Tangerine Mille-Feuille with Homemade Pastry Cream and Puff Pastry

Someday soon I will sit down with a pot of tea and give you a full wrap-up of 2013. For those of you that have followed this blog for years, you obviously were attune to the fact that my sweet Art of Homemaking was rather a quiet place in the blog world last year. How do I put a bow on and present in an understandable fashion such a year as 2013? There were so many moving parts...many that continue to move and have no bow yet. Many events and emotions and opportunities that have shaped me into a much different person heading into 2014. For the best.
So much to catch you up on...I promise...soon.

But lets chat about sugar and flour and butter for a bit until then, shall we?
I woke up this morning ready to tackle something. Something big. Something new. Something beautiful. Of course I do this every day from my studio computer. In fact, Issue Four just headed off to the printer.
But truly my creative being was crying out for something less... technological this morning.

Before the sun had even fully risen I had made a batch of pastry cream and started rolling out a block of puff pastry I made over Christmas break. This was my first attempt at puff pastry, in fact. I loved the process. Much more puff pastry to come in 2014.

early morning sun streaming onto the butcher block. My happy place

A couple of months ago, a friend across the miles, Chef Staib, sent me his beautiful new cookbook, A Sweet Taste of History. I spent the holidays pouring over the recipes and more importantly getting a great education in our country's cuisine foundations. This morning, his recipe for Mille-Feuille was calling my name.

Mille-Feuille, French for "thousand-leaf", has two of the best things desserts have going for them: buttery, flaky layers of puff pastry and silky vanilla pastry cream. His recipe used raspberries. It was below twenty degrees this morning so the grocery store in my fuzzy slippers didn't seem like a trek I was willing to make in the name of comfort baking. The bowl of tangerines sitting now for two weeks on my counter was Plan B.

Over the course of the early morning hours
afternoon...as my inbox, phone and kids would allow...I candied peel, chilled pastry cream, baked pastry and constructed our Tangerine Mille-Feuille.

Below is the cookbook's basic recipe for pastry cream (with permission from Chef Staib). You'll have to grab a copy of the cookbook for your collection and for the full Mille-Feuille recipe~

**When I asked Chef Staib for permission to share his pastry cream recipe on the blog, this was the response...which I absolutely adore. Food and learning...totally gives validity to calorie consumption through desserts~

"Hope you had fun making the recipe… and eating it! Tangerine sounds delicious! Did you know that many wealthy people in American during the 18th century had “orangeries” and green houses. It was a great show of status to be able to serve fresh citrus from the garden rather than the fruits imported from the Caribbean and Spain"

Pastry Cream

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 egg
2 egg yolks
5 Tbsp. cornstarch, sifted
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Set out a 9 X 13 glass or ceramic casserole dish. 

2. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and 1/4 cup of the sugar to simmer

3. While the milk is heating, in a medium-sized bowl whisk together the egg, yolks, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and cornstarch until smooth.

4. Once the milk has simmered, add it, 1/2 cup at a time, to the egg mixture, whisking all the while, until it has been completely incorporated. 

5. Return the mixture to the pot and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until the mixture begins to thicken. 

6. Pay close attention to the thickening mixture, and when the first boiling bubble comes through, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla. 

7. Immediately pour the custard into the casserole dish spread it evenly, and lay plastic wrap directly on the surface. 

8. Refrigerate until the custard has cooled completely.