Where do I begin with the challenges that this dear dessert posed me in terms of new challenges? OK,let’s start with a description of what this is. A French dessert composed of, at its simplest, puff pastry, pastry cream, a spreadable jam, and icing. Interesting in that there are four cooking or preparatory tasks to complete before assembly.

Bake store bought puff pastry:

Simple enough, just make sure that the puff pastry is thoroughly thawed and bake on a cookie sheet for about 10-12 minutes. But here’s the thing about puff pastry– it puffs. From a flat rectangle about an 1/8″ thick…to this.

20140823-173849-63529711.jpg

Easily now about 2″ in height, and not evenly puffed, either. I suspect that it wasn’t thoroughly defrosted, my best guess. And another thing–something I learned post- Napoleon was this from Martha Stewart, of all people. #%$&.

Make the Pastry Cream:

I’ve made this before and it was something of a no-brainer. Milk, butter, sugar, egg yolks. Heat it up, chill it, spread it.

20140823-171220-61940298.jpg

Warm your jam:

Duh. Put your jelly or jam preserves in a pot and heat it up to make it more spreadable. Done and done.

Make the icing:

Powdered sugar (3 cups), 1T of lemon juice, and 2-3 egg whites. Mix to make the icing. The icing came out viscous and decidedly not thick enough, so apparently too much egg white in my estimation. I’ll do better next time.

Assembly and trimming:

Now, with three layers of puff pastry, with one topped with pastry cream, another topped with both pastry cream and jam, things get messy quickly. The layers are like this from the top down:

Icing
Puff pastry
Jam
Pastry cream
Puff pastry
Pastry cream
Puff pastry

Immediately below are the first two layers.

20140823-171939-62379205.jpg

Here is the final assembly along with the icing put on top. The general presumption in the recipe is that you will have puff pastry that ‘behaves’…which I didn’t. I had to trim the sides to make it even which wasn’t overly difficult.

The icing is essentially powdered sugar, lemon juice, and some egg whites. I can only guess that as the pastry cream wasn’t very opaque, I put in too much egg white which didn’t give the icing the thickness it required. Live and learn.

20140823-172407-62647358.jpg

Finally, I chilled the cake in the fridge to help the icing set which, in retrospect, might not have been the best idea. Too much moisture? I finally trimmed half the block and set it out nicely on a serving dish and took these pics to make it look elegant.

The last picture is of our friend, Astrid, taking a pic on her own.

20140823-172838-62918868.jpg

20140823-172838-62918659.jpg

20140823-172838-62918481.jpg

20140823-172851-62931379.jpg

All in all, a nearly elegant failure. The topmost pastry layer was so solid that cutting through it was like cutting leather rather than the preferred delicate flakes of puff pastry that it should have been. Reasons? Still not thawed enough and/or too much pastry cream absorbed.

Wifey wasn’t a fan, nor was I, for that matter, but it has room for improvement should I choose to move in this baking direction.

Fortunately, the rest of the meal that night was a culinary, cross-cultural success. More on that here.

As it really wasn’t worthy of being called a Napoleon, I kept thinking that another name should substitute for it… like Lapu Lapu, a famous character from Philippines history. And no, this is not some diss on this Filipino historical character, but if I am able to master this dish, I can assure you that Lapu Lapu would be proud to be eponymously related to this dessert.

Advertisements