Napoleons are one of those desserts few at home would make since it seems to be a lot of work. But those layers of flaky crust with rich buttery whipped cream which assault your taste buds can get anyone interested in learning how to make these incredible desserts.
But before we get there, here is an excerpt from wikipedia.com on the incredible napoleon dessert in case you were wondering:
The Mille-feuille (French ‘thousand sheets’), Napoleon (U.S.), vanilla slice, cream slice or custard slice (Commonwealth countries) is a pastry made of several layers of puff pastry alternating with a sweet filling, typically pastry cream, but sometimes whipped cream, or jam. It is usually glazed with icing or fondant in alternating white and brown (chocolate) strips, and combed. The name is also written as “millefeuille” and “mille feuille”.
There are also savory mille-feuilles with cheese and spinach or other fillings.
Variant names and forms
In Italy, where the pastry is thought to have originated in Naples, it is called mille foglie and contains similar fillings. A savory Italian version consists of puff pastry filled with spinach, cheese or pesto, among other things.
In the Commonwealth (Quebec excepted), mille-feuille is known as ‘vanilla slice’ or ‘cream slice’, and usually has only a top and bottom pastry layer. The filling is often flavored with chocolate. In Australia, popular icings include vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, raspberry, and passion fruit. In New Zealand, it is usually called a ‘custard square.’
A variation popular in England is the Bavarian Slice which has a layer of raspberry or strawberry jam and rippled icing, although there is no evidence that this is a traditional Bavarian dish.
In Australia, there are varying forms of this pastry. Balfours, claiming to be Australia’s largest bakery, produce their own form of Napoleon Cake which is multi layered and contains icing, pastry, cream, jam and sponge cake. This differs from the more widely known vanilla slice which is composed of icing, pastry and custard.
In Sweden as well as in Finland the Napoleonbakelse (Napoleon pastry) is a mille-feuille filled with whipped cream, custard, and jam. The top of the pastry is glazed with icing and currant jelly.
The Netherlands and Belgium eat the tompoes or tompouce. Several variations exist in Belgium, but in the Netherlands, it is iconic and the market allows preciously little variation in form, size, ingredients and colour. See tompouce.
The origin of the mille-feuille is unknown. The Hungarian city of Szeged may have something to do with its origins. Carême (writing at the end of the 18th century) considered it of ‘ancient origin’. It was earlier called “gâteau de mille-feuilles” ‘cake of a thousand leaves’.
Origin of the name ‘Napoleon’
The name appears to come from napolitain, the French adjective for the Italian city of Naples, but altered by association with the name of Emperor Napoleon I of France. There is no evidence to connect the pastry to the emperor himself.
In France, a Napoléon is a kind of mille-feuille filled with almond paste.
An annual competition for the best vanilla slice baker is the Great Australian Vanilla Slice Triumph held in Ouyen in western Victoria (Australia). Judging criteria include “when tasted, should reveal a custard with a creamy smooth texture and a balance of vanilla taste with a crisp, crunchy pastry topped with a smooth and shiny glaze/fondant”. 
- The time-travel card game Early American Chrononauts includes a tongue-in-cheek card called Napoleon’s Napoleon which players can symbolically acquire from the year 1815.
- On the cd label for the 1998 Sonic Youth album A Thousand Leaves the phrase “mille feuille” is crossed out and “a thousand leaves” is written under it.
- Milfeulle Sakuraba is a character in the anime Galaxy Angel. She is highly skilled in cooking, but especially enjoys making pastries and other desserts.
- In the Woody Allen film Love and Death, Napoleon berated his chefs for a pastry attempt at a Napoleon (they’d included raisins, among other things). Napoleon declared himself in competition with Wellington, who was “inventing” Beef Wellington.
- In the video game Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, the cake is the most expensive one when found in the hidden bakery of the City of Haze, at $1000 per single payment. It will reappear on sale once the player consumes it, but is also found again in another hidden bakery later on in 13th Street.
- In the video game For the Frog the Bell Tolls, The Princess Tiramisu lives in the Mille-Feuille kingdom.
As I searched for appropriate photos (the one above came from bonappettite.com) I was shocked by the photos that did come up as samples of the real thing – I kid you not, most of these photos of desserts were not very appealing…but I assure you there are a variety of ways to make napoleon’s but I found a good recipe to create the perfect dessert for your next shingdig.
Now that you have learned a thing or two about Napoleon Pastries here’s your most basic recipe for making your very own flaky pasties for your eating pleasures…
Napoleon Dessert Recipe:
Courtesy of Baking.About.com
Prep Time: 1 hours, 00 minutes
- 17-ounce package frozen pastry
- chocolate or vanilla pastry cream*
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 ounce semisweet chocolate, melted
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lighly flour bread board and rolling pin. Roll dough to 13 x 17 inch triangle, 1/8 inch thick. Transfer to cookie sheet. Prick dough with fork. Cover with another cookie sheet. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove top sheet and continue to bake for 5 more minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on wire rack.
Cut pastry into thirds, lengthwise. Mix powdered sugar and water. Stir until smooth. Turn over 1 pastry strip on rack. Pour sugar glaze over strip. Smooth with spatula. Quickly pour stripes of chocolate over glaze. Drag knife over top to make decorative design. Let stand until dry, about 30 minutes.
To assemble: Place one unglazed strip on serving platter. Spread half of pastry cream on top. Top with the other unglazed strip. Top with rest of pastry cream. Top that with glazed strip. Chill until firm, about and hour. (Don’t chill longer than 3 hours. It may get soggy.) For serving, cut with serrated knife.
Vanilla Pastry Cream Filling Recipe:
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 02 minutes
- 2-1/4 cups milk
- 4 egg yolks
- 2/3 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
Boil 2 cups of milk. Beat yolks with sugar and remaining milk. Whisk until smooth. Add cornstarch and flour until combined. Gradually whisk hot milk into egg mixture. Return to saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture boils and thickens. Reduce to low and stir for 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Pour into a shallow disk. Cover with plastic wrap. (Make sure wrap touches surface to prevent a skim from forming.) Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. Makes approximately 2-3/4 cups.
Also interesting on this September 7th – Some historical facts:
St. Gratus of Aosta, protector of vineyards
St. Regina, patron of shepherdesses
1840 Luther Crowell was born. He invented a machine to make square bottomed grocery bags.
1847 Henry David Thoreau left Walden Pond.
1912 David Packard was born. Founder with William Hewlett of the Hewlett Packard Company. Before they became famous for computers and printers etc., some of their early inventions were an automatic urinal flusher and a weight loss shock machine!
1971 The final episode of ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ TV show is aired.
I won’t be making napoleons for today, but will be making my coconut oatmeal cookies for a church community function that is happening tomorrow, weather permitting.
Have a great September 7th. ~Chef Maven