Daring Bakers, Dessert Recipes
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Daring Baker’s Challenge, Vols Au Vent

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.

According to Steph’s fabulous french skills means, Vols au Vent means “After one bite we could die and go to heaven!” I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m a sucker for puff pastry so I totally agree with her definition. What I love about puff pastry is the the fact that it’s flaky, but not dry, buttery but not oily. I also love it’s versatility, whereby it’s  used in millefueille, pies, sausage rolls and strudels; add a bit of yeast, and we get croissants and danish pastries, the list is endless, or so Wikipedia tells me.

So imagine my delight, when this month’s challenge was revealed. Despite my adoration for all things puff pastry, I’ve never endeavored into making my own, fearing all the possibilities that can lead to failure of the pastry. For this month, I decided to brush away all my doubts and delve into making my own puff pastry dough, and hopefully creating some vols au vent.

Throughout the last couple of weeks, the weather in Sydney has been quite warm, ranging from 25 to 30 degrees celsius, which I’m told is 10 degrees higher than September average. Taking this factor in to consideration, I decided to make my dough at night time, when the weather was cooler. I followed the exact recipe as provided by Steph, which was simplified with all the great tips she provided.

Before attempting the puff pastry, I would recommend watching the video as provided by Steph, as it gives insight into what to expect, Puff pastry with Michel Richard.

The recipe from which I cooked from is adapted from Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan, as a result, I will not be posting it, however other recipes for making puff pastry is readily available on the web.

Mixing the Dough:

Sifting the cake flour and plain flour

Sifting the cake flour and plain flour

The original recipe called for a food processor, however, because I don’t have one, I did everything manually.

Creating a well so that cold water can be added

Creating a well so that cold water can be added

Slash dough before resting

Slash dough before resting

Steph recommended that we slash the dough prior to resting it, I think I went a little overboard with the slashing.

Incorporating the Butter:

Quartered block of butter ready for pounding

Quartered block of butter ready for pounding

Flattened butter, ready to be incorporated in to the dough

Flattened butter, ready to be incorporated in to the dough

Baking the Vols Au Vent

Steph’s method for baking the Vols Au Vent was very easy to follow and made baking the puff pastry simple. I’ve included her method to assist those who are looking to give it a go.

-well-chilled puff pastry dough
-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.

Baked vols au vent, ready for filling

Baked vols au vent, ready for filling

Assembling my Vols Au Vent

Making the dough for me was quite enjoyable and therapeutic, once I got into the rhythm of it, although I’m sure all the rolling and folding motion more than made up for my weekly exercise routines. For me, the most difficult task of the challenge was coming up with an idea for the filling. So many ideas raced through my mind throughout the last couple of weeks, it was only through a conversation with my brother that the idea striked me. I’ll be making a steak Vols Au Vent. Not just any steak sandwich derative, but a steroidal one.

Layers 1 & 2

Layers 1 & 2

The bottom most layer was filled with a medium well cooked piece of steak, followed by a piece of pan fried bacon.

3rd layer

3rd layer

Next up was a piece of gruyere cheese, melted under the grill.

4th and 5th layer

4th and 5th layer

The gruyere cheese was then topped with another piece of steak and bacon.

Top layer

Top layer

To top it all off, a fried sunny side up egg.

Food porn: ooh runny yolk

Food porn: ooh runny yolk

Vols au vent with glazed balsamic vinegar

Vols au vent with balsamin glaze

Vols au vent: Side View

Vols au vent: Side View

So lets go through everything again, from top to bottom

  • Egg- Tick
  • Bacon- Tick
  • Steak- Tick
  • Gruyere cheese- Tick
  • Bacon again- Tick
  • Steak again- Tick
  • Puff Pastry- Tick

After taking numerous photos of my completed Vols Au vent, both my brother and boyfriend attacked the stack like vultures. With crumbs around their mouth, mixture of egg yolk and balsamic glaze dripping from their chin, the only coherent thing I can make out was, “nom nom nom mummble mummble mummble soo good, mummble mummble best puff pastry.” From the mess they made on the plate and on their faces, I guess the recipe was a success. If I were to make these as an appetiser for a party, I’d only use a layer of each filling, just for ease of handling.

Stay tuned, with the left over puff pastry, I attempted to make an Ispahan millefeuille which will be blogged about in my next post.

Once again, thanks  Steph for choosing such a great challenge, I’m now able to tick this off my never ending “learn to make” list. Bring on the next challenge =D

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  1. Oh! I’ve been so looking forward to seeing what you did Linda :) Looks fantastic (as usual)! And I can imagine how the boys must have enjoyed this as an indulgent lunch – it sounds delicious!

  2. OMG, this looks totally amazing! I LOVE how you did this challenge with the steak and bacon. YUM YUM YUM! :)

  3. your end result is absolutely lovely, what a great breakfast to wake up to!
    like you, i was rather hesitant about making this pastry before and now i can’t recall why i was so scared.

  4. LOL no wonder Howard attacked it… I would too! That looks like a breakfast made in heaven. Beautiful job Linda!

  5. Wow!!! These vols-au-vent look great! I wish mine would have risen as well as yours did. I love the varied toppings. Great job on this challenge and lovely photos.

  6. Hi Linda! What a great idea for your filling – that’s the most unique thing I’ve seen in a vol-au-vent and one of the most delicious. Great job and great great pics! I love the one with the egg yolk running down the side of the pastry.

  7. Killer Vol-Au-Vent! Very creative and very well done! Like how it’s cut into half… so perfect! You must have a very very shape knife.

  8. Wow that looks fantastic! I could totally eat that for brunch right now. Your puff pastry does look really great, I’m not surprised everyone loved it :)

  9. Beautifully done! I wish you had shown pics of the actual making of the VaV dough rounds, though. But I guess there’s only so much you can do with two hands.

  10. Wow, that is so creative! I am amazed that the tower stayed upright. I am very impressed, I can only imagine how good they tasted.

  11. OK, so your puff is fab. The filling is hysterical. No seriously. Steak,eggs and chips in puff. Awesome!

    I’m making some little rhubarb frangipane tarts with my remaining puff pastry tonight.

    It was such a lovely pastry to work with – and to think I’ve been scared of making it for about 15 years!

  12. Oh my god your pastry looks amazingly delicious I’m drooling more than a pavlovian dog i want to eat it so bad!!

    Amazing amazing job! Your plating is top notch as well! Well done!

  13. normally i have a sweet tooth but that steak and egg vol-au vent is driving me wild. i want one. great job on this!

  14. abercrombie says

    remember making these back in high school and have never made, nor eaten any since..

    you’ve rekindled that flame and brought back some memories..

    nice plating, as always

  15. Ridiculously wonderfully decadent! Brings a whole new meaning to the words Meat Piiiie! :)

  16. Pingback: Ispahan Millefeuille recipe | eatshowandtell

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