Saturday, October 27, 2012

Lemon Cheesecake Mille-Feuille

Our October 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Suz of Serenely Full. Suz challenged us to not only tackle buttery and flaky puff pastry, but then take it step further and create a sinfully delicious Mille Feuille dessert with it!

If you're wondering how to pronounce it, like I was, it's something like "meal foy" or "meal foe-y."  This fancy dessert also goes by the more easily pronounceable name of Napoleon, if you prefer.  Traditionally a Mille-Feuille is composed of three layers of puff pastry, that's been weighted down in the oven so it doesn't get too puffy, with layers of pastry cream in between.  From what I gather the flavors are typically vanilla with a pretty chocolate pattern created on the top.  This was my first crack at a Mille-Feuille.  Definitely I could benefit from some practice at cleaning it up a bit, but all went fairly well with the exception of a little glitch in the puff pastry...

Puff Pastry; rolled too thick and undercooked!
Lime and Lemon Curd
 My Mille-Feuille is inspired by the sunflowers of late summer so I went with a colorful lime and lemon flavor combination with a filling of delicious no-bake lemon cheesecake.  I've never baked puff pastries with weights before and it turns out mine were weighed down a little too heavily, then under baked, and came out a bit tough in the center.  I assure you, the recipe is correct as I've altered it from what I did to what I should have done.

Lemon Cheesecake Filling

The lemon and lime curds, cheesecake filling, puff pastry and cream cheese frosting can all be used in many forms of dessert making.  I've made each these simple recipes before today, and find them to be really good staples in my recipe box.

For Suz's original Mille-Fueille recipe with step by step photos and instructions, check out this original Daring Bakers PDF.

Lemon Cheesecake Mille-Feuille
Serves 4.

Lemon Curd
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.  Adapted from Cook's Country

2 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Yellow food coloring

Whisk the eggs, yolks, and sugar together until combined in a pan over medium heat. Whisk in the lemon juice and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and cream. Mix in yellow liquid or gel food coloring to the desired shade.  Press the mixture through a wire mesh strainer, cover and chill until needed.

Lime Curd

2 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Green food coloring

Whisk the eggs, yolks, and sugar together until combined in a pan over medium heat. Whisk in the lime juice and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and cream. Mix in green liquid or gel food coloring to the desired shade.  Press the mixture through a wire mesh strainer, cover and chill until needed.

Puff Pastries
The easiest puff pastry recipe on earth!  Makes enough dough for at least a 12 by 6 inch rectangular piece of pastry (larger when rolled thinner).  Adapted from a Julia Child recipe.

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups very cold unsalted butter, diced
½ cup ice water

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl.  Add the butter, smashing and flattening it quickly with your hands and fingers. Work quickly and leave most of the butter in large, flattened lima bean sized pieces.

Stir in the ice water until most of the flour is picked up.  The dough will be messy at this point. Turn it out onto a floured work surface, and bring it together with a few quick kneads.

Pat the dough into a rough rectangle about a half inch thick. Dust the dough with flour, and starting with a shorter end, fold it in thirds like a business letter using a wide putty knife or thin spatula.

Give the dough a 90° turn on your work surface, and roll it into another rectangle. Fold it in thirds again then roll out.  Do this step 3 more times (rotate, fold and roll x3).  If your house is very warm and your butter is going soft and sticky, chill the dough in the fridge for 20 minutes between steps.

Fold up the dough into a block and chill the dough for at least an hour before using. To make pastry: roll out, fold, rotate and roll into a rectangle about 1/8 inch thick.  Trim the edges of the rectangle so you end up with a piece of pastry that is roughly12 by 6 inches.  Prick the dough all over with a fork.  Cut into 3 equal 4 by 6 inches pieces and place on a parchment lined sheet pan.  Cover with another layer of parchment and set a heavy sheet pan on top to prevent the pastry from puffing.  If you have a very light sheet pan, weigh it down evenly using another sheet pan, oven proof bowls or something (I used 3  heavy bread pans full of dry beans and was too much).  Bake at 400F for 12 minutes.  Remove the weights, the sheet pan and the top layer of parchment.  Bake another 10 minutes or until the top of the dough is golden (not pale) brown.  Baking times may vary greatly depending on your oven and the thickness of your dough.  Cool on wire racks before filling.

Lemon Cheesecake Filling
This recipe makes a little more than you need.  Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.

3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 blocks of cream cheese (12 ounces), room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup heavy cream, room temperature

Sprinkle the gelatin over the lemon in a small pan and let it sit about 5 minutes. Warm it on the stove on medium low just until the gelatin melts into a liquid and turn off the heat.

Using a mixer, beat the cream cheese, sugar, and salt until smooth, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the cream and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the gelatin mixture and several tablespoons of chilled lemon curd. Beat until the mixture is smooth and light, about 3 minutes.  Chill for about 30 minutes before assembling your Mille-Feuille.

Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes just enough to frost the top of this dessert.

1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup sugar (not powdered)
2 tablespoons butter, room temp
1/4 block of cream cheese (2 ounces), room temp

Whisk (vigorously and constantly or it will be chunky) milk and flour together over medium heat until it boils and is really thick. Put the pan in a bowl of ice water or in the freezer to cool it completely. Once cool, whisk in the vanilla.

Using a mixer, combine the butter and cream cheese in a bowl. Add sugar and mix well. Add the cooled milk paste and beat on high for several minutes or until the frosting is fluffy, smooth and glossy.

You may choose to trim your pastries before you fill them, or assemble your Mille-Feuille, chill to set it, then trim.  This may depend on the tenderness of your pastry, the density of your filling, and whether you want clean edges or a more casual/whimsical look .

When ready to assemble, start with a layer of pastry covered in a half inch of cheesecake filling.  Spread with a thin swirl of lime and lemon curd.  Cover with pastry, spread cheesecake filling and swirl more curd over the filling.  Lay the last piece of pastry on the top.

Cover the top layer with cream cheese frosting, trying to keep it very smooth and level.  Pipe thin lines of lime curd across the top of the frosting going down the short way about an inch or so apart.  Drag the tip of a sharp knife across the top of the cake perpendicular to the lines going in alternating directions.  Pipe small flowers of lemon curd, if desired and create any detailed petals you desire by dragging a toothpick outwards from the center of the flower. Carefully add poppy seeds, using a moist q-tip dipped in seeds, to the center of the flowers.  Chill for at least an hour to set up the filling before serving.



  1. Gorgeous job! I love the fun flavors and colors you chose!

  2. Wow Hannah, I love your creativity with these challenges. This looks so bright and cheerful, and I bet it tasted amazing. Nice job!!

  3. Gorgeous cake Hannah! I've always wanted to know how to make lemon curd. I had no idea that it was that easy!

  4. Love your take on this classic dessert. So much fun!!!! fantastic


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