Can you tell that I’ve been watching an unhealthy amount of The Great British Baking Show? To be fair, at this time of year my mind is always on baked goods, but my recent Netflix binge has inspired me to a be a little more creative, a little more daring, a little more…extra.
These mille-feuille get their name from the many layers of puff pastry that form the base of the confection, and they can be found gracing the windows of Parisian patisseries and bakeries the world over. I wanted to try my hand at this incredibly beautiful dessert—with a holiday twist. I turned to my very favorite Christmas treat, the candy cane, for inspiration and infused this mille-feuille with peppermint extract and decorated it with festive red-and-white stripes. I’m so thrilled with how the finished product turned out and even more thrilled that I can say this: they really are very easy to make!
It’s all about making the components separately and then assembling them in an attractive way. If you can turn on an oven and crank a stand mixer up to high speed, you can make these mille-feuille—I promise!
Candy Cane Mille-Feuille
• 2 sheets frozen puff pastry
• heavy whipping cream
• peppermint meringue kisses
• chocolate pastry cream
• royal icing
For the Meringues:
• 2 egg whites
• 1/2 cup fine sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
• red gel food coloring
For the Pastry Cream:
• 3 egg yolks
• 4 1/2 Tbsp sugar
• 3/4 Tbsp flour
• 3/4 Tbsp corn starch
• 1 1/3 cup milk
• 2/3 cup heavy cream
• 2/3 cup dark chocolate
For the Royal Icing:
• 2 egg whites
• 3 cups powdered sugar
• 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
• 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
• red gel food coloring
1. Start by making the meringues. Preheat the oven to 200°F.
2. Add the egg whites to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until stiff, starting on low speed and gradually building to high. Once your egg mixture is fully still, add the fine sugar a tablespoon at a time, making sure it’s fully incorporated before you add the next bit. Pro tip: make the fine sugar simply by adding regular granulated sugar to a blender and blitzing for about 30 seconds.
3. Once the sugar is fully incorporated, use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl, then mix on high speed for an additional 5 minutes, until the mixture is smooth, stiff and super glossy. Beat in the peppermint extract.
4. Turn a pastry bag inside out and use a paintbrush to paint four stripes of red food coloring inside the bag. Carefully turn it right-side out and use a spatula to add the egg white mixture to the piping bag.
5. Pipe little kisses of the mixture on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 45 minutes or until one of the meringues can be easily removed from the parchment paper without breaking on the bottom. Turn off the oven, but leave the meringues in the oven with the door cracked until they’ve cooled, then remove them from the oven.
6. Now, we’ll bake the puff pastry. After it’s come to room temperature, unfold the sheets of puff pastry and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Poke with a fork allover then brush with an egg wash. Top with another sheet of puff pastry and another empty baking sheet (we want the weight of the top sheet to keep the pastry from puffing too much) and bake according to package directions.
7. After the puff pastry is cooked and cooled, use a ruler and a sharp, serrated knife to carefully trim it into rectangles of matching size (mine were 2″ x 4″). Store the pieces in an airtight container until you’re ready to assemble the mille-feuille.
8. Next, we’ll move on to the pastry cream. Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, flour and cornstarch in a medium bowl.
9. In a saucepan, heat the milk and cream until they simmer, then mix 1/2 cup of the warm milk mixture into the bowl of egg yolks. This is called tempering the mixture and will prevent your mixture from turning into scrambled eggs.
10. Slowly pour the tempered mixture from the bowl into your hot milk mixture, whisking as you go. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture has thickened and will coat the back of a spoon. This should take about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the dark chocolate.
11. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool. Add it to a pastry bag with a wide tip when you’re ready to use it.
12. Whip up a batch of whipped cream with heavy whipping cream, a teaspoon of powdered sugar and a few drops of peppermint extract, to taste. I also added a teensy bit of red food coloring to create a pale pink whipped cream. Add it to a pastry bag with a wide tip.
13. Last but not least, make a batch of royal icing. Add the powdered sugar, cream of tartar, egg whites and vanilla to the bowl of a mixer and beat on high for 7 to 10 minutes until nice and stiff. You want the texture to be about the consistency of honey. It should pool easily but hold its shape in a straight line. Once you’re happy with the texture, separate into two bowls and add red food coloring to one.
14. Now comes the easy and fun part: assembling it all! Start with a layer of mille-feuill and top it with alternating piped dollops of whipped cream and pastry cream. Then, carefully stack another layer of puff pastry and top with another round of whipped cream and pastry cream.
15. Before we add the third layer of pastry cream, we have to do a little bit of decorating. Using your white royal icing in a pastry bag with a superfine tip, trace around the outer edge of a piece of puff pastry (try to choose one that’s pretty level). Then, “flood” or fill in that shape with the royal icing. It should naturally come together, but you can use a toothpick to encourage areas that may have a little gap.
16. While the white icing is still wet, use your red icing in a pasty bad fitted with a superfine tip to draw lines about 1/2″ inch apart going along the length of the puff pastry (so you’ll be drawing the lines the short way, not the long way). Go back in with your toothpick and drag it from left to right across the puff pastry (basically, perpendicular to the stripes). Then, drag the toothpick from right to left, and keep alternating to create this beautiful heathered pattern. Let dry!
17. Top your two layers with the third, frosted layer. Then arrange a few of your peppermint meringues on top and frame those with tiny dollops of whipped cream. Top your whipped cream with some pretty gold sprinkles and prepare to wow your friends and family who are lucky enough to eat these treats.