I have loved Napoleons ever since I was first introduced to them in the mid-1980s. The first Napoleon I ever had was strawberry. The thin, flaky layers of the puff pastry were chewy and crisp around the edges; the vanilla-flavored, pudding-like filling was rich; the strawberries were ripe and juicy; and the whipped cream topping was just the right texture and sweetness. There was even a slight dusting of powdered sugar on top. It was heavenly and I was hooked.
I had never attempted to make a Napoleon before now. Oh, I had thought about it, but I thought they would be difficult to make because they seemed like such perfection, and everyone knows perfection is never easy. I would get a little anxious just thinking about making them, hence the title of this article. :) However, Napoleons are really quite simple to make. ...Simple, if you aren't making your own puff pastry. If you are making your own puff pastry, I bow before your obviously superior culinary skills! I have never even seen a recipe for puff pastry (not that I've looked).
I have to admit that I didn't follow a traditional recipe for Napoleons, though. I read a few recipes on blogs here and there, as well as the one on the side of the puff pastry box, before deciding to come up with my own version. I wanted a slightly more complex flavor for the filling than what I read in the recipes.
I whipped up two pints of heavy cream, slowly adding about 1/4 c. sugar after it had reached the soft peak stage. I continued to whip the cream until waves of cream stood out like an angry ocean. I reserved approximately 2 cups of whipped cream. I folded about 1 1/2 cups of the buttercream frosting I had left over from the Bananas Foster cupcakes into the remaining whipped cream. (If you have been reading my blog, you may recall that was basic buttercream mixed with caramel dessert topping and butterscotch ice cream topping.) Next, I added two Jell-O Single Serving Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix Sticks. After it was thoroughly blended, I refrigerated the mixture overnight.
I cut up a quart of strawberries and covered them with sugar. These were also placed in the refrigerator overnight. I chilled a tub of T. Marzetti's Glaze for Strawberries, as well as another quart of berries.
I took two sheets of Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry and cut each sheet into twelve squares. The squares were placed in muffin tins and baked according to the package directions. This gave each square a slight curve on the sides to better hold the fillings. After they had cooled, I split each pastry square in half and placed the bottoms in metallic baking liners. A dollop of the vanilla cream mixture was spooned in, followed by 1 teaspoon of strawberry glaze and about 1 teaspoon of cut strawberries. The top pastry squares were added and a dollop of whipped cream was placed in the middle. Two strawberry slices garnished the whipped cream. The Napoleons were then placed in the refrigerator to chill overnight.
I pulled one out after a few hours to see what it was like. The puff pastry was a little chewy, as I have often found it to be when you don't consume it immediately. Of course, this might also have something to do with the fact that it was refrigerated or that the liquids in the fillings were being absorbed by the pastry. I liked the flavor blends of the caramel-butterscotch-laced vanilla cream, the strawberries, and the whipped cream. I also think the cupcake-sized portions were just the right amount, although I could have used a bit more whipped cream. I am hoping my co-workers enjoy these. I guess I will find out tomorrow.