Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daring Bakers - 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. When I first saw it I groaned at the thought of making puff pastry from scratch. Then Matt reminded me I'd basically already made puff pastry for the Danish Braid challenge. Ok, I figured if I'd done it once I can do it again and here's the flaky layers to prove it.
I decided if I was going to take the time to make puff pastry I was going to use the best butter possible which to us means the locally produced Hope Butter. (Seriously, this is the best butter ever!) It was worth it, Matt took one bite of the finished pastry & declared it the best puff pastry he'd ever had.
I did a pretty basic filling for it. Cooked chicken with mixed vegetables in a white wine & cream sauce with just a tough of whole grain mustard in it. Simple, comforting & satisfying.

I did 1/4th of this recipe which gave me 4 vols-au-vent & lots of scraps. My notes are in italics throughout the recipe.

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

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 I used 1/2 c plus 2 T

1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour
 I used 1/4 c plus 1 T
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
 I used 1/2 t
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
 I used 1/4 c plus 1 T
1 pound (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter I used 1/4 lb
plus extra flour for dusting work surface

Mixing the Dough:
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. Make sure your butter isn't too cold either. Mine was a little hard & broke through the dough right away. I had to start over with fresh dough & just made sure the butter wasn't still frozen

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. For 1/4 of the recipe I only made a 2.5 inch 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. I ended up with a 2" 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.) For 1/4 of the dough I made sure the longest side was 6" long. 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!). I found I had to pound the dough & butter to get it all spread without ripping the dough.

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. I found it better to chill the dough for 30 minutes at this point & then do the second 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", or 6" in my case, 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. Once again I only did one turn & chilled it for 30 minutes between turned. The dough got easier to work with each time. 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.

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.

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). I used my finger tip to egg wash the rings, this gave me better control than a brush & prevented drips. 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. I used a silicon baking pad to do this & it actually stuck to the top layer of my vols-au-vent making it really hard to remove. I also don't think it helped give me an even rise. 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.) My caps cooked the exact same amount of time as my shells.

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

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

If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at OR at then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at katbaro AT yahoo DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author unless otherwise noted.
© 2007-2009 Kathy Lewinski


LoveMeKnot Creations said...

I just realized I've been following your blog for awhile, and then I noticed you're in DB also, how fun :)

your fillings look like perfect individual dinners!

Dragon said...

Look at all those lovely, lovely layers. Great job on this month's challenge.

Anonymous said...

your vols-au-vents have puffed up beautifully, well done!

Sophie said...

Looks lovely, I had something very similar to this in a posh French restaurant so kudos to you!

Lori said...

I love that this is the challenge this time around! I aspire to make my own puff pastry. I figure if I can do croissants, I gotta give it a try. Yours looks amazing and I love it topped with the chicken and veggies. Yum!

Fresh Local and Best said...

This is indeed a challenge! I've been unsuccessful with making puff pastry. I'll have to try this recipe, yours turned out beautifully!

Jo said...

Oh wow, your layers are absolutely flaky. Your vols-au vent look so delicious and reminds me of mini pot-pies.

Carter @ The Kitchenette said...

That picture is GORGEOUS. I need to take lessons from you!

Also, I was wondering about the mechanics of making a portion of the recipe. Did you still roll out each layer to 24 inches as the recipe called for? Or did you only do 12 inches? Just curious.

kat said...

Carter - Since I did 1/4 of the dough I changed all the measurements to 1/4. So I rolled it out to 6 inches. I had a lot less rolling to do for sure.

grace said...

that picture is honest proof that you've already mastered puff pastry--it's perfection! bravo!

Lisa Paul said...

Vol au Vents!! I am not worthy. I bow in the direction of your kitchen superiority. Vol au Vents are one of those things that separate the chefs from the cooks.

noëlle {simmer down!} said...

It's been said already,but wow, your layers look great. I'm wondering if you were able to work more quickly since you used less of everything? I imagine if I'd done mine with a smaller amount, it may have been easier to handle. Your filling looks amazing too.

Lori said...

I totally agree about using good butter. I think it makes all the difference. I wish I could try this butter. Someday when I head up to MN I will purchase some.

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking said...

Look at those luscious layers!!! Great results!

Lauren said...

Gorgeous! Those look so delicious, and rose beautifully =D. Awesome job!

Michele Humes said...

That's an exquisite bit of puff pastry. Very impressed.

Kimberly Johnson said...

Your puff pastry looks fantastic and your chicken filling lookes delicious!

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