Mille Feuille is a classic French pastry defined by its alternating flaky pastry layers and smooth cream filling. This recipe makes the French treat easy to follow, breaking it down step by step so that you can recreate the beautiful bakery treat right in your own kitchen.
💡What is Mille Feuille?
Mille feuille dessert is a traditional French pastry made up of thin layers of puff pastry and a cream filling, it is one of my favorite puff pastry desserts. It traditionally consists of three layers of puff pastry with pastry cream filling in the alternate two layers. It is the French cousin of the vanilla slice or custard slice dessert. The top pastry layer is decorated in various ways, sometimes it is topped with whipped cream like this recipe, and sometimes it may be dusted with icing sugar. Or, it might be glazed with icing.
Besides the traditional Vanille mille feuille version, Chocolate mille feuille and Strawberry mille feuille are two popular variations. Regardless of the flavor, it is certainly one of the best European desserts.
💡 What is Mille Feuilles in English?
Mille-feuille in English cannot be translated into one phrase. The direct French to English translation of mille feuille is "a thousand leaves" or "a thousand sheets." This dessert gets its name from the many, many layers in the puff pastry. The correct mille-feuille pronunciation sounds similar to "meal-foy."
💡 Napoleon vs Mille Feuille
You might have heard that in the United States, Mille Feuille is also known as Napoleon. Although the two recipes are very similar, there is one significant distinction: mille feuille is made with vanilla pastry cream, while a Napoleon is made with almond cream. To add to the confusion, there is also a cake called Napoleon Cake which is the layered cake version of puff pastry sheets and vanilla cream.
🌟 Why this is the best recipe
- Perfectly textured cream - The homemade pastry cream is not only delicious, but it also has the smoothest texture while retaining its structure. That's because the pastry cream is mixed with whipped butter, which makes it fluffy and stable. This is called mousseline cream and is also used in my Napoleon cake recipe.
- Versatile - If you want to get creative, there are so many different ways to flavor your mille feuille recipe. You can add cocoa powder to the flour to make chocolate puff pastry or add caramel into the layers, or the most classic way would be to add strawberries.
- Options for puff pastry - Depending on how much time you have and how much of a challenge you're up for, there are three different options for this dessert's puff pastry. You can buy the frozen puff pastry from the grocery store, make a quick version from scratch, or try your hand at a homemade traditional puff pastry, which requires more prep time but is worth the quality difference. For the ideal option, I recommend trying my rough puff pastry recipe which is professional and easy enough.
- Detailed instructions - This is the best mille-feuille recipe. It provides simple-to-understand, step-by-step instructions and photos to ensure your success in every part of the cooking process. From creating the pastry dough all the way to assembling the mille feuilles, you'll always know exactly what comes next and how to make mille feuille seamlessly.
📝 Ingredient notes
- Puff Pastry - You can either use my rough puff pastry dough, or my traditional puff pastry dough, or store-bought/frozen puff pastry dough.
- Whole Milk- The fat content in whole milk gives the pastry cream a rich taste.
- Granulated Sugar- The granulated sugar makes the pastry cream just mildly sweet as it should be.
- Egg Yolks- The egg yolks provide structure and rich flavor to the pastry cream.
- Cornstarch- The cornstarch thickens the pastry cream. It has a nearly undetectable flavor which makes it ideal for thickening.
- All Purpose flour- Flour is used in tandem with cornstarch to thicken the mixture into a firm, smooth pastry cream.
- Vanilla -The best flavor will come from the highest quality vanilla you have access to. I personally love to make my own vanilla extract. Alternatively use vanilla sugar.
- Unsalted Butter- Always use unsalted butter in baking so you have complete control of the salt in the recipe.
- Heavy cream- For the fluffiest whipped cream decoration, you must use very cold heavy cream with 36% or more fat. It allows the fat to stabilize more quickly.
- Powdered Sugar- Powdered sugar, also known as confectioners sugar, is ideal to use in whipped cream because it will completely incorporate and leave your cream smooth, not grainy.
🛒 You’ll find detailed measurements for all Ingredients in the printable version of the Recipe Card at the bottom of this post
👩🍳 How to make this recipe
1. How to bake the puff pastry
If you're making the puff pastry from scratch (which I recommend for the most authentic experience), be sure to visit either my rough puff pastry dough, or my traditional puff pastry recipe. Once your dough is fridge rested, you can move on to step 1.
- Preheat oven to 190C / 374F (no fan).
- To bake the puff pastry sheet, use two large trays. I am using two 18x12 inches / 45x30cm trays.
- Remove your dough from the fridge and roll it out into a large rectangle, the size of your baking trays. Cover a large tray with parchment paper, and place the puff pastry sheet on top.
- Then, use a fork to poke small holes all around the surface of the pastry. Cover the dough with another layer of parchment paper and place another large tray on top.
- Bake for 30 min in between the two trays, then remove the top tray, lightly dust the pastry with powdered sugar and caramelize the pastry at 220C/ 428F for an additional 10 minutes.
- Once the large rectangle of puff pastry is golden brown, remove it from the oven and let it come to room temperature.
💡 Top Tip: Use a silicone baking mat to assist you with handling the puff pastry.
2. How to make the pastry cream (mousseline cream) filling
- In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg yolks until slightly fluffy. Whisk in the cornstarch, flour and vanilla extract until smooth.
- In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk to a simmer, then remove it from the stove and slowly pour the warm milk over the egg yolk mixture, whisking vigorously with a hand whisk.
- Pour the hot milk mixture back into the saucepan to cook over medium heat until thick, smooth, and glossy.
- Keep whisking until the cream is smooth and glossy. You can pour it through a strainer to get rid of any stubborn lumps.
- Fold in the room temperature butter in three stages, fully incorporating the butter at each addition.
- Pour the pastry cream into a shallow dish and cover it with plastic wrap while it cools to room temperature.
- Prepare the mousseline cream by whipping room temperature butter for 1-2 minutes. Whip the pastry cream to the butter in 4 stages until the cream reaches a stable yet fluffy texture. Place the cream back into the fridge for an hour so you'll be working with a chilled pastry cream.
💡 Top Tip: The cream and the butter must both be at room temperature before you whip them together. Otherwise, the mousseline cream could curdle.
3. How to assemble the Mille Feuille
- While still on the baking sheet, using a serrated sharp knife trim the pastry sheet and cut into 24 10x4cm / 4x1.5 inches rectangles. Do your best to group the rectangles into groups of 3 and pair the most similar pastry rectangles next to each other.
- Using a round tip, pipe the pastry cream onto one piece of puff pastry. Place another one of your puff pastry layers on top, then pipe more cream. Then, place another piece of puff pastry on it. Repeat the process 8 more times. In the end, you will have 8 individual pastries.
- Refrigerate your mille feuille before decorating to help retain firmness.
💡 Top Tip: Make sure the pastry cream is stiff enough before assembling your mille feuilles. If it's on the flimsy side, put it back in the refrigerator to firm up.
4. How to decorate
Mille feuille is traditionally decorated with icing and feathered into a chevron pattern. However, I decorated mine with chantilly cream. This modern interpretation was inspired by the pastry chefs I observed in Paris. It adds a delicate touch to the final dessert and tastes lovely too.
- Pour the heavy cream and powdered sugar into a bowl
- Whip the heavy cream and powdered sugar just until the mixture thickens, do not overwhip.
- Rather than decorating the top layer, turn the mille feuille on its side and pipe the decoration on top.
- Serve the same day. Any leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
💡 Top Tip: Be sure to use very cold whipped cream (with 36% fat content or more) because it will stabilize the cream faster and help keep it firm for longer.
🎓 Expert tips
- Pay attention to the required ingredient temperatures. For example, while the butter needs to be very cold in order to craft the perfect puff pastry, the butter needs to be at room temperature in order to whip up the perfect mousseline cream.
- Don't skip the step of poking holes in your puff pastry before baking. This will help the entire sheet to puff up evenly.
- Stop whipping your pastry cream with butter as soon as it gets fluffy. It will only take about 1-2 minutes to reach the perfect consistency. Letting it continue to whip can break the cream, making it runny and unstable.
- Chilling your mille feuille is an easy way to firm up any cream that isn't quite set correctly.
🥣 Equipment Notes
Using a hand whisk will be valuable when making your pastry cream.
A sturdy rubber spatula is also helpful when it comes to mixing ingredients evenly. It will serve you well in this recipe and many more.
Using a stand mixer is the easiest way to whip your mousseline cream. However, you want to be careful not to overwhip it. Pay close attention to the texture as it whips. It shouldn't take more than 1-2 minutes.
Be sure to use a digital scale to measure all of your ingredients. This is the only way to make sure you're using the right amounts of each ingredient. Incorrectly measured ingredients can greatly affect the texture of both the puff pastry and the pastry cream.
Finally, you'll want to have a good rolling pin in order to roll out your pastry dough. Now is not the time to use your hands to press out the dough, especially because warm hands can affect the puff pastry's rise.
❓Mille Feuille recipe FAQs
No, mille-feuille is made with puff pastry, but puff pastry itself is a light and flaky pastry used as the base of many recipes, including mille-feuille.
The longer a mille-feuille sits out, the more the cream will soak into the layers of puff pastry, making the dessert lose its crispness. My recipe has a more stable cream, which could slow this process, but you'd still want to avoid leaving your mille-feuille out at room temperature for very long.
Mille feuille pastry cream made with cornstarch cannot be frozen, or else the texture will be ruined. You won't be able to store this recipe in the freezer. Only keep leftovers in the refrigerator and aim to enjoy them soon after baking.
You can store mille feuille in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days after serving. Additionally, if you make it in advance, you can refrigerate the milles feuilles cream in a container separate from the puff pastry and wait to assemble your dessert until the day you'll be serving.
🍰 More French recipes
Mille Feuille (VIDEO)
- 1 package Puff pastry sheets or make my rough puff pastry or traditional puff pastry from scratch
- 500 g (2 cups) Whole milk
- 100 g (½ cups) Granulated sugar
- 80 g Egg yolk approx. yolk of 4-5 eggs
- 25 g (⅕ cups) Corn starch
- 25 g (⅕ cups) All-purpose flour
- 1 Teaspoon Vanilla bean paste
- 50 g (¼ cups) Unsalted butter soft - will be mixed into pastry cream straight after it is cooked
- 150 g (¾ cups) Unsalted butter soft - will be whipped into the pastry cream to make the mousseline cream
- 150 g (⅔ cups) Heavy cream 36% fat, use it ver cold
- 35 g (⅓ cups) Powdered sugar
US customary cup measurement is an indicative figure only. Measure the ingredients with a digital scale by weight (gram). Baking is art but also science which requires precision and accuracy.
Start with the pastry cream
- In a large enough bowl with the help of a Hand whisk, whisk together sugar and egg yolk until slightly fluffy for about 1-2 minutes
- Mix in corn starch, flour, and vanilla until throughly incorporated and have a smooth paste
- Bring milk to simmer in a saucepan on medium heat then remove it from the stove.
- Pour the warm milk over the egg yolk mixture slowly while whisking vigorously with a Hand whisk.
- Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook on medium heat for a few minutes until it thickens. Concretely it is approximately 1 min after the first boil. It might get lumpy first, don't worry just keep whisking and the cream will get smooth and glossy
- If in doubt, strain the pastry cream for a lump free, creamy end result.
- Place the cream into a shallow bowl and cover the entire surface with plastic wrap to avoid skin forming on top. Let it come to room temperature
Make the mousseline cream
- Crème mousseline can be made with room temp pastry cream and room temp butter. Make sure everything is at room temp otherwise the mixture might curdle
- Once pastry cream cooled to room temp, prepare the mousseline cream by whipping room temp butter first for 1-2 minutes. Start adding in the room temp pastry cream in 4 stages until cream reaches a stable yet fluffy texture.
- Do not over whip the mixture as it can become runny or can curdle. The cream mgiht be on the soft side at this point due to the room temp butter used so place it back into the fridge for an hour to chill before using it.
Bake the puff pastry sheets
- Pre-heat oven to 190C / 374F (no fan)
- If using my homemade puff pastry recipe, prepare the pastry according to the instructions, then roll the pastry into a large rectangle.
- The pastry will be baked in between two large (18 x 12 inches) so it will puff up more evenly. Cover a large tray with parchment paper, place the puff pastry sheet on top then poke small holes with a fork all around the surface of the pastry. Cover the dough with another layer of parchment paper and place another large tray on top.
- Bake the pastry at 190C / 374F for 30 min in between the two trays, then remove the top tray, lightly dust the pastry with powdered sugar and bake / caramelize the pastry for a further 10 minutes at 220C / 428F
- Once the puff pastry sheets are golden brown, remove it from the oven and let it come to room temperature
- Trim the side of the pastry sheet using a serrated knife then cut about 24 10x4cm / 4x1.5 inches rectangles. The pastry will be a bit crumbly, but don´t worry, do your best to group the rectangles into groups of 3 and pair the similar ones next to each other.
- Pipe the cream filling onto one piece of puff pastry. Place another piece of pastry on top then pipe more cream on top and then place another piece of puff pastry on it. Repeat the process 8 more times, overall you will get 8 pieces of Mille Feuille
- Refrigerate before decorating
- Whip up the cream and powdered sugar just until the mixture thickens, do not overwhip
- Turn the Mille Feuille on the side and pipe the decoration on top. Optionally, decorate with vanilla bean
- Serve the same day. Any leftovers can be stored refrigerated for 2-3 days
- Measure your ingredients with a Digital scale for accuracy
- Good quality butter and pure vanilla are the heart of making the cream. Use high-quality 82% fat content European butter and the best quality vanilla you can access. Whole milk is recommended to make the pastry cream as opposed to skinny milk.
- Fresh, farm eggs will provide bright yellow color cream, while cheaper supermarket eggs will result in a pale cream
- For the best result, make homemade puff pastry, either the traditional way or in a quicker way using my rough puff pastry recipe
- Make sure you read my Expert tips section above to maximize your success. A short recipe alone is not able to cover all the necessary details, and science behind baking.
- Use a good quality milk pan to cook pastry cream so the milk won´t burn in it
- While making Creme mousseline, it is crucial that both the pastry cream as well as the butter is at room temperature. If the mixture curdles while whipping, most probably the two were NOT at the same temperature. You can fix it by gently warming up the bowl with a hair dryer while the mixer is on at low speed.
- Do not walk away while whipping this cream, it will be ready in 1-2 minutes (depending on the power of your mixer) and can be easily overwhipped
- German buttercream is beautifully pipeable either straight after whipping it up or after one hour of chilling time. If kept longer in the fridge, the butter will fully solidify just like any other buttercream and you won´t be able to pipe it until bringing it back to somewhat room temperature
- If making puff pastry from scratch, make sure to check my tips and trick at the respective recipes rough puff pastry or traditional puff pastry
- When assembling the Mille Feuille, make sure that the cream is stiff enough
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