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.

I will have to admit that when I saw the challenge for this month I was truly considering sitting it out. Not only was I super busy with the trip and everything, truth be told I was down right intimated by the thought of making a puff pastry. It is something that seemed so elusive and difficult and the recipe seemed so long. However, after a few encouraging words from some fellow daring bakers I gave it a try. It was a lot easier than it looked and I was very pleased with the results.

I decided to halve the recipe and still had plenty. I froze one half of my batch to make later and I used the other half to make a savory Vols-Au-Vent. For the filling I made a quick creamy spinach and bacon dip. The creamy texture of the dip was a nice contrast to the crispy flakiness of the puff pastry.

Equipment:

-food processor (will make mixing dough easy, but I imagine this can be done by hand as well)
-rolling pin
-pastry brush
-metal bench scraper (optional, but recommended)
-plastic wrap
-baking sheet
-parchment paper
-silicone baking mat (optional, but recommended)
-set of round cutters (optional, but recommended)
-sharp chef’s knife
-fork
-oven
-cooling rack

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

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. 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.

*For additional rise on the larger-sized vols-au-vents, you can stack one or two additional ring layers on top of each other (using egg wash to “glue”). This will give higher sides to larger vols-au-vents, but is not advisable for the smaller ones, whose bases may not be large enough to support the extra weight.

*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).

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.

Ingredients:

  • 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.

Creamy Spinach and Bacon Filling

Makes: enough filling for 4 Vols-Au-Vent

  • 3 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 2 ounces softened cream cheese, cut into cubes
  1. In a small skillet cook bacon until browned, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to paper towel lined plate. Set aside. Reserve pan drippings.
  2. In the same skillet add shallot and garlic and cook over medium heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in spinach and cook 2-3 minutes or until the spinach wilts.
  3. Add cream cheese and stir constantly until cheese melts and is incorporated into the spinach. Remove from heat. Divide evenly between Vols-Au-Vent.
  4. Top each Vols-Au-Vent with bacon. Serve.

Check out the results of fellow Daring Bakers here.

Enjoy!

  • http://cupcakemuffin.blogspot.com sara

    WOW, that filling looks absolutely divine! (And it has spinach, so somehow I can probably convince myself that it’s healthy! HA!) Yum, totally amazing! :)

  • http://deliciouskitchentherapy.blogspot.com/ wic

    This looks really good. creamy spinach with bacon hearing it makes my mouth water and looking at that picture make me hungry.

  • http://www.mandymortimer.com MandyM

    Your pastry rose beautifully! Fantastic baking :D

  • http://dragonskitchen.blogspot.com Dragon

    I’m glad you decided to do it! Great job on this month’s challenge.

  • http://lilackitchen.blogspot.com Esther

    Looks great and one of my favourite combinations in your filling.

  • http://thegingeredwhisk.blogspot.com Jenni

    Your puff pastry looks great! And I bet the creamy spinach would go fantastic with the lovely flakiness of the pastry. Great job!

  • http://mangiodasola.blogspot.com Memoria

    I always love the lighting in your photos. Could you tell me about your photo set-up?

    Your pastry looks perfect.

  • http://lovemeknotcreations.blogspot.com Lindsey S

    yum, spinach and bacon plus pastry dough? heck yeah! Yours look so good, nice and fluffy :) Hope you enjoyed the challenge, I too thought of not doing it, but that’s the point of ‘daring bakers’ right? kudos!!

  • http://www.elizabethsedibleexperience.blogspot.com/ Elizabeth F.

    Really, really impressive! Making recipes like this are always such an accomplishment – nice job!

  • http://fingerlickingfood.blogspot.com Namratha

    Your pastry rose well, love those layers!

  • http://www.pinkbites.com Rita

    I had to skip this month’s challenge (life got on the way…) but I am looking forward to returning next month. Your pasty looks divine, so many layers!

  • http://foodiewithlittlethyme.blogspot.com cassie

    This looks wonderful! Congrats on the beautiful pastry! I love the spinach that you used.

  • http://www.frenchietbd.com Frenchie

    I am glad you decided not to sit this one out, you must feel very satisfied. Your filling seems like a perfect hors d’oeuvre.

  • http://whatsforlunchhoney.blogspot.com/ Meeta

    i used spinach for one of my fillings too – i have to say that together with the flaky puff pastry it tastes awesome. great going on the challenge!

  • http://www.phamfatale.com/ Jackie at PhamFatale.com

    Perfect savory dish. I love the idea of the creamy spinach in a puff pastry. Your puff pastry looks perfect: nice and flaky

  • http://jilliciousdiscoveries.blogspot.com Jill

    Ohhh…creamy spinach and bacon dip–sounds and LOOKS delicious!! :)

  • http://www.lifesambrosia.com Deseree

    Thank you all for your wonderful comments! I too am glad that I didn’t sit this one out too. And looking at all of your versions gives me lots of inspiration for my left over pastry! :)

  • http://leaveroomfordessert.com Anita

    Glad you didn’t sit it out – it looks great!

  • http://www.lifesambrosia.com Deseree

    Thanks Memoria! Looking through my comments again I realized that I forgot to answer your question. Sorry about that! We have a lighting box that my husband got from work. We set that on top of our table and then we use a compact florescent light as our lighting source. Hope this helps!

  • http://www.ecurry.com Soma

    you puff grew really really tall & flaky! beautiful. Love the filling you have done.

  • Pingback: Sarah Et Cetera » Blog Archive » Free for All Tuesday Friday 40

  • Taylor

    It looks sort of like a biscuit. If I weren’t as adventurous as to try my hand at making it, could I use flaky biscuits instead?

  • http://www.lifesambrosia.com Deseree

    Hi Taylor- You do need a little hole to stuff the mixture in but you cold always buy puff pastry in the frozen section and then proceed with the vols-au-vent instructions. Hope this helps!

  • http://www.ieselotteSullins.com Janyce Shackleford

    I have been examinating out many of your stories and it’s clever stuff. I will surely bookmark your site.

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My name is Des. I’m a Mom to Kellan and Preston. Wife to Ryan. Dog mom to Pumpkin and lover of all things food. Whether it is cooking it, eating it, shopping for it or watching TV about it, food is one of my favorite things. Read more »

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