Regular readers of this blog know that I adore key-lime ANYTHING. Key limes offer a remarkably fresh flavor that is somehow more mellow than any other citrus fruit I know.
Since I don’t live in a tropical climate, I have to make do with bottled key-lime juice from Nellie & Joe’s. It means my recipes don’t include lime zest—but they DO still include that distinctive key-lime flavor.
Last week when our cousins Alan and Jane came to dinner I decided to try Key-Lime Napoleons.
I was inspired by a lemon pudding recipe I found at Lehman’s Country Life, the blog for the country-oriented Lehman’s store in Ohio. Lehman’s used lemon juice for its pudding, which was easily transformed into key-lime juice.
The pudding looked to me as though it needed something to go with it, however. I originally intended to use it to stuff cream puffs, using the puff recipe I used when I made cranberry puffs a couple of years ago. I ran out of time to make the cream puffs, however, so I purchased a package of Pepperidge Farm puff pastry and made the Napoleons instead.
My nephew Michael dubbed the Napoleons “that awesome dessert.”
According to the Food Timeline, Napoleons were probably not actually named for Napoleon Bonaparte, despite their suitability. (They are, after all, short and puffed up.) The Timeline suggests that the name comes from “Napolitain,” indicating that this pastry is based on one from Naples. Wherever they originated, we all loved them.
Feel free to make your own puff pastry if you are good with pastry. I’m not. I have tried—really—but folding the pastry into the requisite 1000 creases is definitely way outside my skill set! If you buy the pastry, you’ll end up with a very simple, very fun dessert. Did I mention that it’s awesome?
for the key-lime curd:
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup key-lime juice
1 pint whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
for the pastry:
4 puff pastry sheets, baked according to the manufacturer’s instructions and cut into 36 more-or-less equal rectangles (it’s hard to get them completely uniform)
for the glaze:
a small amount of key-lime juice (start with 2 tablespoons)
confectioner’s sugar as needed (you will need more than you expect!)
festive sprinkles (optional)
Combine the egg yolks, sugar, and key-lime juice in a 1-1/2-quart nonreactive saucepan. Whisk to combine. Place the saucepan over medium heat, and cook, whisking, until the mixture lightens and attains the consistency of a light pudding. Remove from heat, and transfer to a medium-sized bowl.
When this mixture (the key-lime curd) gets to room temperature, whip the cream, adding the sugar and vanilla toward the end of the whipping. If you want to make the curd in advance, refrigerate it until you are ready to whip the cream.
Add a little of the whipped cream to the key-lime curd, then fold the slightly creamy curd mixture into the whipped cream.
Prepare the glaze by mixing the key-lime juice with confectioner’s sugar. It should be thick but spreadable.
Assemble your Napoleons. Each one will take three rectangles of puff pastry. Place one rectangle on a plate, and cover it with a generous helping of the key-lime filling. Cover that with another rectangle, more filling, and a final rectangle. Be gentle!
Drizzle and/or spread a little glaze on top of each Napoleon.
Serve the things quickly before they collapse!
Makes 12 Napoleons.