Coffee Dessert Recipe: Coffee Napoleons with Espresso Pastry Cream

May 17, 2012

coffee napoleons at

I'm still playing with recipes for a culinary coffee cookbook and this one is my latest attempt. It's not perfect, but my taste testers tell me that this coffee pastry was "the bomb".

The dessert is a simple one -- light and airy, but surprisingly filling. It consists of a coffee meringue wafer topped with a spoonful of espresso pastry cream and finished off with a plain meringue wafer. It's not an easy recipe to do -- meringues and pastry cream can both be finicky. My first attempt, in fact, totally bombed because I made the mistake of making the meringues on a rainy day. Total waste of six eggs!

Disclaimer on this one -- I started out using standard measurements and adjusted as I went along by feel so your mileage may vary. 


6 egg whites, room temperature

1 1/2 cups superfine sugar

1/8 tsp cream of tartar

18 g very finely ground coffee

Preheat oven to 140 F.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a tall bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until frothy. Slowly add about 1/3 the sugar, continuing to beat until it is completely absorbed. Continue beating egg whites at high speed, slowly adding the remaining sugar in small amounts until the mixture is thick, glossy and holds stiff peeks when you lift the beaters from the batter.

Divide the merignue into two portions. Gently fold the ground coffee into one portion of the mixture.

Drop the meringue mixture onto the cookie sheets by the spoonful, making 12 meringue drops from each flavor. With a flat spatula or butter knife, gently smooth the meringues into round wafers.

Place the cookie trays into the oven at the center rack. Let them bake for 2 hours without opening the oven door. At the end of two hours, turn off the oven and leave the meringues inside with the door closed for another hour. The meringues should be crisp and dry. If the centers are still moist, leave them in a warm oven for another half hour.

Remove the meringues from the sheets and store them in an airtight container if you're not going to continue immediately.

Espresso Pastry Cream

6 egg yolks

3/4 c. sugar

1/4 c. cake flour

1 c. half and half

1/2 c. whole milk

Pinch salt

1 oz. brewed espresso

In a 2 qt. saucepan, heat the milk, half and half and salt over a low flame. While the milk is heating, beat the egg yolks and sugar in a small bowl until the yolks are pale yellow and creamy. Gradually add the cake flour, beating well to incorporate it into the batter after each addition. Slowly add the espresso to the egg mixture, beating until it is fully mixed. 

When small bubbles form around the edges of the milk, scoop up about 3/4 cup of the hot milk and slowly add it to the egg batter in the bowl. This will warm the egg mixture slowly so that it doesn't cook and curdle when you add it to the hot milk.

Slowly add the egg batter to the hot milk, stirring constantly to mix the batter into the milk. Continue stirring over low heat until the pastry cream thickens to a soft pudding consistency.

Remove the pastry cream from the heat and allow it to come to room temperature without covering it. When it is lukewarm, press waxed paper onto the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Once it reaches room temperature, put it in the refrigerator to chill and finish thickening, leaving the wax paper on the surface.

Assembling the Napoleons 

Place coffee meringue on a plate. Spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons of espresso pastry cream on the meringue. Top with a plain meringue. Drizzle with chocolate sauce if desired and serve with freshly brewed coffee or espresso.

Leftover pastry cream? Sprinkle sponge cake with brewed espresso and spread the cake with pastry cream. Top with whipped cream and serve wtih coffee.

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