The finale of any good dinner is a great dessert. I know that chocolate is the natural choice, but as some of you know I’m not the biggest chocolate fan. After a plethora of chocolate desserts on Cooking in Red Socks over the last few years, I wanted make something for those of us who prefer vanilla and fruit to chocolate. A napoleon is a classic French dessert--layers of puff pastry that are filled with a cream filling and a glaze drizzled over top. I wanted to change up the basic ingredients to “lighten” up the recipe. When I say this, I mean lighten it up in mouthfeel, not calories. One look at this recipe and you’ll realize why they are so tiny! However decadent, they really have a nice light texture, which I think is important for a Valentine’s dinner. No one feels very romantic or wonderful about themselves if they are bogged down by a rich dessert.
Instead of pastry cream in the layers I’ve substituted one layer of vanilla frozen yogurt (or ice cream) and another layer of homemade whipped cream. To add some color and flavor variation I’ve added amaretto-macerated strawberries to the layers. The amaretto packs an unexpected punch and brings an earthy almond flavor to the mix. If you are serving this to children please skip the amaretto! If you aren’t, I think you’ll really enjoy this one. It is visually simple but dances on your palate while you enjoy the rest of your fun evening. Serve with Champagne for a nice crisp finish.
- 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
- 6 or so large strawberries, stems removed and sliced lengthwise
- 1 tbs sugar
- 1-2 tbs amaretto, grand marnier or liqueur of choice (optional)
- 1 pint vanilla frozen yogurt (or ice cream)
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2 tbs powdered sugar
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Use a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to roll the puff pastry into a 12 x 12-inch square. Take a heart-shaped cookie cutter and cut out 12 large hearts from the pastry dough. If you need to, remove the first batch of hearts, reroll the dough, and cut more.
- Place the hearts on a sheet of parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Use a fork to lightly prick the hearts, covering most of the surface. Bake the hearts for 15 minutes, or according to package directions.
- While the hearts are baking, combine the strawberries, sugar, and liqueur, if you choose to use it. Let the strawberries macerate until you are ready to use them.
- Remove the puff pasty and the parchment from the cookie sheet. Let the puff pasty cool completely before you assemble the desserts.
- Make the whipped cream by whipping the cream and sugar in a stand mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk on a medium-high speed for 3 minutes, or until the cream starts to come together. If you are using a premade whipped cream, be aware that the cream doesn’t have the staying power of the real stuff. It will melt within a few minutes. Real heavy cream whipped cream will stay as you lay it for at least an hour, a few more in the refrigerator.
- Assemble the napoleons by placing a small dollop of whipped cream on each plate. This will help secure the bottom puff pastry heart. Add a small scoop of ice cream on top of the first heart, nestling it with a spoon to create room for the strawberries. Place a few strawberries in the ice cream and top with the second puff pasty heart. If you wanted to make these ahead of time you could stop here and freeze the bottom halves. Assemble the rest just before serving.
- Add a dollop of whipped cream on top of the second pastry heart. Carefully add another spoonful of strawberries and place the final puff pastry heart on top. Repeat for each of the four napoleons. Serve immediately or place in the freezer for no more than 20 minutes.