Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daring Bakers on a Vols-au Vent Venture!

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon . She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook "Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan".

Puff pastry (aka pâte feuilletée) is something most of us usually buy at the grocery store, but I guess being Daring Bakers we have to dare ourselves further! This wouldn't be the first time we would be making puff pastry. In June last year, we were challenged to work with laminated dough to bake a danish braid. A laminated dough consists of a large block of butter (called the “beurrage”) that is enclosed in dough (called the “détrempe”). This dough/butter packet is called a “paton,” and is rolled and folded repeatedly (a process known as “turning”) to create the crisp, flaky, parallel layers you see when baked. Unlike Danish or croissant however, puff pastry dough contains no yeast in the détrempe, and relies solely aeration to achieve its high rise. The turning process creates hundreds of layers of butter and dough, with air trapped between each one. In the hot oven, water in the dough and the melting butter creates steam, which expands in the trapped air pockets, forcing the pastry to rise.

I had skipped the August challenge so when 1st Sept came, I could not wait to find out what would be this month's challenge. When Steph posted that it would be vols-au vent, I was pretty excited! I had in fact planned to make some in the next week or two, so this was indeed perfect timing. And guess what, another challenge which my other half would love to be my "official tester"! I decided to make bite-size vols-au vent; both savoury and sweet. I toyed with several different ideas .... even to extend of mumbling to myself on the type of filings I would use. I'm not sure if my husband thought it was funny or down right irritating by the end of the weekend. Anyway I ended up with several types of filings. For the savoury, it included carmelized onion with tomato confit, a wild mushroom ragoo, an egg mayo salad, apple and walnut chutney and honey baked ham with creme fraiche. For the sweet version, I simply piped each vols-a vent with lemon pastry cream and topped the pastries with filings such as blueberry confit topped with fresh blueberries, freshly chopped figs and miniature marshmallows. Can you imagine that the preparation part took almost a day and the consumption part took about 30 minutes only. So much for that!

Vols-au Vent

Equipment Required:

- food processor (will make mixing dough easy, but I imagine this can be done by hand as well)
-rolling pin
-pastry brush
-metal bench scraper (optional, but recommended)
-plastic wrap
-baking sheet
-parchment paper
-silicone baking mat (optional, but recommended)
-set of round cutters (optional, but recommended)
-sharp chef’s knife
-cooling rack

Prep Times:

-about 4-5 hours to prepare the puff pastry dough (much of this time is inactive, while you wait for the dough to chill between turns…it can be stretched out over an even longer period of time if that better suits your schedule)
-about 1.5 hours to shape, chill and bake the vols-au-vent after your puff pastry dough is complete

Forming and Baking the Vols-au-Vent
Yield: 1/3 of the puff pastry recipe below will yield about 8-10 1.5” vols-au-vent or 4 4” vols-au-vent

In addition to the equipment listed above, you will need:

-well-chilled puff pastry dough (recipe below)
-egg wash (1 egg or yolk beaten with a small amount of water)
-your filling of choice

Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Using a knife or metal bench scraper, divided your chilled puff pastry dough into three equal pieces. Work with one piece of the dough, and leave the rest wrapped and chilled. (If you are looking to make more vols-au-vent than the yield stated above, you can roll and cut the remaining two pieces of dough as well…if not, then leave refrigerated for the time being or prepare it for longer-term freezer storage. See the “Tips” section below for more storage info.)

On a lightly floured surface, roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick. Transfer it to the baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the cutting.

(This assumes you will be using round cutters, but if you do not have them, it is possible to cut square vols-au-vents using a sharp chef’s knife.) For smaller, hors d'oeuvre sized vols-au-vent, use a 1.5” round cutter to cut out 8-10 circles. For larger sized vols-au-vent, fit for a main course or dessert, use a 4” cutter to cut out about 4 circles. Make clean, sharp cuts and try not to twist your cutters back and forth or drag your knife through the dough. Half of these rounds will be for the bases, and the other half will be for the sides. (Save any scrap by stacking—not wadding up—the pieces…they can be re-rolled and used if you need extra dough. If you do need to re-roll scrap to get enough disks, be sure to use any rounds cut from it for the bases, not the ring-shaped sides.)

Using a ¾-inch cutter for small vols-au-vent, or a 2- to 2.5-inch round cutter for large, cut centers from half of the rounds to make rings. These rings will become the sides of the vols-au-vent, while the solid disks will be the bottoms. You can either save the center cut-outs to bake off as little “caps” for you vols-au-vent, or put them in the scrap pile.

Dock the solid bottom rounds with a fork (prick them lightly, making sure not to go all the way through the pastry) and lightly brush them with egg wash. Place the rings directly on top of the bottom rounds and very lightly press them to adhere. Brush the top rings lightly with egg wash, trying not to drip any down the sides (which may inhibit rise). If you are using the little “caps,” dock and egg wash them as well.

Refrigerate the assembled vols-au-vent on the lined baking sheet while you pre-heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). (You could also cover and refrigerate them for a few hours at this point.)

Once the oven is heated, remove the sheet from the refrigerator and place a silicon baking mat (preferred because of its weight) or another sheet of parchment over top of the shells. This will help them rise evenly. Bake the shells until they have risen and begin to brown, about 10-15 minutes depending on their size. Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (180ºC), and remove the silicon mat or parchment sheet from the top of the vols-au-vent. If the centers have risen up inside the vols-au-vent, you can gently press them down. Continue baking (with no sheet on top) until the layers are golden, about 15-20 minutes more. (If you are baking the center “caps” they will likely be finished well ahead of the shells, so keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when browned.)

Remove to a rack to cool. Cool to room temperature for cold fillings or to warm for hot fillings.

Fill and serve.

*For additional rise on the larger-sized vols-au-vents, you can stack one or two additional ring layers on top of each other (using egg wash to "glue"). This will give higher sides to larger vols-au-vents, but is not advisable for the smaller ones, whose bases may not be large enough to support the extra weight.

*Although they are at their best filled and eaten soon after baking, baked vols-au-vent shells can be stored airtight for a day.

*Shaped, unbaked vols-au-vent can be wrapped and frozen for up to a month (bake from frozen, egg-washing them first).

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough
From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

Note: This recipe makes more than you will need for the quantity of vols-au-vent stated above. Extra dough freezes well, you can halve it successfully if you’d rather not have much leftover.


2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
1 pound (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter
Extra flour for dusting work surface

Mixing the Dough:

Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.

Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)

Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that's about 1" thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.

Incorporating the Butter:

Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10" square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with "ears," or flaps.

Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don't just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8" square.

To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Making the Turns:

Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24" (don't worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24", everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).

With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24" and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.

Chilling the Dough:

If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you've completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.

The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.


Anh said...

Wow. You have made such a variety of fillings. So beautiful. Really.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

What gorgeously flaky looking vols-au-vent! I love your choice of fillings. Wonderful!



Ramya Kiran said...

wow, loved the flaky layers and so many variations of the filling. Looks great!

Tracy @ Sugarcrafter said...

Wow, love all the different fillings! Gorgeous!!

Eat4Fun said...

All your different fillings look absolutely delicious! Great job!

Conor @ HoldtheBeef said...

They all look lovely, but I'd really like to taste the wild mushroom ragout one.

I also had to miss the August challenge, so hooray for us both for getting back in for September :D

Megan said...

I always get so depressed when I think about how long it takes me to make something and then how quickly it gets eaten!

These look beautiful, and I love the fillings.

Monika said...

what a great asortmnet of fillings! your vols-au-vent look beautiful. great job!

Judy@nofearentertaining said...

they turned out beautiful. Looks like you had a ton of fun with the fillings!

Heather said...

Just gorgeous! Gorgeous!

Lauren said...

Beautiful job!! I love how much they rose, and your fillings look wonderful =D.

s said...

another great vol au vent..terrific and sucha large number of fillings....great job!

Junglefrog said...

They look gorgeous and those fillings are amazing! Especially the one with the tiny marshmallows on top! So cute!

Zita said..., so many delicious filling choices, I wish I could just taste one of them :)

Amy I. said...

Look at all those flaky layers, looks great! And I love the variety of fillings you tried. Nice work!

Barbara Bakes said...

I love all your fabulous variations! Great job!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

They look divine! The filling look like perfect party food-amazing job. And I think mumbling to oneself is normal right? Please say yes :P

Sugar Chef said...

What a beautiful post and pictures and vols-au-vents, and your fillings WOW!! Great job on your challenge.

Anna Chan said...

your puff pastry is beautiful!.. i'm drooling at my screen here!

Dharm said...

Yours puffed up really nicely!! I love the different fillings you did as well. great job!

Anonymous said...

Love the action shot of you rolling! The vol au vents look fantastic.

Lisa Michelle said...

Jo, beautifully done! I went so overboard, it's not funny, which affected my execution, but your variety of flavors is perfection AND perfectly done! I'm especially in love with the marshmallows on top of the blueberry confit with figs, although I would have toasted them (I hate untoasted I also did most of it in one day, only to see it go 1-2-3. Amazing, isn't it? But that's part of being in love with all things food!

Olga said...

look at you! that's quite an awesome variety of fillings.

Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction said...

Yum... love all of the different fillings. Beautiful photographs! Your vols-au-vent turned out beautifully!

Sara said...

Wow, these look amazing! YUM. I love you made so many different options! :)

MeetaK said...

oh amazing varieties - well done!

Ingrid said...

Yours lool perfect. You can really see all those wonderful yummy layers. I gotta tell you that your sweet ones look especially yum-tastic!

Khas said...

Wow.. It's gorgeous!! with those flaky layers.. Did you have any problem with the butter melting? The weather here is so hot..

Jennifer said...

They look amazing! I think the tomato and caramelized onion one is my favorite...

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous vols-au-vent! Love all of your fillings!

Aparna said...

They're gorgeous, especially the fruit filled ones.
Can one ever have enough of puff pastry? :)

zorra said...

Beautiful pics and great looking vols-au-vent! First class!

Sanghi said...

First time here.. Looks so tempting. do visit my blog..!

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking said...

Mmmm what gorgeous filling ideas!! They sound delicious!

Jill said...

WOW!! You did so many different kinds! They all look delicious! :)

Frenchie said...

I am very impressed with your wide variety of fillings. It looks like you had fun doing this challenge, which is what it's all about!

Cheri said...

Beautiful presentation! Your fillings sound amazing! And, I totally know what you mean.. it's like Christmas dinner.. it takes all day to make.. even more to plan, and is gone in a flash. But, it is oh so good that you can't help but do it again. :) Wonderful job on this challenge, your vols au vent look perfect!

The Little Teochew said...

Jo, you aced it, lah. Really. 10 upon 10!

Vera said...

Perfect pastries! And the fillings are fantastic!

Anonymous said...

This pastry looks very delicious.Thank you for sharing this recipe with us.I will try for this.I check this blog regularly and it gives me so many recipes.


pigpigscorner said...

You did a really good job! now I don't know which one to choose...

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