The theme of this month's challenge for Dessert Wars is dark chocolate and hearts which is the perfect theme for the month in which Valentine's Day falls. So for my entry, I decided to make Napoleons.
The Napoleon is a dessert usually made with three layers of puff pastry with layers of pastry cream, or cream patissiere, or whipped cream. This was the first time I had made Napoleons myself, and not only were they surprisingly easy and incredibly delicious, but they are very impressive looking when finished. The layers of pastry puff, of course, taste great because they are loaded with butter, and the pastry cream is scrumptious. It tastes like a decadent dark chocolate pudding. I also added a layer of mascarpone, chocolate and nuts which adds a nice texture and a chocolaty, creamy, nutty flavor. This would be the perfect treat to surprise your Valentine with. You will feel like a pastry chef and no one has to know that it was really easy.
You might think it is difficult because I have put so many photos in this post, but in fact, it is very simple because you are using frozen puff pastry, and the mascarpone layer is just a matter of mixing together the cheese with the nuts and chocolate chips. So the only time consuming part really is just making the pastry cream which is like making pudding and then assembling them which is really fun. I have put lots of photos and explanation just to help you out.
To make the Napoleons, you will first need puff pastry. You will want to take your frozen puff pastry out the night before and place it in the refrigerator or take it out of the freezer and place it on your counter about 45 minutes beforehand. When it is thawed, place one sheet on a piece of lightly floured parchment paper.
Lightly flour the top of the pastry sheet and your rolling pin, and roll out the pastry sheet just to thin it out a little and make the seams smooth.
Place the parchment paper with pastry sheet on top right onto a cookie sheet. Using a cookie cutter, cut out shapes in the pastry sheet, making sure to press down hard. Then remove the excess pastry around the shapes. You will probably need to score around the shapes with a knife is some areas because of the doughy texture of the pastry sometimes the cookie cutter won't cut through. Make sure to use the parchment paper because if you try to cut the shapes on a board, it will be difficult to transfer them to the cookie sheet.
Prick the cut-outs with a fork. This will prevent them from puffing up too much.
Bake the pastry cut-outs for five minutes on 375 degrees F. Then carefully remove the pan from the oven and place a piece of parchment paper on top of the cooked pastry and place another cookie sheet on top of that.
Then bake for another five minutes. This step also helps to prevent the shapes from puffing up too much. After five minutes, remove the top cookie sheet and parchment paper and bake for another four minutes or until they are golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack.
To make the pastry cream, place 2 cups of milk in a medium size pan and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, in a medium size bowl, using a whisk beat 3 egg yolks and 2/3 cup of sugar.
Next, add to the egg mixture, 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of flour. Whisk together well. The mixture will be very thick.
Next, slowly drizzle the hot milk into the egg mixture, drizzling slowly 1/4 cup at a time. As you are drizzling the milk in, whisk the mixture quickly, so your are slowly drizzling the milk in and whisking at the same time until all of the hot milk is mixed together with the egg mixture. You do not want to add the milk quickly as you will end up with scrambled eggs.
Next, transfer the mixture back to the pan the milk was in, and cook on medium stirring constantly, like you would pudding until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick. If it starts to get clumpy, stir vigorously.
When it thickens and bubbles, add 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 2/3 cup of chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate). Stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat. Allow to cool for a minute or two.
If you want to, you can leave the chocolate out and just have vanilla pastry cream.
Place the pastry cream in a pie plate and cover with plastic wrap making sure the wrap is pressed against the cream so it does not form a skin. Place in the refrigerator for, at least, one hour or overnight.
For the mascarpone filling layer, place one 8 ounce container of mascarpone cheese and 1 tablespoon of honey in the large bowl of a mixer and mix together.
Mascarpone cheese can be found in the cheese section of your grocery store. It is the same cheese used in tiramisu Some people say it is like cream cheese. It has a creamy texture than cream cheese, and I think it tastes more like whipped cream only thick.
Meanwhile, in your food processor, grind together 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and 1/4 cup of chopped nuts (I used hazelnuts).
Remove 1/4 cup of the nut mixture and set aside. (This will be used for decorating the tops of your Napoleons.)
Add the remaining nut mixture to the mascarpone and honey and mix well.
To assemble, melt 1/2 cup of chocolate chips in the microwave. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of melted chocolate onto to one piece of puff pastry, and using a knife or a spoon or a frosting spreader spread the chocolate on the top of the pastry.
Sprinkle chocolate with reserved nut mixture and set pastry aside.
Next, take a plain piece of pastry and spread some of the mascarpone mixture on it.
Top it with another piece of plain pastry and then spread a layer of pastry cream on it.
Top with a piece of the pastry that has been decorated with the chocolate and nut mixture. And there you have, a very pretty and delicious dessert. Happy Valentine's Day!
Dark Chocolate Napoleons The Garden of Yum
1 package of frozen puff pastry (2 sheets)
1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips, melted, for tops
2 cups of milk
3 egg yolks
2/3 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of cornstarch
1 tablespoon of flour
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2/3 cups of dark chocolate chips
1 8-ounce container of Mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon of honey
1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup of chopped hazelnuts
Note: It is a good idea to prepare the pastry cream the day before or a few hours before you will be ready to assemble the Napoleons as the pastry cream needs to be refrigerated for, at least, one hour.
To prepare the pastry, the night before place puff pastry in the refrigerator or 45 minutes before remove from freezer and place on counter.
To make the pastry cream:
Place 2 cups of milk in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Next, add the cornstarch and flour and whisk together until combined. This will be thick. Add the warmed milk to the egg mixture gradually by slowly drizzling in 1/4 cup increments into the egg mixture while whisking. Keep slowly adding the milk while whisking until the milk is completely incorporated into the egg mixture. Place the mixture back into the pan and heat on medium stirring constantly, just like you would pudding, until the mixture bubbles and thickens. Add vanilla and chocolate chips and stir until chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Allow to cool for a minute or two. Place in a pie plate and cover with plastic wrap pressing the wrap onto the mixture so it does not form a skin. Place in the refrigerator for, at least, one hour.
Next, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place one sheet of puff pastry on a piece of lightly floured parchment paper. Lightly flour top of pastry sheet and rolling pin and roll the pastry sheet just to thin out a bit and smooth out the seams. Place parchment paper with pastry sheet on it on a cookie sheet. Cut into desired shapes making sure to press down firmly. Remove excess pastry, using a knife to score around shapes as needed. Prick shapes all over with a fork. This helps to prevent pastry from puffing up too much. Bake for five minutes. Carefully remove pan from oven. Place another sheet of parchment paper on top of pastry cut-outs. Place another baking sheet on top of the parchment paper. This will also to help to prevent pastry from puffing up too much. Bake for five minutes. Then carefully remove top cookie sheet and parchment paper and bake for another four minutes or until pastry is golden brown. Remove from pan and transfer to a cooling rack.
For the marscarpone layer: Place mascarpone cheese and honey in the bowl of mixer and mix together. In a food processor, grind together chocolate chips and nuts. Remove 1/4 cup of this mixture and set aside. Add the rest of the mixture to the mascarpone and honey and mix together well. Refrigerate until ready to use.
To assemble, melt 1/2 cup of chocolate chips in microwave. Place one teaspoon of melted chocolate on one piece of pastry and spread out evenly with a knife. Sprinkle some of the reserved nut and chocolate mixture on top. Set aside.
Place one piece of plain pastry on a working surface and place a dollop of the mascarpone filling on it. Top with another piece of plain pastry. Top that with a dollop of the pastry cream. Place a piece of pastry that has been decorated with chocolate and nuts on top. Enjoy!
Don't forget to enter my giveaway here. I will keep it open until Saturday night and announce the winner on Sunday, February 13th.
I am sending this to Dessert Wars - February Challenge. Check it out. The prize package includes the following:
Whisk and cupcake necklace from Moon And Stars Designs
The smart shopper electronic grocery list organizer
Beanilla sampler pack of vanilla beans
Lenox personalized musical cupcake
1,000 ideas for decorating cupcakes, cookies, & cakes
Endless vanilla and cinnamon extract
Unlimited layers: a recipe for turning your passion into profits
Organic Valley $50.00 gift certificate
Organic Prairie $50.00 gift certificate
Theme Kitchen $50.00 gift certificate
Beka Cookware crepe pan
I am also sending this to Sweets For A Saturday. Click on the link to see some incredible treats.