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:

Harrods Food Hall & Easter Coconut Macaroons

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You may know of Harrods as one of the world’s largest and most famous department stores. With over 1 million square feet of retail space, 7 floors, and more than 300 departments, it certainly lives up to its motto, “Omnia Omnibus Ubique – All Things for All People, Everywhere”. But did you know that it began as a small grocery shop?

Established in 1849 by Charles Henry Harrod, the store began in a single room with two employees, selling predominantly tea and groceries. It expanded steadily at the hand of Charles Digby Harrod, the founder’s son, increasing in size and offerings. By 1880, one hundred staff members were employed selling groceries, medicine, perfume, stationery, and china.

Reopening after a fire, the building’s exterior began to match its fine offerings, incorporating terracotta tiles and a Baroque-style dome.

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Harrods’ storied history is ever-present. For example, though construction began on the Meat Hall in 1902, the same decorative tile and embellishments remain to this day.

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Through the years the food halls continued to be a central part of Harrods, and by 1982 they numbered seven.

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Offering everything from fish

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and fruit

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to specialty grocery items

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and handmade confections,

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Harrods is a food lover’s dream.

When I stopped by two weeks ago, they were busy preparing for Easter.

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The abundance of hot cross buns,

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baskets,

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and displays of chocolate eggs

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certainly increased my excitement for the holiday!

Harrods happens to be the first department store in the world to create its own couverture chocolate and shows its culinary prowess with remarkable chocolate creations.

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I had a feeling this exclusive, handcrafted Belgian chocolate egg, measuring one meter in height and costing 1,149 GBP (or $1,922!)

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wasn’t going to travel well, so I left it in Knightsbridge and took home some Easter inspiration instead. These Easter Coconut Macaroons are perfect for nestling your favorite chocolate eggs or bunnies!

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Click Here to Print This Recipe.

This recipe is attributed to Elana’s Pantry. Ingredients and instructions have been updated to incorporate chocolate and Easter treats.

Ingredients:

  • 6 egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups shredded coconut
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil
  • Cadbury Mini Eggs, optional

Instructions:

For the Macaroon:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk egg whites and salt until stiff.
  • Fold in honey, vanilla, and coconut.

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  • Drop a tablespoon of batter onto prepared baking sheets. Depress the center of each macaroon to make a nest shape.
  • Bake 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned.
  • Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

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For the Chocolate:

  • In a small bowl, melt chocolate and coconut oil.
  • Stir thoroughly and allow to cool to room temperature.

Putting It Together:

  • Invert macaroons and spread a thin layer of chocolate along the bottom. Refrigerate 15 minutes or until chocolate hardens.
  • Turn macaroons right side up and, using a fork, drizzle chocolate over top. Refrigerate 15 minutes or until chocolate hardens.
  • Garnish with Cadbury Mini Eggs or Easter treat of choice.

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DISTANCE TRAVELED FROM PHILADELPHIA TO LONDON: 3, 580

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Varadero Beach & Coconut Cardamom Chip Ice Cream

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I’ve been hibernating. Yesterday when I began my walk to work, a mandatory departure from the cozy confines of my condo, it was 12 degrees with a wind chill of zero degrees. This winter has felt terribly long, and I’ve clung to the short hours of warm sunshine I’ve been able to gather when work called for overnights in Miami and Varadero Beach.

Midway through my time in Cuba, we traveled out of Havana to visit artists, museums, and historical sites in Matanzas, the second largest province.

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Since Matanzas is roughly 90 miles east of Havana and we had stops to make over two days, we spent the night in Varadero, one of the largest resort areas in the Caribbean.

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Varadero has the most popular — and some say the most beautiful — beaches on the island.

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With more than 12 miles of oceanfront, Varadero welcomes primarily European and Canadian tourists. Because of US government restrictions, there aren’t many Americans who are able to visit this gorgeous area. In fact, I was sorry we didn’t have time to visit the nearby caves and cays.

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We’re expecting more snow in Philly tomorrow, which promises to push us past the current distinction of third snowiest winter on record. I’m planning to continue my hibernation, wishing desperately for the sun to set on winter,

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while basking in warm memories and flavors of Varadero by eating a bowl of Coconut Cardamom Chip Ice Cream.

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Click Here to Print This Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 (13.5 ounce) cans of coconut milk; refrigerated
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 13.5 ounces chopped dark chocolate*

*I used dark chocolate with sea salt

Instructions:

  • Combine all ingredients except chocolate in blender and mix until smooth.
  • Transfer batter to ice cream maker. Mix for 15-20 minutes, adding chocolate during the last minute.
  • Serve immediately or freeze in an airtight container.

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DISTANCE TRAVELED FROM PHILADELPHIA TO VARADERO BEACH: 1,210 miles

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