Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Puff Pastry Vols-au-Vents

Puff Pastry and 25 types of Vols-au-Vents

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 in order to be really daring, we should make our own at least once in awhile, right? Kitchens should be getting cooler in the northern hemisphere, and are hopefully still cool-ish in the southern hemisphere, so I’m hoping you will all join me in making homemade puff pastry from Michel Richard’s recipe, as it appears in the book Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. With our homemade puff we’ll be forming vols-au-vent cases to fill with anything we chose.

Puff pastry is in the ‘laminated dough” family, along with Danish dough and croissant dough. (In fact, if you participated in the Danish Braid challenge back in June 2008, then you already know the general procedure for working with laminated dough.) 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.

Once we have our puff pastry dough made and chilled, we are going to roll and form a portion of it into vols-au-vent, which are little puff pastry cases designed to hold a filling. I chose vols-au-vent specifically because I think they do a beautiful job of showing off the hundreds of flaky layers in the homemade puff. They can be made large enough for a full meal, or made small for little one-bite canapés, the choice is yours. Vols-au-vent are typically served hot and filled with a creamy savoury filling (often poultry or seafood-based), but cold fillings, such as chicken or tuna salad, work, too. Whipped cream or pastry cream with fresh or stewed fruit often goes into sweet versions. If you are stumped for ideas for your filling(s), a quick on-line search or a glance at a traditional French cookbook will give you plenty of things to consider. I have photos of the ones I made near the bottom of this post.

Mandatory parts of the challenge: You must make Michel Richard’s recipe for puff pastry (as seen below), and form at least part of it into vols-au-vent (instructions below).

Optional parts of the challenge: You may make your vols-au-vent large or small, and may fill them with whatever you choose (savory or sweet).

Thank you!!! Steph for a wonderful challenge I have always wanted to do puff pastry. This is my first batch ever!

I did seafood vols-au-vents for lunch for 2 people. I did small and large vols-au-vents they were topped with various seafood tidbits. Prawns, mini stuffed peppers, tuna, crab, smoked salmon, soft celery. The vols-au-vents were filled with an avocado mousse.

The pastry is a wonder to work with and the video with Julia Child (I looked her up she is a WONDER) is excellent in explaining the process. I think I turned it 8 times by accident I didn't mark it but it puffed up outrageously I was a little worried about the height and I thought it might fall over. Though it worked out very well in the end. Beautiful taste a very light and fluffy pastry.

It was very cool while I was working on the pastry so I think that helped a lot and I cooled everything that touched the pastry. Even the rolling pin in the freezer for a short while before the numerous rollings.

Second Batch - I did a whole pile of shells (3 dozen these are only half-way cooked still need about 15mins in the oven) for a puff dinner party tonight will download a lot of pixs tomorrow. Thought I would show you the various sizes I did. I made the puff pastry in a chill room that was always at 15C degree (60F) so I could do all the turns at once so the pastry was done in about 30 mins. I used a docking machine to make the base pastry that is what all the little holes are in the bottom of the shells. I only used one or two layers of pastry they rose a lot since the pastry ever went over 15C throughout the whole turning and rolling process. You can see the lift that the layers got in the shells.
Picture of the docker I used

I had my afternoon puff pastry party. I really went to town on the fillings.


Crab claw, coriander, mint, fennel, red cabbage, seafood cream cheese base.

Quail eggs, sugar cured ham, Edam cheese, with roasted tomato as base filling.

Baby crisp fried crabs, with jellyfish base filling

Prawns, with a base seafood cocktail mayonnaise filling

Quail eggs, prosciutto, saffron butter, mint, with avocado base filling.

For dessert we had flavoured puff pastries shells. Green shell mint, lemon grass and green tea; deep purple shell mulberry, raspberry and a touch of smoked paprika, with a hint of chilli powder, yellow shell (on top) saffron, apricot powder, pear powder, lemon sorrel and powdered fennel seeds, middle orange shell blood orange and bergamot, reddish shell pomegranate and rosehip.

And then I filled them with various filling

In green shell, pomegranate. mint and lime peel on a vanilla cream. In saffron shell, cherry ripe and Turkish delight and rose jelly.

Starting at bottom left hand side going clockwise. Fig, almond, sesame seed, cherry and fennel seeds; blood orange with mint; mulberries and vanilla cream; pomegranate and lemongrass cream

I think the green shell was uber-good but the blood orange was my fav. These mini shells where special and so delicious after the 'main' meal v-a-v's. These were fun to make and the flavoured shells really counter the filling and adds another dimension to the vol-au-vents.

This is my third batch and was for a BBQ lunch I just finished. Sydney is fine clear but very windy at the moment. These v-a-v's are very large and one is enough for a main meal.

I did my (in)famous tripe pie as a filling. I served it once without telling the eaters that it was tripe and they loved it until later that night I revealed the ingredients. This time I made sure the eaters knew what it was. Tripe is such a lovely ingredient and underused I feel.

Tripe ready for the pot, cut into small pieces and then simmer for about 2 hours it adds a lovely flavour and mouth feel to all dishes.

Tripe vol-au-vent, with pesto and parsnip filling

Mushroom and sorrel cream filling

Quail eggs and crab sticks with a crab/egg filling

Roasted tomato with roasted garlic filling


I did 25 different fillings for the vol-au-vents this challenge.

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough

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

Steph’s note: This recipe makes more than you will need for the quantity of vols-au-vent stated above. While I encourage you to make the full recipe of puff pastry, as extra dough freezes well, you can halve it successfully if you’d rather not have much leftover.

There is a wonderful on-line video from the PBS show “Baking with Julia” that accompanies the book. In it, Michel Richard and Julia Child demonstrate making puff pastry dough (although they go on to use it in other applications). They do seem to give slightly different ingredient measurements verbally than the ones in the book…I listed the recipe as it appears printed in the book.

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

plus 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.

Steph’s extra tips:

-While this is not included in the original recipe we are using (and I did not do this in my own trials), many puff pastry recipes use a teaspoon or two of white vinegar or lemon juice, added to the ice water, in the détrempe dough. This adds acidity, which relaxes the gluten in the dough by breaking down the proteins, making rolling easier. You are welcome to try this if you wish.

-Keep things cool by using the refrigerator as your friend! If you see any butter starting to leak through the dough during the turning process, rub a little flour on the exposed dough and chill straight away. Although you should certainly chill the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns, if you feel the dough getting to soft or hard to work with at any point, pop in the fridge for a rest.

-Not to sound contradictory, but if you chill your paton longer than the recommended time between turns, the butter can firm up too much. If this seems to be the case, I advise letting it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to give it a chance to soften before proceeding to roll. You don't want the hard butter to separate into chuncks or break through the want it to roll evenly, in a continuous layer.

-Roll the puff pastry gently but firmly, and don’t roll your pin over the edges, which will prevent them from rising properly. Don't roll your puff thinner than about about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick, or you will not get the rise you are looking for.

-Try to keep “neat” edges and corners during the rolling and turning process, so the layers are properly aligned. Give the edges of the paton a scooch with your rolling pin or a bench scraper to keep straight edges and 90-degree corners.

-Brush off excess flour before turning dough and after rolling.

-Make clean cuts. Don’t drag your knife through the puff or twist your cutters too much, which can inhibit rise.

-When egg washing puff pastry, try not to let extra egg wash drip down the cut edges, which can also inhibit rise.

-Extra puff pastry dough freezes beautifully. It’s best to roll it into a sheet about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick (similar to store-bought puff) and freeze firm on a lined baking sheet. Then you can easily wrap the sheet in plastic, then foil (and if you have a sealable plastic bag big enough, place the wrapped dough inside) and return to the freezer for up to a few months. Defrost in the refrigerator when ready to use.

-You can also freeze well-wrapped, unbaked cut and shaped puff pastry (i.e., unbaked vols-au-vent shells). Bake from frozen, without thawing first.

-Homemade puff pastry is precious stuff, so save any clean scraps. Stack or overlap them, rather than balling them up, to help keep the integrity of the layers. Then give them a singe “turn” and gently re-roll. Scrap puff can be used for applications where a super-high rise is not necessary (such as palmiers, cheese straws, napoleons, or even the bottom bases for your vols-au-vent).


Eat4Fun said...

Wow! Terrific results! Your seafood pictures look so delicious! You even dyed your puff pastry with various flavors! It all looks amazing. Again, you out-did yourself on this challenge. Congrats!


Isabelle Lambert said...

wow ! Audax ! c'est fantastique toutes ces déclinaisons ! c'est du magnifique travail ! bravo :)

Anh said...

You have done a phenomenal job! ANd a great thanks to you for all the tips on the forum! It helps me heaps!

Basht said...

i'm, lemon grass and green tea?!?!!!
Brilliance and love. seriously, you're awesome. I always look forward to seeing your post, i don't think i need to explain why.

Karen | Citrus and Candy said...

What I wouldn't give for some of those prawn ones right now.... :)

peasepudding said...

They look fabulous Audax! The fact that you always manage to make so many batches always amazes me.

Marcellina said...

Fantastic vol au vents and fillings. They look so fresh and inviting. Thanks for all the tips during the challenge!

Deeba PAB said...

You really did go to town with those Audax. FABULOUS! I don't think I could even think up so many stunning combinations. You are truly gifted! Even I've always wanted to make puff pastry, but wanted it to look like how yours looked.Mine were pretty sad. Have yet to post though!

Simones Kitchen said...

Wow Audax, you really went all out with all these various gorgeous fillings!! Amazing!

sweetakery said...

oh wow! they look incredible! Just gorgeous! Fantastic vol au vents and fillings, just amazingg!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Beautiful pastry! Yoiur creations are so appetizing and pretty! I love your choice of fillings...



MandyM said...

Audax... as always... incredible.
The pastry looks absolutely perfect, what an amazing job :)

Wic said...

I think everybody can see that you really hat a lot of fun with this one. the pictures are breath taking.


Anita said...

Great range of fillings and flavours of pastry too! Glad to see you did the tripe one :)

Cakelaw said...

LOL - a flavour for just about everyone there!

pebble soup said...

Such a range of fillings, c'est une merveille

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

25 different fillings! While it took me minute to register that, I don't know why I'm surprised, really. :)
They're just great.
And thanks for your 220C tip. I did that and it helped.

shaz said...

OMG Audax!! You are incredible! 25 types?? Where do you find the time or energy? They all look amazing - I'm very intrigued by the one with the jellyfish base.

Sugar Daze said...

25 different fillings?! WOW! One looks more beautiful than the next. You completely surpassed the challenge, as always, and I appreciated your great tips on this one in the DB forums!

KPB said...

Wow. That is about all I can muster. Wow.

Anonymous said...

Audax! As always simply amazing! Great job!

Jenni said...

You are ridiculous and incredible. And I want to come to your house for a brunch/bbq/food!!! :) Great job, as always!

fairy_mi said...

You're nuts and amazing as always! Performing the challenge first and always in a million different variation, I cannot believe you are real :)
I hardly had the will power to make one flavored puff pastry, so I cannot figure how you've done all these flavored kinds of dough, but I have to say it looks amazing!
The dough seems so light and perfect - as always, you've done a phenomenal job, wtg!

Heather said...

Absolutely fabulous! Gosh, I wish I could have attended that afternoon puff pastry party. Beautiful work of art, as always.

Lauren said...

I am so so so jealous!! If only mine has rose that much =D. They all look stunning, and gorgeous!

Lolah said...

My English has not enough words for your job.
Fantástico! Bestial! Increible!

s said...

you are unbelievable ..this is much effort and such fabulous results

Maria Beatrix said...

Needless to say you rock,Audax!

Sue said...

You never cease to amaze me! Such vibrant colors and so many flavors and fillings! Your Vols-au-Vent really are picture PERFECT! AWESOME!!!

rcakewalk said...

You are the gold standard, I think! Amazing and fantastic acheivement!

Esther said...

As always you amaze me. Do you do anything apart from cook? Plus your fillings are so imaginative.

Amy I. said...

Oh Audax, as always, you're an inspiration to the rest of us! Your creativity is unparalleled. And I love that little docking gizmo you used...never would have imagined that those exist! Great work!!

Wolf said...

And once again you amaze us all with the sheer variety of your fillings}:P

Sylwia said...

OK Audax! I am jealous, your puff pastry looks AMAZING!!! I need to get some lessons, to be able to call mine PUFF pastry! GREAT JOB!!!!

Anonymous said...

My Lord, look at all the fillings and flavors! You are getting better and better every month. I'd love to invite you to the US and just cook for us (if you don't mind the work).

steph- whisk/spoon said...

FANTASTIC results! And those multi-colored, multi-flavored puffs really knock my socks off that must have been one great puff pastry party)! Thanks for being so enthusiastic about the challenge, and offering up all your tips and advice on the forums!

Jo said...

Audax, you continuely amaze all of us. However do you do it? Every single vols-au vent look so delicious and I like the fact that you even added colours to your shells as well. I salute you once again - fabulous job!

Faery said...

OOOOH my God! these are so beautiful and these flavors sound delicious, I love the fillings and the pics are great.
Audax, Would you like a Venezuelan neighbor? I want to be in your parties they sound delicious.

Namratha said...

Audax...I'm speechless! The vols-au-vents are so perfect I can't even say how much! 25 rock!!!! :)

A said...

Oh audax you work too hard :P

Amazing job again! You've created an amazing sea of colour that's making me all hungry.

And MEAN!! If i accidentaly ate tripe I would go crazy! LOL i can't even "stomach" the thought of eating offal...

I really want you to improve your food photography skills it would be fantastic to see all your creations in more vivid images!!!

Well done!

Dharm said...

You never fail to impress! Where do you get the time? Where do you get access to a chilled room? Where do you get the talent? You are truly inspirational!!

Lisa said...

Aud..speechless again. I am amazed that this was your first time making pate feuilletee since it looks as if you're an old pro! My god, even going as far to flavor the doughs, resulting in such gorgeous colors, Don't even get me started on your perfect layers..distinct and each tower so high! Not to mention, the fillings are slaying me,,especially the seafood!

As for me, let's just say the past few weeks 'have' been 'scintillating', but that late night sex shop show was too funny!!

Anonymous said...

How many types?? You are truly inspirational! Thanks for the tip about the oven temperature...I think that really helped me with mine. I had made a flaky tart recently where butter melted out, and I think that was the problem.

Meeta K. Wolff said...

oh audax these are incredible and colorful. i love coming here to see your varieties. simply awesome!

vibi said...

I must say Audax, you never cease to amaze me. Yours vols au vent are the most beautiful I've seen... not on the net these days, no... rather through out my life! WOW! Even more perfect than manifactured ones! WOW!

PAM said...

Wow, if this is your first attempt at making puff pastry you are a natural. Wish I could have been at that puff pastry party. I love the different colored vols-au-vents too. Great job as usual.

Laura @ the shorehouse. said...

Such inspiring fillings, Audax!! Amazing as always. I have yet to try this challenge (I'm getting too fat :-) but would love to infuse the pastry with flavor. Thanks for always sharing your tips, too!!

Jenny Tan said...

Audax, you are one passionate and talented baker! They all look so delicious. And thank goodness I saw your comment about pumping the oven temp. up 20 degrees. I saved my day! ;) Absolutely excellent job!

anna said...

25 types?! You are a mad man! They're all perfect. I see we definitely had similar ideas on our green shells. The saffron ones sound absolutely dreamy, too.

Madam Chow said...

Holy Moses. I am so impressed. And I want to know if I can come over for lunch!

Sara Soares said...

When I see real culinary art like this (because that's what you are - an artist)it makes me even more in love with food.

isa said...

As always, you’ ve done a fantastic job! Your pastry looks beautiful and flaky. You are a very talented baker!

Sue said...

Audax, How did your 10 dozen macarons turn out for the wedding? Are you going to post about them...I was looking forward to it! :)

Monkeyshines in the Kitchen said...

Wow, these look awesome! Truly a vol-au-vent tour de force. This is inspiring us to sign up as Daring Bakers too (right now we're only in the Daring Cooks...)

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking said...

Absolutely extraordinary! 25 different fillings, and all of them look amazing! And great puff as well. Way to go!!

glamah16 said...

You never cease to amaze me. I like that you worked with tripe. That would be interesting.

KMDuff said...

Wow! You had a lot of fun with the fillings! Very yummy looking - and inspiring. :)

zorra said...

Auday, your are the master!

alana said...

I want in on your next luncheon! i guess I'm too far away... Anyway, I envy those lucky few. Beautiful job, as usual.

Anonymous said...

You really took this on with a vengence. Great job- they look magnificent. Puff pastry rocks!

Rose said...

"I did 25 different fillings for the vol-au-vents this challenge." SERIOUSLY AUDAX! Hahaha! You are wild!!!! Beautifully done. Your creativity and range of culinary expertise never cease to amaze me.

Jill @ Jillicious Discoveries said...

There were so many fabulous pictures that I can't pick one favorite! I think I was really drawn in by the ones with the delicious looking seafood--but then the dessert ones looked very tempting too! :)

LtlLori said...

Unbelievable! You've really outdone yourself this time! I'm so impressed!... now can I come over and try them? They look absolutely delicious!

Lisa said...

I'm not worthy. I'm not worthy.

You are an artist.

Kimberly Johnson said...

Wow! Great job on the puff pastries! All of your fillings are sound so delicious!

Vera said...

Amazing as always!

Faery said...

Hi Auax, where can I write to you? to send you the recipe.

Julia @ Mélanger said...

I am just shaking my head at not only the perfect pastry that you made, but also all the versions of vols-au-vents that you made. Just amazing, as always!

nikki said...

Stop! I need a moment to take in all 25 of your amazing fillings. Utterly amazing. You have rocked yet another challenge.