Sunday, October 5, 2014

5 reasons why le Millefeuille is the star of French pastries

Café de la Paix, Paris

"To be irreplaceable, one must always be different." 
Coco Chanel

1. Mille...what?  (Keep them talking.)

Movie stars know the trick. Even if you don't have a strong screen presence, adopt an exotic, even an unpronounceable name. It will get them talking, if nothing else. Millefeuille is one of the prettiest words in the French language, along with libellule (dragonfly,) coccinelle (ladybug,) coquelicot (poppy,) or pamplemousse (grapefruit.) 

Millefeuille is pronounced ['Meel-fuh-y-uh] or, if you are American, [Napoleon.]

Mille = One thousand. 
Feuille (noun, f.) = A leaf. A sheet of paper.
Millefeuille = One thousand leaves. One thousand layers.

Once, in New York City, a French bakery named Millefeuille
sold me... a Millefeuille

... which I enjoyed with a beautiful view.

2. The Millefeuille origins are shrouded in mystery (Keep them guessing.)

Its origins can be traced back to the 17th century (when it was mentioned for the first time in a French cookbook,) but who invented it? Mystère... 

An American suburban version, nicknamed "Napoleon"
(trying to look taller, like its namesake, with three layers of crème anglaise!) 

3. Le Millefeuille is more elegant than a Parisienne...

Monochromatic colors, simple, yet so effective: Dessert as haute couture. Delicate texture, with the juxtaposition of three layers of crisp, buttery pâte feuilletée (puff pastry,) and two layers of vanilla-flavored crème pâtissière. The eye-catching white icing top, with its etched design, for a perfect marbled or "combed" effect.

4. Imité, jamais égalé.

Imitated, but never duplicated. 

Different varieties of Millefeuilles can be sampled all over the world. In France, renowned chefs love to put a new twist on the traditional pastry; even offering savory versions, with tomatoes, salmon, or Brie and apples. I have found my favorite Millefeuilles in unassuming French pâtisseries. I don't mind sampling new versions, but I have one rule: Whipped cream - or jam -  is never an acceptable substitute for the crème anglaise filling!

Creative icing work chez Benoît, New York City

5. Le Millefeuille commands love and respect.

Le Millefeuille is a delicacy, a moment of pure happiness and indulgence, and it should be approached as such.

Slice a Millefeuille like a traditional pastry, and you will soon be dealing with a gooey mess, crème pâtissière running away; puff pastry collapsing into a myriad of unsightly crumbs. Instead, use a serrated knife. Go from front to back, without pushing down on the crust, in one, swift motion. Like so:

I am fortunate to know a lady who makes the best French pâtisseries and viennoiseries in Seattle (no local croissant can touch Nohra's, in my humble opinion.) I introduced her to my readers a while back. Remember that story? Nohra recently moved Inès Pâtisserie to a new location, in the lively and eclectic Capitol Hill neighborhood. I was curious to check it out. 

Inès Pâtisserie: Viennoiseries in full display!

This week, I called Nohra and asked if she could make a Millefeuille for me to pick up on Sunday. It's not on the regular menu, you see. "Je ferai ça pour toi avec plaisir," she replied ("I will be happy to do that for you.") And so I went, and picked up my treasured Millefeuille - and a few other goodies too, since I was meeting French friends for coffee that afternoon. The verdict: Absolutely délicieux. Nohra put her own spin on the original recipe, adding a bottom layer of raspberries, a touch of rum in the crème anglaise, and substituting a caramelized top for the traditional white fondant. Délicieux, indeed. Merci, Nohra !

My giant Millefeuille (4 in. x 15 in.:)
I made two stops on the way home and shared it with friends!

If you live in the Seattle area, you can find Nohra here:

Inès Pâtisserie
1150 11th avenue 
Seattle, WA 
Wednesday-Friday 8:00am-4:00pm
Saturday-Sunday 9:00am - 4:00pm

All photos by French Girl in Seattle
Do not use, reprint or Pin without permission.


  1. When I saw the box of patisseries on Facebook, I knew mille-feuilles were in there. My favorite when I was young was "Paris-Brest" but I have such a sweet tooth, I frankly wouldn't know which one to chose now.
    They have amazing pastries in Japan too. A lot of japanese pastry chefs apprenticed with french "patissiers". I believe that french, japanese and austrian pastries are really the best in the world, though every country and culture have some amazing ones too. In one word, I love them all as long as they are not too sweet, like they are often in the US.

    1. Bonjour Nadège. So many pastries, so many countries, so little time, n'est-ce-pas? I am not picky: I just need a delicious Millefeuille once in a while. :-)

  2. Having been the recipient of a huge piece of that Millefeuille, yesterday, (to go with our coffee of course), I can attest to its incredible taste, gooey and crunchy, sweet, with that caramel taste on the puff pastry. Hmmmm, so good, I might just have another piece today... Thank you, Veronique, (or maybe not) for introducing us to the world of Nora and her amazing baked goods, and thank you for sharing all the intricacies of this beautiful pastry.

    1. You're welcome Françoise. So happy I could share Nora's creation with dear friends on Sunday. Good times are so much better when you get to share them with friends, n'est-ce-pas? Junior and I did enjoy our "section" of the mighty Millefeuille. It took us two nights to finish it, but finish it we did :-)

  3. Hello Veronique

    Nora's creation for you looks like it was selected and baked with love. You are fortunate to have such a baker in your city.


    1. Bonjour Helen. Yes, we are lucky to have Nora around. I wish I lived closer to downtown Seattle so I could visit her new boutique more often. Come to think of it, maybe it IS a good thing I live in suburbia? ;-)

  4. Selon Wiki, le millefeuille n'en aurait que faudrait les compter.

    1. Désolé Alain, le Millefeuille a déjà été consommé. J'ai bien essayé de compter, mais... Bonne semaine !

  5. I am a sucker for a flaky pastry so of course le Millefeuille is one of my favorites. How fun to do a research project on this!

    1. It's a tough job, researching French pastries, Connie. Don't be mistaken! ;-)

  6. om........what can I say but DELISH looking yum yum and yum-- how many people actually benefited from your pastry-oh goodness I am speechless-I will stop at ines's when I finally make it out day! a work of art I tell you AN ABSOLUTE WORK OF ART! Have a nice rest of the week v-as always a delectable post and a joy to read -thanks for sharing!!

    1. Dear g. The Millefeuille was big enough to be sliced in 3 generous portions, so on the way home, I visited two friends and gave them one each! Françoise (comment above) and her husband were one of them. It was truly delicious. Françoise liked it so much she is ordering one for a dinner party she is hosting on Friday. Since I am invited, I get to enjoy Nora's Millefeuille yet again. Yessssssssssss! Take care.

  7. Beautiful and informative as always, Veronique! Despite so many excellent French bakeries visited over the decades don't recall ever indulging in Millefeuille, will remedy one fine day soon after reading your thorough report! Mille mercis...and hope that all is very well. All best, Suzanne

    1. Thank you for visiting Suzanne. I would think that a reputable pastry shop in your corner of the California Coast would be happy to help you discover the wonderful Millefeuille. A bientôt.

  8. Le Millefeuille is a favourite of mine too (of course you know all about my sweet tooth!) and there's a little pâtisserie in Boulogne which we always head to when we arrive in France via the Eurotunnel. We love their millefeuilles. Your photos have me craving one right now. Not only are they delicious but so atrractive too with the layers and feathered icing. You are so fortunate to be able to pop into Nohra's. I'd never be away from there. Her version looks truly délicieux!

    1. Bonjour miss b. Are the Millefeuilles you find in Boulogne the traditional kind, with the beautiful white icing on top? It is indeed a good thing I don't live too close to Nohra's, as I would probably end up camping outside her boutique ;-) Hope all is well with you and will swing right over to make sure you are out and about, as always.

    2. Bonjour Véronique! I was delighted that you popped over to 'see' me as your comments are always so thoughtful and very much appreciated. I'm sure the White Rabbit would have been unhappy about your 'lapin à la moutarde' but I'm sure it was a very special treat for you! As for the millefeuille, it's the traditional one. Bon week-end!


Bonjour! I love hearing from you, my readers. To quote a fellow blogger, my friend Owen, "Comments are the icing on blogcake... Comments are the UFO in the twilight sky bearing news from other planets... Comments are raspberry vinegar in salad dressing... Comments are the cool balm of after-sun moisturizing lotion... Comments are the moment the band comes back out onstage to play an encore... Comments are the gleam in the eye across the room in a smoky bar... Comments are the rainbow after the rainstorm..." Merci for your comments! French Girl in Seattle