Warmer weather is officially here to stay in Austin, and as a sun-loving, Texas gal, I can’t tell you how pumped I am to spend the next four months sporting tropical pink toenail polish and my favorite new bikini. And while I love the cakes and cookies that cooler weather brings, with the change of seasons also comes a change in dessert cravings — out with the comforting and in with the light and refreshing.
Today’s sweet treat is both indulgent and light — the perfect dessert to grace your table as the weather begins to warm up. These Naploleans (also known by their French moniker, mille-feuille) are made with whole ingredients (yes, that means cream! — no shortcuts here) but are still the type of dessert you can splurge on without feeling weighed down. Comprised of crispy, golden layers of phyllo dough, and layered with bright vanilla bean and lemon zest-speckled whipped cream, they’re incredibly airy with just the right amount of sweetness and crunch. Sliced strawberries add an element of freshness, highlighting spring’s best, and foreshadowing the bounty of summer produce that is just around the corner.
With rhubarb making its seasonal (and much looked-forward-to) appearance on market shelves, I couldn’t resist pulling together a quick and easy strawberry-rhubarb syrup for drizzling. It adds just a touch of rhubarb’s signature tartness and light fruity flavor, adding a lovely balance to the richness of the whipped cream.
And don’t be intimidated by phyllo dough. It can be found right on your friendly freezer aisle with the other frozen desserts and dough, and is actually incredibly easy to work with. In fact, the simple preparation of this dessert is perhaps its most appealing attribute — aside from those show-stopping layers, of course. Enjoy!
For the napoleans:
- 5 sheets phyllo dough
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- turbinado sugar
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream (or coconut cream)
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar (can sub honey)
- zest of 2 small lemons
- pulp from 1/2 vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- sliced strawberries
- shredded, unsweetened coconut, for garnish
For the strawberry-rhubarb syrup:
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 stalks rhubarb, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 6 large strawberries, sliced
- To prepare the phyllo: Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- On a clean work surface, lay out a single sheet of phyllo dough. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Lay the next sheet of phyllo directly on top of the first, brush with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Repeat until all 5 sheets of phyllo have been used. Note: You’ll need to work quickly so the phyllo dough sheets do not dry out. If you have to step away, cover the pyllo with a lightly dampened paper towel.
- Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut the phyllo dough into 9 even rectangles, measuring approximately 3X4 inches.
- Transfer to your lined baking sheet and bake for 7-8 minutes or until deep golden brown and puffy. Place on a wire rack to cool.
- To prepare the lemon-vanilla cream: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, add the cream and powdered sugar. Whisk on high until mixture begins to thicken.
- Add the lemon zest and vanilla and continue to beat until thick. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- To prepare the strawberry-rhubarb syrup: Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes.
- Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve and let cool.
- To serve: Use a pastry bag to pipe whipped cream onto a rectangle of phyllo dough. Top with sliced strawberries then add another layer of phyllo. Pipe on more cream, add more strawberries and drizzle with strawberry-rhubarb syrup. Add a final rectangle of phyllo dough and sprinkle with unsweetened coconut.