First on the First: Mille-Feuille

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This month is the last for First on the First and I’m so glad Carrie and Kate, our fearless leaders, chose something sweet so that I could join in for one last challenge, mille-feuille.

Mille-feuille translates from French to “thousand leaves”, a reference to the puff pastry that’s an integral part of this dessert. Also known as a Napoleon, this sweet, flakey treat is made up of three layers of puff pastry, alternating with two layers of pastry cream. While the variations are endless, the top pastry layer is typically dusted with powdered sugar or glazed with white fondant and chocolate.

It’s been a busy spring in Philly — lots of suitcases and not enough sweets! — so I opted for the quick version of this French dessert and used store-bought puff pastry, layered with my favorite, tried-and-true pastry cream, and complemented with some fresh strawberries. To see and read about other variations of mille-feuille, click on the links below to visit other First on the First bloggers’ sites!

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Click Here to Print This Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 17.3 ounce package of two puff pastry sheets
  • 1 egg, for optional egg wash
  • 3.4 ounce box instant French vanilla pudding
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 pint whipping cream, whipped
  • 1 pound strawberries, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Juice of 1 lime

Instructions:

  • On a lightly floured surface, unfold pastry sheet and cut into three strips of equal size. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. If a more golden brown color is desired, apply an egg wash (1 egg and 1 tablespoon water) on the top of each pastry strip. Prick each strip with a fork and bake as directed on the box.
  • Once golden brown, remove from baking sheets and cool on wire racks.
  • Meanwhile, mix pudding and heavy cream; refrigerate until firm. In a medium-sized bowl, combine chopped strawberries, lime juice, and vanilla; set aside.
  • When pudding mixture is firm,  fold in whipped pint of whipping cream and mix in strawberries.
  • Split each pastry into two layers, forming a total of 12 layers.
  • Layer filling and pastry sheets, beginning and ending with pastry.
  • For easier slicing, refrigerate before serving.

More mille feuille madness:

First on the First: Sticky Toffee Pudding

Happy New Year! Our First on the First blogging crew is celebrating with Sticky Toffee Pudding, a classic English dessert comprised of a moist date-filled sponge cake topped with a smooth toffee sauce. British pudding is a hot, baked or steamed dessert, and this one is perfect for the cold winter days ahead of us. It also brings back wonderful memories of visiting London and is a tasty complement for daydreaming about past trips abroad and ones to come. Cheers to a sweet 2014!

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Ingredients:

For the Cake

  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup pitted dates, finely chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

For the Sauce

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

For the Topping

  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch baking dish.
  • Combine flour, salt, and baking powder; set aside.
  • Finely chop dates and place in a small bowl. Add boiling water and baking soda; set aside.
  • In a bowl of stand mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla; beat until blended.
  • Gradually beat in the flour mixture. Add the date mixture to the batter and fold until blended with a rubber spatula. Pour into the prepared baking dish.

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  • Bake until pudding is set and firm on top, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven to a wire rack.
  • For the toffee sauce, combine butter, heavy cream, vanilla, and brown sugar in a small heavy saucepan; heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil gently over medium low heat until mixture is thickened, about 8 minutes.

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  • Preheat broiler. Spoon about 1/3 cup of the sauce over the pudding. Spread evenly on top. Place pudding under the broiler until the topping is bubbly, about 1 minute.

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  • Serve immediately, spooned into dessert bowls. Drizzle with toffee sauce and top with a spoonful of whipped cream

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This recipe was adapted from the Food Network. For more Stick Toffee Puddings, check out the following posts!

First on the First: Candy Cane Red Velvet Jars

 “At 30 a man should know himself like the palm of his hand, know the exact number of his defects and qualities, know how far he can go, foretell his failures – be what he is. And, above all, accept these things.” – Albert Camus

While I can’t say I know myself like the palm of my hand and haven’t calculated the exact number of my defects and qualities (despite being older than 30), I can fortell my failures and accept them — at least in the kitchen! Candy canes, December’s First on the First challenge, was a foretold failure, since I hate to make candy and am rarely successful at it.

I do, however, love to bake so I created these Candy Cane Red Velvet Jars. They share the festive red and white motif and peppermint flavor of candy canes without the need for a candy thermometer or pulling.

(If in examining the palm of your hand, candy-making isn’t one of your defects, check out the links below to First on the First posts by blogger friends who took on the challenge!)

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Click Here to Print This Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups grapeseed oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 (2-pound) package powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons peppermint extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • Optional: Crushed candy canes, whole candy canes, peppermint bark

Instructions:

For the Cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees; grease and flour 3 (9 by 1 1/2-inch round) cake pans.
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder; set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla.
  • On low, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined and a smooth batter is formed.
  • Divide cake batter evenly among prepared cake pans. Bake until the cake pulls away from the side of the pans and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
  • Remove cakes from the oven and run a knife around the edges to loosen them from the sides of the pans.
  • One at a time, invert the cakes onto a plate and then re-invert them onto a cooling rack, rounded-sides up. Let cool completely.

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For the Frosting:

  • In a stand mixer, beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating at low speed until smooth. Add extracts, beating until blended. Add whole milk; beat on medium-high for 3-5 minutes.

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Putting It Together:

  • Place one layer of cake into jar, pipe frosting to cover cake, sprinkle crushed candy canes on top of frosting. Repeat until jar is full.
  • Top with candy cane and peppermint bark, if desired.

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This recipe was adapted from Sara Moulton’s Southern Red Velvet Cake and Southern Living’s Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting

More Candy Cane Treats from First on the First Bloggers!

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