• Serves

    serves 8


This classic French pastry, whose name in both French and Spanish—mille-feuilles and milhojas, respectively—means thousand leaves (for its delicate multiple layers), is also known as the napoleon. The name is probably a reference not to the diminutive Corsican emperor, but to the multilayered confections of Naples.


  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 12 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch, sifted
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 (8" x 18") sheets puff pastry
  • 14 cup confectioners' sugar


Step 1

To make the pastry cream, put milk into a medium saucepan. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean, add seeds and pod to milk, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove pan from heat, cover, and set aside to steep for 1 hour. Strain milk into a bowl, discarding pod. Return milk to saucepan and bring to a simmer again over medium heat.

Step 2

Meanwhile, beat egg yolks, 10 tbsp. of the granulated sugar, and cornstarch together in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until pale yellow and mixture falls from beaters in thick ribbons, 3-5 minutes. Gradually add 1 cup of the hot milk to egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly; then gradually add egg yolk-milk mixture back into hot milk in saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir constantly until custard is very warm (about 125° on an instant-read thermometer), 5-10 minutes. Add butter, 1 tbsp. at a time, whisking well after each addition. Cover surface of pastry cream with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until ready to use.

Step 3

Preheat oven to 375°. Put 1 sheet of puff pastry on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, cover with another sheet of parchment, and refrigerate until chilled, 20-30 minutes. Put another baking sheet directly on top of parchment-covered pastry to weight it, then bake until pastry begins to turn brown, 10-15 minutes. Remove baking sheet and parchment from top of pastry. Sprinkle pastry with 1 tbsp. granulated sugar, then bake, uncovered, until pastry is golden brown, 6-8 minutes more. Transfer pastry to a clean surface and remove parchment from bottom. Set aside to cool. Repeat process with remaining 1 sheet puff pastryand 1 tbsp. sugar. Using a serrated knife, cut each pastry into twelve 4" x 2" rectangles, making 24 rectangles in all.

Step 4

To assemble the napoleons, spoon 2 tbsp. of the pastry cream down center of each sugared side of 8 pastry rectangles and stack another pastry rectangle on top. Repeat process with remaining pastry cream and pastry rectangles. Sift confectioners' sugar over napoleons.

Want more SAVEUR?

Get our favorite recipes, stories, and more delivered to your inbox.