Strawberry Brûlée Napoleon
Slices of baked cream are stacked between crisp phyllo with strawberries and topped with brown sugar which is melted over the strawberries. Melting the top of any brûlée is tricky: if you make crème brûlée often, invest in a small cooking torch. Otherwise, use the highest setting on your broiler and place the dessert as close to the heat as possible for as short a time as possible.
- Baked Cream
- Milk - 2 cups
- Vanilla Beans - 2, split
- Egg - 2 eggs + 2 egg yolks
- Sugar - 3 tablespoons
- Phyllo Crisps
- Phyllo Sheets - 4
- Unsalted Butter - 1/2 cup (1 stick), melted
- Sugar for dusting
- Strawberries - 2 pints, hulled and halved
- Brown Sugar - 3/4 cup
- Mint sprigs - 4
- Tuile Palms - 4 (recipe follows)
- Strawberry Coulis - 1 cup
- Tuile Palms (makes 8)
- Unsalted Butter - 1/2 cup (1 stick), at room temperature
- Brown Sugar - 3/4 cup
- Cake flour - 1-1/3 cups
- Egg - 1, beaten
- Egg Whites - 2, slightly beaten
- Vanilla Extract - 1 teaspoon
To make the cream: Place a large baking pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Put the milk in a deep heavy pan over medium-high heat. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean pods into the milk, then drop the pods into the milk. Bring the milk just to the boiling point and remove from heat. Set aside. In a large heat-proof bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together to blend. Pour the milk into the eggs through a strainer, the immediately whisk the egg mixture to blend and cool it. Pour into a large square pan so that the cream mixture is about 1/2-inch thick. Bake on the upper rack of the oven, above the water bath, for 4 minutes, until firm. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
To make the crisps: Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Spread a sheet of phyllo dough on a flat work surface and top with another sheet of phyllo. Spread with melted butter and sprinkle with a coating of sugar. Top with two more sheets of phyllo and gently press them together. Brush the top sheet with more butter and sugar. Cut into 20 squares. With a wide spatula, lift the phyllo squares and place them in the prepared pan. Dust liberally with more sugar. Bake 4 - 5 minutes, until crisp and lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool.
To serve: Preheat the broiler to highest setting, or use a small kitchen torch. Place the brûlée squares on a baking sheet. Place four strawberry halves on top of each square. Top each with a tablespoon of brown sugar. Melt the sugar with a torch, or place as close as possible to the broiler and melt the sugar, removing immediately. Place the strawberry coulis in a squeeze bottle and draw a rough square on each dessert plate using two lines for each side. Place a piece of phyllo crisp in the center of each. Put a brûlée square on top of each phyllo crisp. Top with a second layer of phyllo crisps and brûlée squares. Garnish the dishes with more strawberries and a mint leaf. Lean a palm tuile against each stack.
Prehat the oven to 325 F. Trace a palm tree shape on a thin piece of cardboard or stiff plastic and cut out to form a stencil. Butter and lightly flour 2 baking sheets. In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Gradually stir in the cake flour until smooth. Stir in the egg, egg whites, and vanilla. Place the stencil on the pan and spread a thin layer of dough across the stencil, smoothing with the back of a spoon. Lift the stencil, clean, and repeat, about four inches apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the edges are browned and the centers are cooked through. Remove from oven and let cool to crisp. Extra tuiles may be put in an airtight container when cold and stored up to 2 days.