bowl and return it to the ice bath.

Once the cream hits roughly 75°F (room temperature) beat the heavy cream to soft peaks and then gently mix one third of the whipped cream into the pastry cream. Fold the remaining cream in until no streaks remain.

(Use immediately, the cream cannot be made in advance)

Slather a thick, even layer of the cream onto the sheet of pastry on your prepared pan. Top with a second piece of pastry and add another layer of the cream. Top with the third piece of pastry and then wrap the sheets of plastic over and around the pastry. Chill in the freezer overnight.

The next morning you can unwrap and finish the pastry while frozen.

You will need the following to finish the pastry:

8oz of rolling fondant
3oz simple syrup
3oz apricot jam (strained)
2oz bittersweet chocolate.

(Note: Don't feel bound by the 'classic' napoleon ingredients list here. You can mix it up a little, you have my permission. I like to top my napoleons with a dark chocolate ganache, marbled with a thin line of white chocolate and then a sprinkling of chopped pistachios.)

Thin the apricot jam with 1 oz of the simple syrup and brush it onto the top layer of puff pastry.

Divide the rolling fondant into small pieces and add to a sauce pan with the remaining 2 oz of simple syrup. Melt the fondant over medium low heat stirring until fluid and only slightly viscous.

Pour a little of the fondant glaze onto the center of the napoleon and spread to create a smooth even surface.

Melt the bittersweet chocolate and pour into a parchment pastry cone with a small opening snipped off the tip and pipe thin parallel lines of chocolate along the length of the napoleon.

Working quickly before the chocolate has a chance to set, drag a paring knife horizontally across the surface of the napoleon, alternating directions about 1/4" apart.

Allow the fondant to set before cutting.

To cut warm a long serrated knife in a pan of simmering water, dry with a towel and slice the napoleon into bars.

Allow the napoleon to defrost completely before serving. Keep refrigerated.


  1. These look amazing and perfect!! I may just get brave enough to try these someday:-)
    Great always! Can I be you when I grow up?

  2. favorite. you are an artist!

  3. Diplomat cream? That even sounds world class, let alone how it looks and most certainly how it tastes. You madame, have cooking (and overall) class!

  4. One more comment: I was watching some food show a couple of weeks ago, and this guy was touring Southern France and there was this restaurant that supposedly made the world's best Napolean, and you have to order it ahead of time, and have to pick it up, and the chef is so particular about how long it can sit in a traveling car that if you tell him you have to drive 2 hours to a party, he won't sell you the Napolean.


  5. The cream tastes so good!

    I've had too many bad napoleons with bizarre gelatin heavy cream fillings.

    Too many stabilizers in the cream equals disaster, in my opinion. Perhaps a pudding like cream filling is easier to mass produce and will hold up longer in the bakery case, but they never taste as good.

    The above recipe is also my favorite cream for profiteroles and eclairs.

    I was licking it off the spatula when I was done making these Sunday.

    Classy, I know.

  6. Lovely!! I love the marbling with chocolate -- so pretty.

  7. OMG! those are beyond gorgeous!! and sooo perfect!

  8. These looks so much nicer than the Napoleons served at my local bakery...I *knew* they were passing inferior goodies!! ;)

  9. Amazing Ms. Humble ! Can you give me some tips for my food blog please...

  10. Beautiful! I wish I had the time (and patience) to make these babies...they look wonderful.

    Please send some over to me right away! :)

  11. Just beautiful! I hope your family appreciates all your fabulous treats!!

  12. Wow! Your like a brilliant baking machine, I will definitely try these soon. They really do look perfect and very yummy!!

  13. Those are truly a work of art, and they look delicious too!
    Do you think you could do a post on how to make a gluten-free pizza crust? Our family has been trying for forever to get the right recipe; perhaps you could help? :)

  14. Oh my, these are gorgeous! This does seem a bit advanced for my baking skills, so it may take me a while to try to brave an attempt. For now, however, I will look through this looking glass and dream...

  15. I've just had a nice Napoleon cake a few days ago :) But u realize that our Napoleons here in Russia look nothing like yours, I'm wondering if they taste differently too?

  16. All I have to say is WWWWWOOOOOOOW!

  17. thanks for your ricipent
    i will try at my home

  18. Once again, I am amazed at your cutting skills. Your napoleons look like they could rival anything in the finest European bakeries. I think I'm putting those knives you recommended on my Christmas wish list.

  19. can i ask how u manage to pipe the ganache in nice straight lines? they look fantastic.

  20. Absolutely beautiful pictures and presentation!
    I also made Napoleon not too long ago, but I used a different cream - no butter and no heavy cream (I am trying to save calories :-) )

  21. How did you slice these so perfectly? They look amazing!

  22. Whoa! So pretty! Totally impressive.

  23. i am late to this party but....these took my breath away! ms. h, your napoleon's are EXQUISITE!

  24. These are my favourite food ever! This post was a voyage of new terms for me though, I only know them as mille-fuille, and I've never heard of diplomat cream either. I've only had them filled with creme patisserie - could be a UK vs US thing?

    Re being 29 - me too. I mentioned to a 23-year-old colleague that I taught myself to cook at university by googling recipes and without really thinking she said "Oh, did you have the internet back then." Humph.

  25. Lou,

    Yes, mille-fuille is the more common name for this dessert outside of the United States.

    Diplomat cream is a modified pastry cream (creme patisserie) and may be similar to the fillings used in the UK but I am not certain. I must visit some some bakeries in London during my May visit and do some comparison taste testing. All in the name of pastry research!

    Anyway, for this recipe you actually make a standard vanilla pastry cream and then add whipped heavy cream and small amount of gelatin (to stabilize) to create a 'diplomat cream' which is lighter and creamer than a regular pastry cream. It is also significantly higher in fat and calories, which means it tastes sinfully good.


    Sharp knives. Scary sharp knives.


    The marbling effect hides many flaws. After a single cup of coffee I can't pipe two parallel lines to save my life. Honest.

  26. OMG! You are honestly amazing!!!!!

  27. Definitely. I suggest a trip to Macaron, on The Pavement in Clapham Common. Peyton & Byrne is also good, but they do more rustic British pies and tarts than delicate patisserie (although they make lovely cupcakes).

    Ooh, for really amazing cupcakes, check out the Hummingbird Bakery on Portobello Road. There's also a nice-looking bread-focussed bakery a few doors down from there, but I can't vouch for their wares.

  28. just simply amazing... you really are talented!!


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