I wanted to make something special for Election Day. I knew I would be working from home today, so it didn’t take long to reach a decision.
Napoleon isn’t hard to make – it just takes a lot of time. Which is why I only make it a couple times per year.
The first time I made it was in 2005 for Stas’ birthday (it was our first birthday together). Wanting to do something special for him, I “sneakily” learned that it was his favorite.
At the time, I spent a long time scouring the internet, searching for the best recipe. Most recipes I found were in Russian or poorly-translated English. It didn’t help that I had never even seen or heard of the torte before – so I wasn’t even sure what I was looking for, or how to tell when I had found “the” recipe.
I think the recipe I finally settled on came from recipezaar.com. I’ve been using the same one ever since, with one modification: Instead of making my own puff pastry, I buy the frozen Peppridge Farms kind – it’s just easier that way.
- 1 package Peppridge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets
- Filling #1:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk, scalded
4 egg yolks, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
- Filling #2:
2 (14 oz. each) cans sweetened condensed milk
6 egg yolks, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 lb butter, softened
Step 1: Gather all ingredients and preheat oven to 400 degrees F:
Step 2: Prepare puff pastry. Open the box and unfold the sheets. If they’re still too frozen, leave them out on the counter for 5-10 minutes. There are 2 full sheets in the box – I cut each sheet into 6 equal pieces, for a total of 12 pieces.
Take each piece and roll them out one by one on a well-floured surface, until paper-thin. I then trim them into equal-sized squares, using a square plate as a guide.
Poke each piece with a fork all over and bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a cooling rack.
Here’s one of my sheets, rolled and trimmed:
and here’s my stack of finished (baked) sheets, plus a bowl of baked scrap pieces. These will come in handy later, for the finishing touch:
Step 3: (Prepare filling #1)
Scald the milk in a small pot.
Mix sugar, flour and salt in the top of a double-boiler (or if you’re like me and don’t have a fancy double-boiler, make your own using a glass bowl and a pot). Gradually add the scalded milk, stirring constantly:
I switched to an immersion blender to mix in the milk and break up any chunks:
Cook and stir until thickened. Temper the egg yolks and add them to the mixture. Cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cool and chill. I place plastic wrap over the top while cooling to prevent a crust from forming:
Step 4: (Prepare filling #2)
Pour the sweetened condensed milk into the top of a double-boiler and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened. This will take anywhere from 30-90 minutes (the recipe I use says 30, but I cook mine for 90).
**This step is very important because under-cooking will result in a runny, messy filling. It took me a few times to figure this step out.
Thickened (90 minutes later). Notice that it got a bit darker:
Add tempered egg yolks in a thin stream, stirring constantly. (again, I use the immersion blender here).
Add vanilla. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. It will become a bit thicker and darker:
Remove from heat, cool and chill. (Like filling #1, I cover it with plastic wrap to prevent a crust).
Step 5: Once filling #1 has chilled, stir in the vanilla.
Step 6: Once filling #2 has chilled, beat the butter until fluffy, then slowly add it in.
Here are the 2 finished fillings. Filling #1 is on the left and #2 is on the right:
Step 7: Assemble the torte. Start with a puff pastry sheet. Cover with some of filling #1. Add another puff pastry sheet. Cover with some of filling #2. Continue doing this, alternating puff pastry, filling #1, puff pastry, filling #2, etc. until you have used all of the pastry sheets. End with one of the fillings.
Here is my torte after a few layers. Don’t put too much filling in each layer, and don’t worry about going all the way to the edge. As it settles, the weight of the torte will press the filling out and over the edges. And definitely don’t worry about being neat. You’ll cover the whole thing with puff pastry crumbs at the end:
Step 8: Crumble the puff pastry scraps and sprinkle all over the top and sides:
(Cheburashka loves Napoleon)
Step 9: Place in refrigerator for several hours at least – but it’s better to leave it in overnight before eating.
My Napoleon isn’t the prettiest – it’s certainly not as even and perfect as one you would see in a store, but it’s yummy (so says Stas). As it sits in the fridge, it’ll settle and compress a bit and the layers of puff pastry will absorb some of the moisture of the fillings and soften.
I always have filling left when I’m done. I normally throw it out, but I think this time I’ll buy some wafers from the Russian deli and make a Napoleon-type dessert with them… something to bring to work and share with people.