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. http://video.pbs.org/video/1174110297/search/Pastry
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 dough...you 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).