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:
The original recipe called for a food processor, however, because I don’t have one, I did everything manually.
Steph recommended that we slash the dough prior to resting it, I think I went a little overboard with the slashing.
Incorporating the Butter:
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.
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.
The bottom most layer was filled with a medium well cooked piece of steak, followed by a piece of pan fried bacon.
Next up was a piece of gruyere cheese, melted under the grill.
The gruyere cheese was then topped with another piece of steak and bacon.
To top it all off, a fried sunny side up egg.
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
Nuffnang Asia-Pacific Blog Awards!
We need your votes …. only if you think we deserve it. Head over and vote on the right hand side of this blog on the voting panel and vote for us in the first ever Nuffnang Asia-Pacific Blog Awards. You need to vote in every category (eatshowandtell for food) and then press submit for the vote to count. We are up against some stiff competition, but every vote counts! While your there, vote for the other Aussie blogs too (Michael Aulia , Mr Gadget, Super Kawaii Mama, Childhood101, Lady Melbourne)