serves:6 to 8
- 280 x 230mm (11 x 9in) sheet of frozen puff pastry, defrosted
- 284ml carton double cream
- 2tsp vanilla extract
- 2tbsp icing sugar, plus a little extra for dusting
- 4tbsp good-quality strawberry preserve or conserve
- 300g (10½oz) fresh English strawberries, hulled and halved
- toasted flaked almonds, for serving
Preheat the oven to 200 C, 180 C (fan oven), 400 F, gas 6. Put the puff pastry sheet on to a baking sheet and prick all over with a fork. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until nicely risen and golden.
Carefully transfer the pastry sheet to a cooling rack. Meanwhile, lightly whip the cream in a bowl (not too much as it shouldn’t be too thick). Stir in the vanilla and icing sugar and store in the fridge until you are ready to put the dessert together.
Cut the pastry into three equal pieces lengthways (see tips). Spread two of the layers with the strawberry preserve and place the halved strawberries on top. Using a palette knife, spread a layer of whipped cream over the strawberries.
With the palette knife, carefully place one of the pieces of pastry on top of the other and press down gently. Place the final piece of pastry on top, flat-side upwards. Rest another cooling rack on top and press down lightly: this makes it much easier to cut.
Again using the palette knife, smooth any cream left in the bowl – and any that has squidged out – into the gaps around the sides, so it looks quite solid.
Pile some almonds on to the work surface along one long side of the dessert. Using the palette knife, lift them up on to the side, so that they stick to the cream; repeat along the other side.
Dust with icing sugar and serve.
Top Tip for making Phil Vickery’s Fresh Strawberry Millefeuille
Chef’s secrets 1) When slicing the cooked pastry into three pieces, I neaten the outside edges by trimming them with a sharp knife. This means you get those gorgeous pastry crumbs which you can mix with the almonds to make the coating. 2) It’s best to eat this dessert within an hour or two, before the pastry starts to soften. 3) When serving the millefeuille in slices, I use a carving knife or serrated bread knife for a clean cut. 4) The strawberries looked fantastic in the punnet, but taste disappointingly dull? If you have bought dud strawberries, cut them in half and spread them with strawberry preserve – it will transform them, I promise. 5) Never wash strawberries after they’ve been hulled – the water seeps into the cavities and makes the fruit soggy. 6) Double cream is great for desserts, as the high-fat content means it can hold its weight well and won’t collapse.