The Quick and Easy Napoleon

During my years in Stowe, Vt., the late chef Dietmar Heiss, his wife Trudy and son Andreas were my family away from home.

Heiss was the person responsible for my becoming a chef. I worked as a waiter in his inn and part of the waiter’s job was to do some basic prep work. I watched him chop and after a few tries, even he was amazed at how much faster with a knife I was than him. He was picky about what he served so he did all the cooking himself. He was also European in his ways as far as being a chef. Everything had to be done to perfection — his way — and he was not into answering questions or teaching others what he was doing. I always respected his ways and although I never asked anything, I did watch like a hawk.

The next time you are pressed for time but still want to impress your guests, give this a try and enjoy.

There was a day when Dietmar had some friends over and he was disappointed that he had to start on dinner and couldn’t sit down with them and have a beer. I told him I would get things ready and after somehow convincing him to just give me a chance to show him it would be an exact replica of his work — down to how he tied the knot to hold the chicken together — he relented. Satisfied but nervous, he sat down with his friends. He checked on me once more before relaxing at the thought of someone else cooking dinner in his restaurant. After that night, he started teaching me to cook using the traditional French style.

Dietmar also was responsible for my getting into the apprenticeship program under master chef Anton Flory. I could have gotten into the program under one of the many qualified chefs in the area, but their programs just did not excite me. Although Dietmar would never admit it to me, it was after he was talking to Tony, who happened to be his friend from Austria, that chef Flory decided to change how he chose his next apprentice. He had always gone by the list, which had 34 people ahead of me. For one time only, he decided to see who really wanted the job and he would take the first person who showed up. Dietmar, of course, gave me the heads up and the rest is history.

There was one day working with Dietmar that inspires this recipe. Because of a string of unfortunate events, it was just about time for dinner and he had no dessert. There was little time to figure out what to make with what he had, so he showed me a fast Napoleon that looked every bit as elegant as his normally awesome desserts. It is made like the real Napoleon but with a whipped-cream filling instead of the usual pastry cream. The instant whipped topping gives the cream the added body needed.

The next time you are pressed for time but still want to impress your guests, give this a try and enjoy.


1 sheet of puff pastry dough, thawed
1 package instant whipped topping (can use Cool Whip and fold in whipped cream)
1 quart whipping cream
1 T vanilla
1 pint cold milk or what the instant whip calls for
4 T powdered sugar
4 oz. dark rum
4 oz. Hershey’s syrup

Cut the dough in thirds along the folds. Roll out the dough to form rectangles of approximately the same size. Lightly fork some holes in the dough to keep it from rising too much and bake it at 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes or until light golden.

While the dough cools, make the whipped cream. If using an instant mix, place the powder into a cold mixing bowl with the amount of cold milk it calls for and the whipping cream. Start the mixer on low speed and gradually turn up to high. When the cream starts to thicken, add the sugar, vanilla and rum a little at a time until you get the desired taste. You should taste the rum, but not get hammered.

When the cream is stiff and the dough is cold, trim the three sheets of dough to be the same size saving the trimmings for the end. Place one layer of dough down and then layer about one-third of the cream on it. Next, place another dough layer followed by another third of the cream and topped with the last piece of dough. Spread the remaining cream over the top and sides like you would frost a cake.

Crush the crumbs saved from trimming the dough over the Napoleon and then finish drizzling the Hershey’s sauce over the top, letting it run down the sides.


Chef Smitty
Smitty is a personal chef specializing in dinner parties, cooking classes and special events. Trained under Master Chef Anton Flory at Top Notch Resort in Stowe, Vt., Smitty is known for his creative use of fresh ingredients. Smitty has been teaching skiing at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows for more than 26 years each winter, and spends his summers working for High Sierra Waterski School since 2000. Smitty has been writing his chef column for Tahoe Weekly since 2005.