October may bring the chilly autumnal winds which make you want to settle down to steaming soup and various forms of melted cheese, but I also always think of it as the last chance for amazing Scottish raspberries. Raspberries from Scotland are some of the best in the world and varieties such as Autumn Bliss thrive in the chillier climate, making for a more fragrant and juicy berry.
Raspberries are an amazing berry; there is no comparison when it comes to the soft and yielding texture combined with the perfumed sweetness as they burst in your mouth. They always seem a bit more special than strawberries and so deserve some extra effort.
Mille feuille is part of the repertoire of highly classical french patisserie; the name itself comes from the puff pastry; ‘mille’ meaning a thousand and ‘feuille’ meaning layers. If you want to be less fancy, you can call it a custard slice, but I think this loses the romanticism of the name somewhat. The traditional delicate layers of buttery puff pastry and the richly vanilla-scented crème pâtissière are perfect with raspberries.
There is no getting away from the fact that patisserie can be very fiddly; there is a reason why pastry chefs specialise in this very thing for years before they perfect certain techniques. However, despite the fact that this is patisserie and looks very impressive, this recipe is very straightforward; it is just a matter of following the steps and taking your time.
Using shop bought, all-butter puff pastry saves hours of time and effort. Crème pâtissière is simply custard thickened with flour so it holds its form. Making your own ‘creme pat’ does induce feelings of great smugness, not to mention that it tastes amazing, but if you are in a rush or are nervous about custard, you can also skip this and simply use 300ml of double cream, whipped until it becomes firm, with the seeds of a vanilla pod and 2 tbs of icing sugar.
Raspberry Mille Feuille
For the crème pâtissière
300ml whole milk
1 vanilla pod
3 egg yolks
4 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp cornflour.
For the pastry
1 packet of all butter puff pastry
2 tbs icing sugar
- Start with your pastry. Roll out a sheet to the thickness of fifty pence piece. Place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, top with another layer of greaseproof paper and pop another baking sheet on top. Then weigh down the top baking sheet with something heavy, like a ceramic or glass baking dish. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
- Bake in an oven preheated to 180C for about 25 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly with the baking tray on top.
- Remove the baking dish and top baking sheet. While the pastry is still warm, cut the sheet in half across the middle and then downwards into twelve rectangles-6 at the top and 6 at the bottom. Trim the edges so they are neat and the same size.
- Sprinkle the rectangles with icing sugar so they are completely covered and caramelise the sugar lightly using a blow torch. You can use a hot grill but you need to be very careful that they do not catch.
- Now make the crème pâtissière, put 300ml whole milk and 1 vanilla pod, halved lengthways, in a pan and heat to just below boiling point.
- In a bowl, whisk together 3 egg yolks, 4 tbsp caster sugar, 2 tbsp plain flour and 2 tbsp cornflour.
- Pour the hot milk over the egg mixture, mixing with a wooden spoon continuously. Return the mixture to the pan and set over a medium heat, mixing all the time, until it has a thick custard consistency. The custard is ready when it coats the back of the spoon and when you draw your finger across, the line remains.
- Transfer to a bowl, cover the surface directly with cling film, leave to cool, then chill for at least 1 hr (can be made 2 days ahead).
- Transfer to a piping bag and snip the corner off it, or fit a plain nozzle. Chill until ready to use.
- When you are ready to assemble, squeeze a small dot of crème pâtissière on a plate and put a pastry rectangle on top to stop it moving around. Squeeze twelve large dots of crème pâtissière on top of the rectangle, then place a raspberry on top of each dot. Repeat.
- Place one rectangle on top of the other and then top with one more pastry rectangle. Serve immediately.