Monday, September 28, 2009

Puff Pastry Challenge (Vols-au-Vent)

(baking before the “jump” or “cut”) I could put this anywhere in the post, but you know what, i'm putting it here, just because I can. (For recognization of The Daring Baker's Challenge)

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' Challenge has been chosen by Steph of a whisk and a spoon. Steph chose Vols-au-Vent.

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough

From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

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

In a large bowl; mix both flours and salt together. Pour water in all at once at mix with wooden spoon as well as possible. Then use hands to mix the dough until you can form it into a ball. (the recipe used a food processor, but I don't have one, so...) Slash the top of the dough with a sharp knife in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the butter blocks side by side, lengthwise,  between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that's about 1" thick. Mine ended up being more of a rectangle, but it worked. If the butter starts soften or become oily, chill it before continuing.
For the next part you'll need at a least a 2 ft. long work surface. I used my kitchen table, lightly flour. Take out the refrigerated dough and place it on your work surface, which has been dusted with all-purpose flour. Use a french style rolling pin (no handles=awesome!), press on the dough to flatten it by rolling to form four corners or a square, making sure to leave bit of a dome in the center of the square. Roll it into a 10" square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking. The effect should be a thick center with flaps.
Place the chilled 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). In theory it was supposed to be a 8" square, mine was more rectangular.
If you are in a cool room, it will work better for puff pastry. I chilled 1 hour between every 2 turns of the dough. If the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry at any time, cover the dough with damp cloth and refrigerate it . It doesn't matter what point in the process you are, you can take a break to do this.
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 be anal about it, trust me it's not a perfect process). 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.
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.  Plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.

Ta-da! my finished dough. It was a lot of work, but who cares, puff pastry rules!

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
Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
Divide your dough into 3 portions, using a very sharp knife. Work with one piece of the dough, and leave the rest wrapped and chilled. You can freeze any unused portions of the dough. Wrap in plastic wrap, and double wrap in foil.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick. Transfer it to the baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the cutting.
Use a round cutter, or shaped if you prefer to cut out 8-10 circles. Make clean, sharp cuts and try not to twist your cutters back and forth. 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.)
Whatever cutter you decide to use, 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. Do not get any egg wash on sides of pastry dough. Place the rings directly on top of the bottom rounds and very lightly press them to adhere. If you are using the little “caps,” dock and egg wash them as well.
Place the finished vols-au-vent on the lined baking sheet and refrigerate. Pre-heat the oven to 400ºF.
Once the oven is heated, remove the sheet from the refrigerator and place a piece of parchment paper over top of the shells. This is going to help them from baking unevenly. 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 , and remove the 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 (without the 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.
*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).
I did the requisite round shaped cutters, but also added some Autumn leaf and acorn shapes. I was in the Autumn mood.

Savory: I did a garlic roasted vegetable mix with the pumpkin shaped puff.

Acorn with Cranberry Sauce and Autumn Leaf with Lemon Curd. I made both of these fillings for the worthy occasion.
Yummy goodness. Cranberry sauce and whipped cream.


  1. Awesome job!! The vols-au-vent look delicious, and I love the different shapes you made =D.

  2. Thanks Lauren! I appreciate the feedback :) It was a lot of fun to make this, and they were definitely delicious! I had a hard time not eating them all.