The idea for this impressive dessert came to me last week, when I found a very intriguing recipe for a Chestnut, Pear & Caramel Millefeuille online. As always, I set out looking for all the ingredients in my local supermarket and, as always, I found out the fundamental one needed to complete the recipe (the chestnut puree) wasn’t there. Nor were chestnuts, either fresh or vacuumed. Therefore, considering I had already started making puff pastry (a process which I like as it is very comforting), I decided to tweak (revolutionise, more like it) the recipe and include seasonal produce, e.g. plums.
The plums are gently simmered with some additional flavours to produce a punchy and tangy puree. I love how plums tinge the puree of a dark glossy ruby red colour. I used Marsala, the Italian fortified wine, as I believe its depth contributed perfectly to the mixture, but feel free to use any other liqueur or sweet wines you might prefer. The (whipped) cream is also enriched with a pistachio praline, very easy to make. The quantities indicated here make plenty, but you can re-use it in biscuits or dust it on cakes. Finally, the decoration: I melted some dark chocolate to make hearts and used some fresh plums, sliced, to complete the decoration. However, feel free to give room to your creativity and come up with new and exciting decorations.
- 750g puff pastry
Ingredients (for the plum puree)
- 400g fresh plums, stoned and halved
- 50g golden caster sugar
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp Marsala
- 4 tbsp water
- 2 x sheets of gelatine
Ingredients (for the praline)
- 100g golden caster sugar
- 100g blanched and shelled pistachios, whole
Ingredients (for the whipped cream)
- 300ml double cream
- 2 tbsp icing sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Ingredients (for the decoration)
- 50g dark chocolate, melted and piped into heart shapes
- icing sugar
- 1 plum, stoned and finely sliced
- some plum puree
- First of all, make the puree. Place the plums, water and sugar in a saucepan over a medium heat, then let it come to a gentle simmer. Cook the plums, stirring occasionally, until they have started to break a little. Add the Marsala and honey and keep on simmering until the mixture is somewhat smooth and the plums have completely disintegrated in the compote. Transfer the mixture to a blender and whiz until smooth, then return to the saucepan and keep on cooking.
- In a bowl, soak the gelatine leaves in some cold water for about 10 minutes. Remove them from the water and squeeze out the excess water, then drop them in the hot plum puree and melt them in. Once completely melted, transfer the puree to a small bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to cool at room temperature before transferring to the fridge to chill for at least 3 hours.
- Now, on to the different layers of the millefeuille. The quantities indicated here make enough for 4 complete slices, each made up of 3 layers. Line 4 identical baking sheets/trays with baking parchment. It is important that the trays are of the same size as you will use them in pairs to weigh on the puff pastry and control the rise in the oven.
- Roll out your pastry to the thickness of a pound coin or about 3mm, then trim the edges. Cut 7x13cm rectangles and lay on the baking sheets. You should aim for a total of 12. Cover each baking sheet with some clingfilm and put in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes. This ensure the gluten in the pastry has time to relax and avoids the pastry shrinking while in the oven.
- Pre-heat your oven to 240C, then press one of the empty trays on a filled one and put in the oven for exactly 15 minutes. Remember to put some baking parchment between the top tray and the layer of puff pastry rectangles or they will stick. Once baked, remove from the oven, remove the top tray and lay the puff pastry rectangles on a wire rack to cool completely. As you can see, these will have not puffed up as gloriously as you normally would expect from this type of pastry, but that is desirable to build up the millefeuille later.
- To make the pistachio praline, put the nuts and the sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan over a medium heat, then let the sugar slowly melt and turn a dark brown colour. Stir occasionally and cook until the sugar has completely melted. Gently oil a sturdy baking tray, then pour the mixture over and let it cool.
- Once cooled, transfer to a food processor and whiz until you get fine crumbs. This is your praline.
- To prepare the cream, whisk all of the ingredients to soft peaks, then transfer to a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle.
- Now start assembling your slice. Place one puff pastry rectangle on a plate and top with some of the plum puree. Use a spoon to spread it or transfer to a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle. Here it’s up to you whether you want to alternate blobs of plum puree with whipped cream or whether you would like to pipe some cream alongside the edges and fill them with the compote. Once you have covered the first layer, sprinkle some of the pistachio praline on top and top with another puff pastry rectangle. repeat as before. You will need 3 x puff pastry rectangles per each millefeuille.
- To decorate the top, pipe some whipped cream on the corners, then drizzle them with some of the plum puree. Arrange two plum slices on the cream in one corner and the chocolate shapes on the decoration in the other corner. Dust liberally with icing sugar and sprinkle with some more pistachio praline.