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Learning to make mille feuille at La Cuisine Paris

It started with butter. A lot of butter…

Cutting butter for puff pastry at La Cuisine Paris on eatlivetravelwrite.comAfter a few summers of taking classes at La Cuisine Paris, I’m never surprised to see how much butter is used in their baking classes. Because all great pastries begin with butter, right? What is amusing, however, is watching other people’s reactions to the amount of butter – not many people stop to ponder just why their croissant is so melt-in-the-mouth flaky…  The Mille Feuille class I took this past summer was no exception – other students were all “We’re not going to use ALL that butter, right?” whilst our lovely chef-instructor, Frances, calmly assured them that they were ;)

A mille feuille (or mille-feuille or millefeuille) is a classic French dessert consisting of layers of puff pastry (usually three) sandwiched with layers of crème mousseline (a silky smooth combination of pastry cream and – you guessed it – butter!) and topped with either confectioners’ sugar (icing or powdered sugar) or poured fondant icing.

French for “a thousand leaves”, mille feuille refers to the layers of puff pastry, made in the fashion of a laminated dough (croissants are also made with this process).  Lamination refers to the process of alternating layers of dough and butter when making the pastry by wrapping the butter in the dough rolling it out, then folding that dough layer (called a “turn”) – one sheet of dough comprises 729 laminations, resulting in 2187 layers per dessert square with three layers of pastry!

To start with, you need a very thin layer of butter to enclose in that dough. It’s a great way to get rid of any built-up tension… (yes, you have to bash the butter hard with a rolling pin…)

Smashing butter at La Cuisine Paris on eatlivetravelwrite.comAnd what you should end up with is a lovely smooth layer of butter that you will pop in the fridge whilst you get on with the dough for the pastry…

Flattening butter at La Cuisine Paris on eatlivetravelwrite.comWhile the butter chilled (literally), we got to making the dough…

Prepping puff pastry at La Cuisine Paris on eatlivetravelwrite.comIt’s a messy process (La Cuisine Paris teaches everything by hand so it’s accessible for the home baker who doesn’t have any fancy equipment) but strangely calming at the same time…

Starting the laminated dough at La Cuisine Paris on eatlivetravelwrite.comThere don’t seem to be any photos of the rolling out of the dough part of the process – either on my phone or my camera. I remember at one point, I just had to move all electronics away from the work bench because it was such a frenzy of flour – also, this recipe requires you to kind of just get on with it and work fast (it was fairly cool in the kitchen that day with the aircon at full blast but still… pastry doesn’t like to sit around while it has its photo taken…).  The next images were taken when the bench was somewhat cleaned up and Frances showed us the fun part (well, one of them, it was all pretty fun!) where we got to hide the butter in the pastry…

First fold of butter in mille feuille class at La Cuisine Paris on eatlivetravelwrite.comShe makes it look so easy! It’s a stage you really need to work pretty fast with so that your butter doesn’t melt as you are handling the pastry…

Laminating dough at La Cuisine Paris on eatlivetravelwrite.comThen we got to have a turn…

Folding the butter into puff pastry at La Cuisine Paris on eatlivetravelwrite.com(see, it’s not that much butter… Ahem)

Making laminated dough at La Cuisine Paris on eatlivetravelwrite.comWe repeated this stage multiple times, placing the pastry in the fridge or freezer between “turns” to cool down.  Frances explained that this recipe is really one to make when you have a day spare – the “turns” should not be rushed like they were in a three-hour class, although it’s proof that you can achieve gorgeous flaky puff pastry in a shorter time if you need to (and know the right technique!).

Meanwhile, in between steps, we got to making the pastry cream which we would later use to fill the pastries…

Making pastry cream for mille feuille at La Cuisine Paris on eatlivetravelwrite.com(a great way to cool down a pastry cream filling quickly – pour it onto a silicone mat, cover with plastic wrap then refrigerate until you are ready to use. You’ll need to whisk it to loosen slightly once it comes out of the fridge but not much but this was also when we added, you guessed it – more butter!)

Meanwhile….. there was more rolling and folding….

Laminating dough incorporating the butter at La Cuisine Paris on eatlivetravelwrite.comet voilà!

Mille feuille class at La Cuisine Paris on eatlivetravelwrite.comI was very proud of my pastry!

While ours were chilling, Frances showed us how to decorate the tops with both pouring fondant as well as simple powdered sugar.  I loved the technique for making the traditional pattern in the fondant with melted chocolate…

Decorating the top of a mille feuille at La Cuisine Paris on eatlivetravelwrite.comFrances’ creation was absolutely beautiful:

Filling a mille feuille at La Cuisine Paris on eatlivetravelwrite.com Completed mille feuille at La Cuisine Paris on eatlivetravelwrite.comThen the moment of truth – our pastry squares came out of the oven. And look at mine!

Puff pastry all puffed up at La Cuisine Paris on eatlivetravelwrite.com(I still can’t believe it!)

Decorating and filling mille feuille at La Cuisine Paris on eatlivetravelwrite.comI think they look pretty good, don’t you?

Finished decorated and filled mille feuille at La Cuisine Paris on eatlivetravelwrite.com(just iPhone photos here as I had long relegated my very floury camera to its bag…)

Overall, this class was very enjoyable for me – it’s not a sit-back-and-watch-the-teacher-do-all-the-work pastry class but if you are ready to roll your sleeves up and work and are really keen to learn the (not-so-complicated) process of making laminated dough, you’ll love it.  I mean, look up there ^^^ – wouldn’t you be thrilled to bits if you made that? I couldn’t stop looking at my mille feuilles – thinking “I made this!!!”

I’ve made “rough” puff pastry before (and taught my students how) and whilst it’s a great alternative to the real deal, once you’ve made the full monty, you might never go back (well, unless you don’t have 3 hours to a day to make it!  As Frances kept assuring us, it’s not difficult, it just takes a little bit of time and some knowledge of the technique. And once you get into it, it’s actually really fun (and, dare I say it, relaxing in a strange way – very calming to roll and fold that pastry that many times…).

If you love French pastry and are intrigued to learn how to make them at home, this is the class for you! I love how bakers of all sorts of levels (we had a professional baker in our midst as well as a self-professed “non baker, just pastry-eater”) were able to achieve layers of loveliness – Frances and the team at La Cuisine do a great job of making fancy French pastries so accessible, which I love.

Check out all the mille feuille classes offered at La Cuisine Paris here.

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Disclosure: I was a guest of La Cuisine Paris at this class. I was not asked to write about it, nor am I being compensated for doing so.  All opinions 100% my own.

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10 Responses to Learning to make mille feuille at La Cuisine Paris

  1. Mr. Neil August 26, 2014 at 07:24 #

    Looks absolutely divine!

  2. Angel Reyes August 26, 2014 at 12:36 #

    Oh, wow. I’d love to give these a try soon. I’ve stayed away from pastry dough so far, but I want to make some of all these amazing goodies. I’ll embrace THE BUTTER, lol

    • Mardi Michels October 26, 2014 at 09:02 #

      It’s not that hard, just requires patience!

  3. Geoff August 26, 2014 at 20:29 #

    Oh boy… wonderful. Lotsa butter – what’s not to like.
    And the pics just great, Mardi. Lovely post.

  4. Pam M August 26, 2014 at 23:29 #

    Oh! Wow, I am definitely going to try this pastry. But I must get on with it before the summer.
    Sydney is not a pastry place most of the year.

  5. Simone August 27, 2014 at 03:09 #

    I’ve made puff pastry once for a challenge from the Daring Bakers and I remember being amazed by the amount of butter I had to put in. My pastry didn’t come out as pretty as your though but I was quite proud of even remotely having something that looked like the real thing. Fun class!

    • Mardi Michels October 26, 2014 at 09:01 #

      I’m always proud when something looks like it should ;)

  6. Cakelaw August 29, 2014 at 04:39 #

    Delish!!!! I would love one of these – reminds me of vanilla slices.

    • Mardi Michels October 26, 2014 at 09:01 #

      Totally nearly the exact same as a vanilla slice!

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