Where do Napoleons come from?

Naples, evidently, though no one is really sure. It was Antonin Carême who is said to have made that claim, but all we know for sure is that he said they were of “ancient” origin. Whether that’s true or he was only trying to impress his dinner guests is a mystery. We know that Napoleons were mainly decorative in Carême’s time, finishing touches applied to the far end of the heaping tables that were characteristic of aristocratic dining. When did people start to appreciate Napoleons for what they are? Who knows? But its a testament to their deliciousness that they weren’t simply abandoned with all the rest of the fancy claptrap of the era. Oh, and if they weren’t called “Napoleons” then, what were they called? Mille-fueilles is the answer, essentially “thousand leaves” pastries.

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