Raspberry Napoleon Hearts
Valentine’s Day’s just round the corner and its a wonderfully tied in with the season of summer berries. I absolutely adore raspberries, both its rich colour and textures as well as its delicate tartness. While stocking up punnets of raspberries and blueberries which I could use throughout the off-season months, I remember chancing upon a recipe over Martha Steward’s website for “Heart-shaped Raspberry Napoleon” and I knew I have to make it for this month’s Aspiring Bakers’ theme “Love is in the Air” hosted by Ellena of Cuisine Paradise.
The recipe can be simple or difficult, depending on how much one decides to stretch oneself. I decided to go the hard way and give myself a challenge!
Heart-Shaped Raspberry Napoleon was featured on the Martha Steward’s Show by Chef John Barricelli back in 2008. It is basically an assemblage of 3 components – puff pastry, fresh raspberries and crème patisserie. A Napoleon, better known as mille-feuille is basically 3 layers of puff pastry (pâte feuilletée) interlaced with 2 layers of pastry cream (crème patisserie). The rest is basically up to an individual’s creativity and imagination. It could be easily done if one uses ready-made puff pastry from the supermarket’s frozen food section and uses whipped cream in place of crème patisserie. But I guess it just wouldnt be the same, not to mention not doing justice to this beautiful creation. So I took it to myself to make the puff pastry and crème patisserie, two things that I’d never done before. One’s got to start somewhere isn’t it?
I searched around for a puff pastry recipe and found an interesting one over Italian Food Net. There are even streaming videos to demonstrate how it’s been made. Seems easy I thought, but boy oh boy am I wrong!!!
Here’s the recipe for 1 kg of italian puff pastry(Pasta Sfoglia). I halved the quantities for easier management.
- 500 g plain flour
- 250 g Room Temperature Butter
- 12 g Salt
- 300 ml Room Temperature Water
- Put the salt in a bowl, fill the bowl with water and stir and let the salt dissolve.
- Once the salt has dissolved, pour the flour on the work surface, make a well in the middle, pour in the water with salt, slowly add the remaining water and gently begin to knead.
- The dough must be smooth and does not stick to the fingers, if the dough is too wet add a little flour, otherwise if it looks too dry add a little more water.
- When the dough is ready place it in a bowl and leave it to rest for 10-15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, place 2 oven paper sheets (approx 40/45 cm length) over the table, place the butter in the middle of the sheet, put the second oven paper sheet over the butter and roll out with a rolling pin.
- Butter must be at room temperature because it remains smooth and elastic.
- Remove the top sheet of the oven paper from the butter and set it aside.
- Place the dough on the work surface, dust it with flour and sprinkle a little flour over the dough then roll out the dough with the rolling pin.
- Place the butter in the middle of the dough, remove the paper oven from the butter, fold the four edges of the dough over the butter enclosing it completely, dust again the work surface with flour, dust the dough too then roll out gently and evenly into a long strip.
- Fold the two shorter edges to meet each other in the middle then fold again the rectangle in half (like closing a book), rotate the dough and roll it again as before.
- Repeat rolling and folding process for a total of 4 times.
- Use a spatula to remove any flour from the surface, unroll the plastic sheet and lay it on the table, place the pastry in the center of the sheet and wrap it well.
- Transfer the pastry to a baking pan and place it in the fridge for 2 hours to rest.
- After 2 hours remove the puff pastry dough from fridge, remove the plastic sheet and cut a piece of dough. At the same time, preheat the oven at about 210-220 degrees celcius.
- Dust the work surface with flour and dust the dough too
- Flatten the dough with a rolling pin, dust again the work surface with flour, sprinkle a little flour over the dough, then roll the dough out until very thin
- Place the rolled out dough onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof baking paper, and “dock” the dough by making small punctations on the thin pastry sheet using a fork.
- Place another piece of baking paper over the dough and place another baking tray/sheet over the dough layer. This is to prevent the puff pastry from rinsing too much.
- Bake for about 20-25 min until a golden brown hue develops. Leave it to cool thoroughly.
While waiting the puff pastry to cool down, I started to prepare the pastry cream. I always preferred metric measurements and am never comfortable with recipes given in “cups”, so I used Bakerzin’s Daniel Tay’s recipe from his book “Just Desserts” instead of the one provided on Martha Steward’s website. And I’m so glad I did!
Ingredients for about 700g of crème patisserie (from Daniel Tay’s “Just Desserts”)
- 40 g corn flour
- 450 ml milk
- 120 g egg yolks
- 3 1/4 tbsp single (light) cream
- 100 g sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, scraped for seeds and reserve pod or use 2 tsp vanilla essence
- 15 g unsalted butter
- Place corn flour, egg yolks and half the milk in a mixing bowl and whisk until well blended. Set aside.
- Combine remaining milk, single cream and sugar into a pot and bring to a boil. Add vanilla seeds and pod to infuse flavour and stir well.
- Pour half of the milk mixture into the egg mixture to temper it. Stir constantly until mixture is smooth and well blended.
- Return mixture into pot and cook under very low heat. Whisk until mixture thickens. Cook for another 5-10 min or until mixture is smooth and shiny. Remove from heat and set aside to cool
- Whisk in butter until well blended. Store in airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.
The pastry cream is so delicious! What a pleasant surprise it was when I pryed a small dollop using my index finger from the still lukewarm mixture into my mouth. The texture was so smooth and creamy, while its incredible aroma rom the infused vanilla bean perfumed the whole kitchen, with very well balanced sweetness. I cannot imagine anyone who wouldn’t love this!
- Using a 3 1/4-inch heat-shaped cookie cutter, cut 3 hearts from puff pastry, reserving scraps
- Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip with pastry cream. Place 1 heart-shaped piece of puff on each of two dessert plates. Pipe pastry cream over the surface of each heart, almost to the edge. Place raspberries around the perimeter of the pastry cream. Top each with a second puff pastry heart and repeat process. Top each with a third puff pastry heart.
- Crumble a little of the reserved puff pastry scraps and top Napoleons with crumbs. Dust tops with confectioners’ sugar and pipe a little pastry cream in the center of each. Top with a raspberry and serve immediately.
Below are some of my reflections from preparing this delightful recipe:
The difficulty of this recipe lies in managing the thickness of the flour dough before incorporating the butter layer. Too thick and the dough wouldn’t be able to fully seal the butter in, and too thin, the dough may give way during rolling causing butter to spurt out. And yes, I’d experienced them both. And because the recipe requires a greater level of discipline with the “knead and roll” work to produce alternating layers of butter and dough, one small mishap would mean dunking the whole lot into the bin and start all over again. And that I did, not once but twice. I finally managed to keep everything rolled in on the 3rd try but still, I don’t think my subsequent attempts would definitely be successful ones. Salute to all those who could make puff pastry this way with ease!
I used cling film to roll the butter out instead of the baking paper as suggested as I find that easier and more importantly, I could save the cling film for greasing baking trays in future bakes!
During the 4 roll-outs, the work surface and rolling pin needs to be constantly dusted with flour to prevent the dough from sticking, especially onto the work surface.
I read somewhere, probably from James Martin’s book “Desserts”, that one would rather have slightly overbaked puff pastry, then to undercook it; the latter would taste horrible. I’d always adored the simplicity of his recipes and took to his words without doubt. So when the bake came out to be more of a pale golden yellow, I promptly returned it back to the oven for another 10 min or so. I want crisp and fluff puff pastry… no, I NEED crisp and fluff puff pastry!
I added whipped cream for the crème patisserie instead of single cream. The purpose of adding cream helps to thicken the consistency. I would increase the cream to corn flour ratio when I prepare pastry cream in future by making it more creamy instead of starchy through corn flour. And avoid overheating the pastry cream; once it thickens, take it off the stove but continue to stir to ensure that all the ingredients are well incorporated. The residual heat would continue the cooking process.
Excess puff pastry freezes well and can be left in the fridge for a couple of months for subsequent bakes. But do NOT re-knead the dough or combine smaller morsels of dough remnants into one as the structure of the butter-flour dough layering would be disrupted. This would prevent the layering in the puff pastry from forming properly and produce a rather hard butter biscuit!
I would also like to dedicate this to J who has been there for me all these years, bearing with my idiosyncrasies and being so supportive in whatever I do. Thank you for always been there and love you always. : )