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(Makes one (3 x 10-inch) cake)
A Napolean is a dessert that consists of three layers of puff pastry alternating with two layers of pastry cream. The filling may also be whipped cream and sometimes fresh fruit or jam is included. The top of a Napolean is usually glazed with a white icing with chocolate stripes that are combed to create its distinctive appearance.
Some people believe that the dessert's name is derived from the French emperor, Napolean. Others claim that the name was incorrectly translated from 'Neopolitan' pertaining to Naples in Italy, where the pastry is thought to have originated. In Italian the pastry is referred to as mille foglie, meaning a thousand leaves.
Pastry Dough: 1/2 of a (17.3 ounce package) Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry (1 sheet )
Pastry Cream: 1/2 cup sugar 1/4 cup cornstarch 2 cups whole milk or half-and-half 4 egg yolks 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
To prepare the pastry dough: Thaw pastry at room temperature until it is easy to handle, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. You will also need another baking sheet of the same size for use later.
Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 3 strips along fold marks. Place the strips on the prepared baking sheet. Place another sheet of parchment paper over the pastry. Stack another baking sheet on top of the paper-covered pastry dough. This method is used to prevent the puff pastry from rising too much. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove top baking sheet and paper, bake for an additional 10 minutes. Transfer the pastry to a wire rack to cool.
To prepare pastry cream: Combine sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan. In a bowl, whisk together milk and egg yolks Whisk milk mixture into sugar mixture. Place the saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly. Boil for 1 minute; remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface. Allow to cool for 30 minutes and then refrigerate until cold.
To prepare the icing: In a small bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar, corn syrup, and melted butter. Stir in enough milk to make a smooth icing. The icing should be spreadable but not too thin. Transfer 1/4 cup of the mixture to another small bowl. Stir the cocoa powder into the smaller amount of icing until smooth. Put the chocolate icing into a pastry bag; cut off the tip of the bag.
To assemble the Napolean: Place one of the cooled pastry strips on a serving platter. Spread about half of the pastry cream evenly over the pastry strip. Top with another pastry strip and spread with more of the cream. You may not need to use all of the pastry cream; decide how much looks right to you.
Place the last piece of pastry on a flat surface to decorate. Choose the side of the pastry that is flatter and smoother as the top. Spread the white icing over the entire top of the pastry strip. With the pastry bag, pipe thin lines across the width of the strip about 3/4-inch apart. Starting on a long edge, drag a toothpick through the icing down the length of the pastry. Move the toothpick over about 1-inch and drag it back in the opposite direction. Continue in this manner over the width of the pastry strip. Carefully place the decorated pastry strip on top of the last layer of pastry cream. For easier slicing, refrigerate at least 1 hour. Use a serrated knife to cut into 2-inch wide slices.