This pastry is known all over the world under different names, but when it is orange you know for sure it is Dutch.
by Ena Scheerstra
Last year I already explained the orange fever the Netherlands go in with Queen’s day. This includes the habit of turning foods orange as well. These mille-feuilles normally have a pink glaze on top, but with Queen’s day they are only available in orange. This year the orange fever in the Netherlands is even bigger than normal, because of a very special event. On 28 January 2013, our Queen Beatrix announced that she will abdicate on 30 April 2013 (Queen’s day), in favour of her eldest son Willem-Alexander, the heir apparent to the throne. For this big day, Queen’s day is called crowning day and from next year onwards it will become King’s day.
The Dutch mille-feuille consists of 2 layers rectangular puff pastry, filled with sweet, yellow vanilla-pastry cream and a thin layer of pink icing (orange with Queen’s day or when the Dutch national football team plays) on the top layer of puff pastry. Sometimes the whole is topped with a stripe of whipped cream, but this is not very common. They are usually served with tea or coffee.
The mille-feuille, also known as napoleon or custard slice, is called tompoes (literally tomcat) in the Netherlands. The story goes that it was inspired on the show of midget General Tom Thumb who traveled with an American circus through the whole of Europe. In one of his acts he impersonated Napoleon. Later on there was a Dutch midget doing shows under the name Admiral Tom Pouce. Both Tom Thumb and Tom Pouce refer to a fairy tale by the brothers Grimm. But how this caused the tompoes to be called tompoes is not clear.
Eating a mille-feuille can be quite complicated. Usually they are served on a small plate with a small fork, but the brittle pastry makes it impossible to take off a piece in a dignified way, especially because the plate and the fork are so very small that you cannot maneuver at all. When you try to take a bit off anyway in this way, the pastry cream splatters out at the opposite side, all over the edge of the plate, so you have to react fast to not let it ooze onto the ground. And because of the force you need to get through the pastry, you will launch the bit of pastry (now without any cream because of the oozing problem) you eventually got of with your too small fork from your too small plate on the floor, or worse, onto someone else. There are a few ways to prevent this disastrous mess. The first one is using a large plate, a large fork and preferably a knife too. In this way you have room to maneuver, the fork is big enough to get through the whole pastry and you can use the knife to stabilize the whole thing, preventing it from falling onto the floor. Another way is to only buy mini-mille-feuilles, these are one mouthful so chopping bits of is not necessary. But sometimes you are faced with the small plate and fork with a big mille-feuille…. then there is only one solution. Take the frosted top layer off the pastry and hold it one hand, with the bottom half in the other and then take sequential bites, one from the top and then one from the bottom. Or eat the top first and then the bottom (this is convenient when you have to hold the plate too). Not very dignified, but at least the mille-feuille will not be all over the place.
- 250 gram puff pastry
- 2 egg yolks
- 50 gram sugar
- 1 bag (8 gram) vanilla sugar, or a few drops vanilla extract
- 30 gram flour
- 250 ml milk
- 3 leaves of gelatin
- ½ egg white
- 150 gram icing sugar
- 1 tbsp rum
- orange or pink food colouring
- Preheat the oven to 200C.
- Roll out the puff pastry to a rectangular sheet of 20x30 cm.
- Place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and use a fork to prick the pastry. This will prevent the pastry from rising too much.
- Bake for about 20 minutes, or until lightly browned and cooked.
- Slice the puff pastry into two rectangles of 10x15 cm. Set aside to cool.
- Soak the gelatin in cold water.
- Whip the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla sugar together until it is light and creamy, and runs as a thick ribbon from the mixer.
- Add the flour, stir until smooth.
- Bring the milk to the boil in a saucepan and add in a thin stream to the egg yolk mixture, while stirring.
- Pour back into the saucepan and bring slowly to the boil while stirring. Keep stirring and boil carefully for about 5 minutes on low heat.
- Pour the pastry cream in a bowl, add the gelatin and mix well.
- Leave to cool.
- Mix the egg white and icing sugar together until thick and shiny.
- Add the rum and food colouring, mix well.
- Spread the pastry cream over one of the puff pastry rectangles.
- Turn the other rectangle upside down, so the bobbly side is down and the flat side is up. Spread over the icing.
- Place the rectangle with icing on top of the rectangle with pastry cream.
- Use a sharp knife to slice the sides off, to make them straight.
- Carefully slice the strip in 6 even pieces.
- Serve immediately or store in the fridge.