Napoleon Of Puff Pastry With Vanilla-Whiskey Cream Recipe

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Save for Tony Parker and the Michelin Man, Ludo Lefebvre might just be the most famous Frenchman in America today. As a judge/mentor on ABC's cooking competition show The Taste, he's known for challenging upstart cooks with a razor-sharp palate — and for his thick-as-Matelote-stew Bourgogne accent. But in food-world circles he's best known for running successful Los Angeles restaurants, the impossible-to-book Trois Mec and the new, walk-in-only Petit Trois. Here, a recipe from his first book, Crave, which has recently been reprinted.

There are all kinds of reasons to love Napoleons, but at the top of my list are their flaky texture and the sound they make when you saw into them with a knife (not to mention the delicate crunch when you bite into those multiple layers of puff pastry). A little bourbon and vanilla adds character to the usual crème pâtissière.

Reprinted with permission from Crave

Napoleon Of Puff Pastry With Vanilla-Whiskey Cream Recipe
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  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons fleur de sel
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups (about) cold water
  • 1 3/4 cups (3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup bourbon whiskey
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Powdered sugar
  1. Mix the flour and fleur de sel in a food processor.
  2. Blend in the chilled butter.
  3. With the machine running, gradually add 1 cup of water through the feed tube, blending just until a soft dough forms and adding the remaining 1/4 cup of water if needed.
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface; knead until smooth.
  5. Roll out the dough into a 15 x 12-inch rectangle. Brush away any excess flour.
  6. Spread the room-temperature butter over two thirds of the dough.
  7. Fold the unbuttered third over the center third, then fold the remaining buttered third over the folded two thirds as is done for a letter.
  8. Refrigerate 45 minutes.
  9. Return the dough to the lightly floured work surface and turn the dough so that the long edges of the dough are parallel to the edge of the work surface.
  10. Roll out the dough into a 15 x 12-inch rectangle. Brush away any excess flour.
  11. Fold the narrow ends of the dough in to meet at the center, again brushing away any excess flour.
  12. Fold the dough in half again as is done when closing a book.
  13. Cover the dough and refrigerate 30 minutes.
  14. Repeat, turning, rolling and folding the dough 3 more times, refrigerating the dough 30 minutes in between each turn.
  15. Cut the dough crosswise into 4 equal pieces (each weighing about 10 ounces). Wrap each piece separately in plastic wrap.
  16. Place the milk in a heavy medium saucepan.
  17. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk; add the bean.
  18. Bring the milk to a boil.
  19. Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  20. Mix in the flour.
  21. Gradually mix in the hot milk mixture.
  22. Return the mixture to the saucepan.
  23. Stir with a whisk over medium-low heat until the pastry cream thickens and bubbles begin to break on the surface of the cream, about 5 minutes.
  24. Remove from the heat.
  25. Add the whiskey and butter; whisk to blend.
  26. Transfer the vanilla-whiskey cream to a small bowl.
  27. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the cream.
  28. Refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.
  29. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  30. Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  31. Roll out 1 piece of the puff pastry into a 12-inch square (about 1/8-inch thin).
  32. Trim the edges slightly.
  33. Using a large sharp knife, cut the pastry square crosswise into 3 equal strips.
  34. Transfer the strips to the prepared baking sheet.
  35. Cover with a sheet of parchment paper.
  36. Refrigerate until the dough is cold, about 20 minutes.
  37. Place a second baking sheet atop the paper covering the pastries.
  38. Bake the pastries until they puff slightly and are golden brown, turning the pastries over after the first 20 minutes of baking and baking a total of about 35 minutes.
  39. Using a metal spatula, transfer the pastries to a cutting board.
  40. Using a large serrated knife, trim the warm pastries, if necessary, so that they are of equal dimensions (each should now be about 9 x 3 inches).
  41. Cut each pastry strip crosswise in half (there will be six pastry pieces total).
  42. Repeat with another piece of puff-pastry dough.
  43. Cool the pastry pieces completely. 
  44. Remove the vanilla bean from the pastry cream.
  45. Transfer the pastry cream to a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip.
  46. Split each pastry piece horizontally in half.
  47. Arrange 1 pastry half on each of 6 plates.
  48. Pipe the cream lengthwise over the pastry in 4 even rows; top each with a second pastry half.
  49. Repeat layering the cream and remaining pastries.
  50. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.
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