MILLEFOGLIE or Millefeuille and CREMA PASTICCIERA or crème pâtissière

Millefoglie – a thousand leaves – is better known in Australia perhaps by its French name, Millefeuille.

As you can see in the photo, a Millefoglie is a magnificent and very fancy looking cake (a grand- finale- dessert), made with layers (or leaves) of thin and airy, flaky pastry. This one has three layers of pastry and two of different creams: the top layer is Chantilly cream, the other as you may guess by its delicate, green colour is crema pasticciera and ground pistachios. Look at the top of the Millefoglie and you have some crushed pistachios and some fresh strawberries. And there you have it, whether it is incidental, the red, white and green are the colours of the Italian flag.

Both France and Italy have perfected many versions of this sweet. In Verona they make Millefoglie Strachin. This is layered with Crema soufflé and as the name suggests, it is a light and airy cream filling. Icing sugar  is usually sprinkled on top.


In Italy the Millefoglie is associated with celebrations, for example birthdays, baptisms and communions, weddings; the square shape makes it easy to cut into portions. The puff pastry is probably the most laborious to make and because it is usually a large cake it is customarily made by pastry chefs and bought from a Pasticceria.

Mine was a gift and it came from Marianna’s pastry shop called Dolcetti. I have written about Marianna’s sweets many times on my blog because I think that she is very talented and makes a great range of delectable sweets.

This Millefoglie looks stunning and tastes as good as it looks. I do not like over sweet desserts and I would describe this as being delicately sweet.

I will not give you Marianna’s recipe – this is her secret, but there are many do-able recipes on the web. For those of you who are not keen to make your own puff pastry there are good ones on the market

I did not have to look hard for a recipe on my bookshelves either. Those of you who are old enough to have Le Cordon Bleu or Raymond Oliver’s La Cuisine will find recipes for Millefeuille – for making the puff pastry, Chantilly cream and almond custard (not pistachio).

I also found a marvellous recipe in my copy of Grande Enciclopedia illustrata della gastronomia (Guarnaschelli Gotti).

There are many recipes for making crème pâtissière or crema pasticcera or pastry cream in books and magazines and on the web.

Here are two recipes from two belle dames of cuisine, one from Ada Boni and one from Julia Child.

See English – language version below the Italian.

Ada Boni’s crema pasticciera:

Per farcire una torta per 6 persone:

Zucchero in polvere, g. 90 (3 cucchiai colmi) – tuorli d’uovo, 3 – Farina, g. 75 (3 cucchiai) – Buccia di limone o vaniglina – Latte, l. 0,500 – Facoltativo: burro, quanto una noce.

Mettete in una casseruola lo zucchero e i rossi d’uovo. Mescolate con un cucchiaio di legno e aggiungete la farina e un pezzo di buccia di limone (evitando accuratamente la parte bianca) o un po’ di buccia di limone grattata, o una puntina di vaniglina. Mettete sul fuoco il latte e quando sarà quasi bollente versatelo a piccole quantità sulle uova, la farina e lo zucchero. mescolando e sciogliendo con una piccola frusta. Quando avrete aggiunto tutto il latte, togliete via la frusta e mettete la casseruola sul fuoco, mescolando continuamente col cucchiaio di legno. Vedrete che ben presto la crema si addenserà gradatamente. Continuate a mescolarla sempre e, raggiunta l’ebollizione, lasciate che la crema bolla per cinque minuti affinché possa perdere il sapore di farina. Appena tolta dal fuoco, se credete, aggiungeteci una noce di burro, ciò che le comunica una maggiore finezza. Mescolate ancora e mentre la crema si fredda non dimenticate di mescolarla di quando in quando per impedirle di fare la pellicola alla superficie.

Easy translation and interpretation of Ada Boni’s recipe:

3 egg yolks + 3 tbsp sugar + 3 tbs flour (I prefer to use corn flour) + 500ml milk.1 level tablespoon of butter, lemon peel, either grated or a thin shaving of the peel, vanilla extract (or 1 vanilla pod, halved lengthways and placed into the milk as it heats).

In a saucepan large enough to hold the milk place the 3 egg yolks with 3 tablespoons sugar and mix it with a wooden spoon until it is creamy. Gradually add 3 tablespoons flour and mix it again till it is smooth. Add a thin strip of lemon peel or grated lemon and or a little vanilla.

Heat 500ml of milk until it is nearly boiling. Pour the hot milk slowly into the egg mixture, stirring continuously and thoroughly so as to avoid lumps (I use a whisk).

Place the pan on the heat and simmer, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes, until the cream thickens. Take off the stove and add the butter. Keep on stirring from time to time as the cream cools so as to prevent a skin from forming.

My notes:

To prevent a skin from forming, what I do and that is to place a piece of baking paper or cling film on the surface. Leave the custard to cool and chill it before using. Omit the butter and instead you could whip about 150ml cream and fold a little at the time into the cold custard.

Julia Child’s crème pâtissière:

1 cup sugar

5 egg yolks

½ cup plain flour

2 cups boiling milk

1 tablepoon butter

1½ tablepoons vanilla extract

In a mixing bowl, gradually beat the sugar into the egg yolks and continue beating for 2–3 minutes, until the mixture is pale yellow and forms a ribbon.

Beat in the flour, then gradually pour the boiling milk in a thin stream of droplets, beating continually.

Pour the mixture into a heavy saucepan, and set it over moderately high heat. Using a wire whisk, stir continually, reaching all over the bottom of the pan.

As the sauce comes to a boil, it will get lumpy, but will smooth out as you beat it. Once the mixture comes to a boil, continue

beating over moderately low heat for 2–3 minutes to cook the flour; be careful not to scorch the bottom (regulate the heat down, and keep stirring!).

Remove from the heat, stir in the butter, and the vanilla.

Dolcetti window

Dolcetti is a Sicilian inspired pasticceria focused on bringing the tradition of sharing exquisite sweets with family and friends to Melbourne.

A few of the other posts on my blog about Dolcetti and Marianna:


Christmas Dolci and Dolcetti and Pistachio Shortbread

Christmas at Dolcetti in 2014 (and Recipe for Spicchiteddi – Sicilian Biscuits)

Zeppole, Fried Sweets

Dolcetti is a Sicilian inspired pasticceria focused on bringing the tradition of sharing exquisite sweets with family and friends to Melbourne.

Marianna’s website: Dolcetti




PIZZAIOLA (Steak cooked alla pizzaiola with tomatoes and herbs)

Pizzaiola is a classic and very simple Neapolitan dish: young beef, ripe tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, oregano, garlic, seasoning and parsley.  


These are the simple flavours of Naples, the home of pizza (Campania region of Italy) and like a well made Neapolitan pizza the ingredients are simple and few. There may be some complimentary variations when i napoletani  (Neapolitan people) make this dish, for example the addition of basil or some finely chopped anchovies.

If you look for a recipe on the web, you may be grossly misinformed. And if you want the real thing, pizzaiola is cooked on the stove, no mushrooms, bacon, cheese slices, capers, olives or any other embellishments.

I  have always made pizzaiola as my mother made it and was interested to compare her recipe with those of others. I have varied resources about Italian regional cuisine but because it is a Neapolitan dish it is not widely represented by all of the classic food writers, for example it is not in  The Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well (La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiare bene –Pellegrino Artusi 1820–1911), nor in any of my resources by Marcella Hazan or Bugialli. However I was pleased to see that some of the old, celebrity lions and lionesses (e.g. Waverly Root, Ada Boni, Elizabeth David, Anna Gosetti della Salda) include the recipe in their collections.

In some of the recipes, the steak is sealed quickly in hot oil before it is added to the rest of the ingredients. My mother always added the steak raw (as in some of the older recipes) – this results into a much lighter and fresher flavoured dish.

Like my mother, I like to add potatoes to pizzaiola (patate all pizzaiola is also a classic Neapolitan dish and often the two are combined) and the potatoes and the meat cook at the same time. Usually in Italian cuisine dry oregano is preferred (because it is stronger tasting), but for pizzaiola the fresh oregano is also liked – use a generous amount of fresh oregano and cut it finely.

Lean, young beef, sliced thinly is best. I use thinly sliced topside (as photo above) or girello (as in the photo below) and  I vary the amounts of tomato I use, for example I used 4 fresh tomatoes (photo above) whereas I used about 600g of canned tomatoes when I cooked the pizzaiola as in the photo below.

This dish is assembled in layers and then cooked. This recipe is for 4 people:

young beef/yearling steaks, very thinly sliced, trimmed of all fat (4- estimate one per person)
tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, 400g (1 can or fresh)
potatoes, peeled, then cut into thick slices, estimate 1 or more for each guest
extra virgin olive oil, 1/3 cup
garlic 3-4 cloves cut finely
salt and pepper to taste
fresh parsley cut finely, ½ cup
oregano, fresh ½ cup (or dried, 2 teaspoons).
Begin with a dribble of oil, herbs, garlic and seasoning.
Next, add a layer of tomatoes .
Continue with the layers and ensure that the ingredients are just covered with some tomato.
Cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes until the potatoes are cooked and the meat is tender. This is not a dish to eat the meat rare.




This is a photo of a segmented hare ready to braise. The hare has been sitting in my freezer for about 6 weeks, but because it is very hard to find, I buy when I see it, irrespective of whether I am ready to cook it or not.

I chose an Ada Boni recipe for cooking hare in the Piedmontese style (recipe from Italian Regional Cooking, Bonanza Books 1995).  Boni’s recipe is slightly different to other Piedmontese style recipes recipes I looked at and it includes cognac; other recipes may also contain any of the following ingredients, for example: cinnamon, garlic, rosemary and juniper berries.

I use recipes as a guide and I alter quantities and ingredients to suit my tastes. I like spices and herbs and increased the quantities; I prefer and used fresh herbs rather than the dry suggested in the recipe. Both Barolo and Barbera are wines of Piedmont and understandably Boni suggests using Barbera for the marinade wine, but I used a good quality Australian red wine and chose to drink the Italian. Chocolate smooths out the sauce and I used a greater amount than suggested and rather than adding 4 teaspoons of sugar I added very little sugar; I like using stock and added some to the braising liquid.

I have not used Ada Boni’s words, but the procedure for preparing the hare is more or less what she suggests.

In Australia I have yet to purchase a hare with its liver, heart, little alone its blood – these are used to thicken the sauce towards the end of cooking.

I have written about hare before. See:

HARE or RABBIT COOKED IN CHOCOLATE. Lepre o Coniglio al Cioccolato (‘Nciculattatu is the Sicilian term used)

PAPPARDELLE (Pasta with Hare or game ragù)

Interestingly enough, Alex the small friend in the photograph is now very much grown up.


Use an earthenware bowl for the marinade and a heavy bottomed saucepan with a well sealing lid to braise the hare.

Hare ready to serve no garnish

Being a Piedmontese recipe, plain polenta makes a good accompaniment.

1 hare cut into pieces (4 legs, back cut into 3 pieces, ribs into 3),
1 and 1/2 bottles of red wine- use enough to cover the hare (Barbera is preferable),
2-3 carrots,
2 large onions (1 for marinade, 1 for sautéing)
3 stalks of celery,
2 bay leaves,
3-4 black peppercorns,
3 cloves,
pinch of marjoram, and pinch of thyme,
salt to taste,
2 tablespoon of butter,
¼ cup of olive oil,
2 tablespoons of bacon fat cut into small pieces (I think that lardo or speck is intended – I used the fat from prosciutto, same taste and texture),
1 square of bitter chocolate, grated,
4 teaspoon of sugar,
3-4 tablespoons of cognac.
Chop one onion, carrots and celery and put them in an earthenware bowl  with the segmented pieces of hare. Add the herbs cloves and peppercorns and a little salt. Cover with the win and let it marinate for 2-3 days in the fridge.
Drain the hare (take the pieces from the marinade and drain them) and then drain the vegetables separately. Keep the wine for cooking the hare.
Heat oil, lardo and butter and brown the hare pieces – use high heat. Remove the hare from the pan and any juices.
Add the onion to the same pan and sauté it gently in a little oil. Add the drained vegetables and sauté these for a few minutes.
Return the hare (and any juices) to the saucepan, pour in the wine (from the marinade), add a little salt. Make sure that the lid is on tightly. Simmer for about 2-3 hours until the meat is cooked. I also added about 1 cup of stock.
Remove the cooked hare and put aside. Remove the bay leaves and if you have used sprigs of herbs remove any of the remaining small sticks (If you can see the pepper corns and cloves remove these as well).
Rub the vegetables in the sauce through a sieve, use a mouli or blend the vegetables in the sauce.
Return the sauce to the saucepan, stir in chocolate, add the hare and taste the sauce – if you think it needs a little sugar add this.
Add the cognac last of all (I only used about 2 tablespoons).
Serve with plain polenta.

Polenta and wild asparagus 2

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