Variations on a Delicious but Messy Theme

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Shari’s Berries recently wrote to me (and I presume to a lot of other bloggers) to suggest that I post a recipe before next Wednesday, June 25, to celebrate National Strawberry Parfait Day.

I had never heard of this holiday. But I’m happy to celebrate!

The woman from Shari’s Berries defined a strawberry parfait as “a delicious way to showcase berries along with layers of cookies or cake all tied together with some yogurt or pudding.” As soon as I read this description it occurred to me that a dessert I had been contemplating would qualify as a parfait: Strawberry Napoleons.

As regular readers know, I am a Napoleon fan, having made Key-Lime Napoleons a couple of years ago. As strawberry season dawned last week, I decided that it might be fun to adapt that recipe with another of my favorite fruits. I thought the idea was completely original to me—until I purchased some Pepperidge Farm puff pastry and saw a recipe for the very same thing on the side of the box!

Luckily, my recipe is and was a bit different; PF was desecrating its strawberries by suggesting that the home cook use pudding mix instead of making pastry cream. No, no, no!!!

The Napoleons seemed perfect for my projected garden-party theme on this past Wednesday’s Mass Appeal television program so I decided to try making them on the air. As you can see from the video at the bottom of this post, hosts Ashley Kohl, Seth Stutman, and I experienced a few culinary mishaps.

First, we had a blender disaster while attempting to make mayonnaise for our cucumber sandwiches. (Happily, I travel with mayonnaise whenever possible.)

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Then the Napoleons had a little trouble staying together.

Luckily, Seth, Ashley, and I always have fun—and the video is worth watching for my fabulous hat alone.

That night with friends—and last night as well—I experimented with the Napoleons. First, I attempted assembling only two layers of puff pastry instead of three. That worked better in terms of staying together—but it didn’t include enough strawberries and pastry cream, and those are the stars of the show!

Next, I tried using only two layers of puff pastry but slicing the pastry horizontally so that the two layers became four thinner layers. This also seemed like a fairly doable alternative. It tilted, but it stayed together.

tilted but better web

I realized, however, that I really didn’t need much puff pastry at all to make me happy. So I made a traditional parfait in a glass (which had the advantage of holding the darn thing together!). I layered small amounts of pastry, pastry cream, and strawberries, then topped the whole thing with a little whipped cream and a whole berry. The photo below is out of focus, but you’ll get the idea.

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Someday I may even try just putting berries and pastry cream in a bowl with a small piece of puff pastry on the side. For now, however, I am parfait-ed out and prefer to enjoy my strawberries plain.

Here is the recipe as it was messily but deliciously assembled on camera. Feel free to try any of my variations—or to create your own!

(By the way, Shari’s Berries in no way reimbursed me for doing this post. The company just came up with a fun suggestion.)

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Strawberry Napoleons (more or less)

Ingredients:

for the base:

1 sheet puff pastry (your own or frozen; I used frozen)

for the pastry cream (crème patissière):

1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 pinch salt
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla

for assembly:

a little strawberry juice (created by sugaring up a few berries and leaving them for a half hour)
confectioner’s sugar as needed
melted jam as needed (optional but helpful)
lightly whipped cream (optional)
fresh strawberries, sliced and MAYBE lightly sweetened

Instructions:

Bake the pastry according to the directions of the manufacturer. Let it cool, and transfer it onto a work surface. While it is cooling, you may make the pastry cream.

In a heavy pan, heat the milk until it is hot, but do not let it come to a boil. Combine the sugar, flour, and salt in a bowl, and stir in the milk. Beat the mixture. Return it to the pan, and stir constantly over low heat for 4 to 6 minutes until it becomes thick and smooth.

Add a bit of the warm mixture to the beaten egg yolks, and then add a bit more; then stir the egg yolks into the pastry cream. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture resembles a thick custard. Cool, stirring every 5 minutes or so, and then stir in the vanilla.

When the pastry cream has cooled (allow at least half an hour for this), make glaze for the top of your Napoleons by stirring a little juice into 1/4 cup of confectioner’s sugar.

If you wish to be extra decadent, fold whipped cream into the pastry cream. (I’m just fine without it myself.)

Now you are ready to assemble your Napoleons. Cut the pastry into six pieces in the long direction of its rectangle and three pieces in the wide direction to make 18 rectangles. (Cut carefully and use a sharp knife; these steps help!) Each Napoleon will have three layers.

If you want to use jam as a glue (it does help), brush a little melted jam on the top of six pieces of pastry. Dab pastry cream on top, followed by some strawberries. Add the next layer of pastry, topping it with another layer of jam (optional), cream, and berries.

Top with the last six pastry rectangles, and drizzle glaze on top. (You may also place another strawberry on the top if you wish.) If your Napoleons tend to slide apart, use a toothpick judiciously.

Serves 6.

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2 Responses to “Variations on a Delicious but Messy Theme”

  1. Hi Tinky,

    I loved the video. My idea of a strawberry parfait is just to layer strawberries in a glass with whipped cream. It’s the lazy cook’s parfait.

    Adelaide

  2. tinkyweisblat says:

    That makes perfect sense to me, Adelaide! We had fun–but everything but the strawberries here is extra!

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