French Napoleons are one of the most famous French desserts. With the help of your local grocery store, making it can be very simple. The French name for Napoleon is “Mille-Feuille,” which translates to “a thousand layers.” In this recipe, the layers are created with store-bought, puff-pastry dough and then layered with homemade pastry cream and whipped cream. The end result is a simple dessert with a show-stopping presentation.
Begin by preparing the pastry cream. Place two and a half cups of milk, sugar and both extracts in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Combine the remaining milk with the cornstarch. Whisk to combine the cornstarch mixture with the hot milk. Remove from heat. Temper the egg yolks, by combining a small amount of the hot-milk mixture with the yolks while whisking vigorously. This heats the egg yolks slowly, so they do not scramble. Add the rest of the milk mixture to the yolks. Place plastic wrap directly onto the top of your custard and refrigerate.
Place the bowl of your stand mixer and the heavy cream into the freezer for a few minutes until cold. Remove and put the cream into the bowl and whip until peaks form. Remove one-third of the mixture and mix with your custard. Place both the pastry cream and whipped cream into the refrigerator, while you bake the puff pastry.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. On a floured surface, roll out the puff pastry slightly. At this point, you can decide what shape you would like the Napoleons to be in; you can cut, shape and bake the dough in any number of ways. Traditionally, Napoleons are rectangular. To make rectangular Napoleons, cut the pastry into four equal rectangles length wise. Place on a baking sheet and prick slightly all over with a fork. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove and cool on a wire rack.
Assemble the Napoleons by placing one sheet of the baked puff pastry on a plate. Spread with a layer of pastry cream, then a layer of whipped cream. Repeat the layers, ending with whipped cream, and serve.