Millefoglie (mille-feuille in French) translates as "one thousand layers" and it's one of the most delicate and elegant pastries: light, flaky puff pastry layered with rich zabaglione cream, mascarpone, whipped cream, or chocolate cream, or a combination thereof. This recipe uses a zabaglione, made with egg yolks and Marsala wine, mixed with whipped cream, for a billowy, decadent filling. The exterior is decorated with a mixture of toasted chopped almonds and crushed Savoiardi biscuits, for a delightful contrast to the creamy filling.
Though it originates in France, it's become popular throughout Italy and is a fixture in Italian coffee bars and pastry shops.
It makes an impressive ending for a dinner party or a beautiful birthday cake, though (if made with store-bought puff pastry) it's not actually difficult to make!
[Edited by Danette St. Onge]
- Frozen puff-pastry dough, thawed according to the instructions on the package
- Powdered sugar, for serving
- For the filling and almond-biscuit crumble:
- 3/4 cup blanched almonds
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 5 tablespoons dry Marsala wine
- 1 1/3 cups very fresh cream, chilled
- 4 Savoiardi biscuits (or 8 ladyfingers)
Begin by preheating your oven to about 460 F (230 C).
Cut the puff pastry into three equally sized pieces, and roll them out to somewhat less than 1/3-inch thick-- the sheets can be round or square, as you prefer.
Since the sheets will shrink (widthwise) as they cook, roll them out somewhat larger than you want the finished cake to be. They'll shrink less if you let them rest for 30 minutes before baking.
Once you've rolled out the first piece, bake it for 20 minutes in the oven on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Meanwhile, roll out the second piece, then bake it the same way while you roll out the third piece.
While the last piece of pastry is baking, start preparing the zabaglione: Mince the almonds and lightly toast them in a skillet over low heat. Put the yolks in a small saucepan, preferably of untinned copper, stir in the granulated sugar, and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the mixture is almost white.
Next, stir in the Marsala, a little bit at a time. Set the saucepan over a very low flame or on top of a double boiler and stir gently until the cream has thickened, then pour it into a clean bowl and let it cool, stirring occasionally.
When all three pieces of baked puff pastry have cooled to room temperature, dust one of them lightly with powdered sugar (it will be the top piece).
Crush the Savoiardi and combine them with the minced, toasted almonds.
To assemble the millefoglie:
Only assemble just before serving, so that the pastry will remain crisp.
Pour the chilled cream into a bowl and whip it to firm snowy peaks, then gently fold it into the cooled zabaglione.
Place the first sheet of puff pastry on the serving platter or tray.
Spread 1/3 third of the zabaglione-cream filling over it, lay the second sheet of pastry on top, and spread half the remaining filling over it. Cover with the third piece of puff pastry (the one dusted with powdered sugar).
Use a spatula to spread the remaining filling over the sides of the cake, then dust the sides with the almond-Savoiardi mixture so as to cover the cream. Remove any stray crumbs from the serving plate and set the cake in a cool place until serving time.
Note: The cream suggested can be substituted by whatever custard you refer, or even simple whipped cream, layered with fresh berries. Feel free to add fresh fruit, marmalade, jam, or Nutella between the layers of cream as well. You can also slice the millefoglie into 1- by 2.5-inch slices with a very sharp knife, and serve them individually.