When February rolled around this winter, I knew it was my time to host my book club.I just didn’t know what I was going to serve for our afternoon gathering. Besides loving to read, our members are all foodies, so naturally I wanted the spread to be special. I finally decided on making a bowl of broccoli soup with curried crème fraiche that I offered in small portions ladled into ramekins. A quartet of cheeses filled a cheese board along with grapes, apples, and crispy date-studded crackers. On the sweet side, I arranged a bowl of blueberries and raspberries next to a basket of almond and orange tuiles. But, the winning dish turned out to be Apple Napoleons, my twist on traditional French pastries known as Napoleons or mille feuilles that usually include a custard filling.
I used purchased puff pastry, cutting a sheet of the dough into rectangles and then baking them until they had risen and were golden and flaky. The pastries were halved, and the bottom layers spread with lemon- and ginger-scented crème fraiche. Next they were topped with spiced sautéed apple slices, and finally with pastry lids. As a final garnish I drizzled warm caramel sauce (purchased at a local supermarket) over each Napoleon.
Early in the day I baked the pastries, cooked the apples, and whisked together the crème fraiche mixture. At serving time, all that was necessary was to assemble the Napoleons and heat he caramel sauce!
Our group ate these confections, while discussing our literary selection, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. Reading and eating—a pair of favorite pursuits for our literary band.
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Apple Napoleons with Warm Caramel Sauce
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, about 9 inches square by1/8 inch-thick, thawed (See market note
1 cup crème fraîche
1/2 cup sugar, divided
2 1/2 tsp peeled, minced gingerroot, divided
1 3/4 teaspoons grated lemon zest, divided
4 medium Granny Smith apples
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp powdered cinnamon
Confectioners' sugar for sprinkling
1 cup purchased caramel sauce, heated (Mrs. Richardson’s Caramel Sauce is sold in many groceries and works well.)
Mint sprigs for garnish, optional
1.Arrange a rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Have ready a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
2. Place puff pastry sheet on lightly floured work surface. With a sharp knife, cut it into 6 equal rectangles. Arrange on the baking sheet leaving at least an inch between each pastry. Bake until pastries are puffed and golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove pastries from oven and lower temperature to 350 degrees F. Cool pastries 10 minutes. Then, with a knife held parallel to the work surface, slice the pastries horizontally into two layers, and return them to the baking sheet. Bake 4 to 5 minutes more so insides are drier. (Pastries can be prepared 5 hours ahead; cover loosely with foil and leave at room temperature.)
3. In a small nonreactive bowl whisk together crème fraiche, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and 1 teaspoon each gingerroot and lemon zest. (Crème fraîche can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
4. Peel, halve lengthwise, and core apples. Cut, lengthwise, into 3/8-inch thick slices, then cut slices crosswise in half. Heat butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until hot. Add apple slices, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, cinnamon, remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons gingerroot, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon lemon zest. Cook, stirring constantly, until apples are softened, but not mushy, 7 to 8 minutes. Apples should be tender when pierced with a sharp knife. (Apples can be prepared 1 day ahead; reheat in a skillet, stirring, over medium heat to warm.)
5. To serve, spread 2 tablespoons crème fraîche mixture on base of each pastry, top with a layer of apple slices, and then with a small dollop of crème fraiche. Top with lids. Transfer pastries to 6 dessert plates. Dust each Napoleon with confectioners' sugar, then drizzle generously with warm caramel sauce. If desired, garnish each serving with a mint sprig. Serve any extra caramel sauce in a small bowl with a spoon. Serves 6.
Market note. A 17 1/4 ounce package frozen Pepperidge Farm puff pastry contains two puff pastry sheets (each 9 by 9 inches and about 1/8-inch thick.). You’ll need to use one sheet for this recipe. Wrap the second sheet in plastic wrap, return to the box, and refreeze for another use.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2020.