Sunday 27 September 2009

Daring Bakers September 09 Challenge: Vol-Au-Vents with Homemade Puff Pastry

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.

In order to make vols-au-vents you need puff pastry (aka pâte feuilletée) and it was making our own puff pastry that was the main focus of this months challenge. Puff pastry is in the ‘laminated dough” family, along with Danish pastry dough and croissant 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.” This turning process creates hundreds of layers of butter and dough, with air trapped between each one. Unlike Danish or croissant dough, puff pastry contains no yeast in the détrempe, and relies solely aeration to achieve its high rise. 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 in its characteristic thin, crisp and flakey layers.

We were then instructed to make vols-au-vents with our puff pastry, which we were allowed to make the size and shape of our choosing. I decided to stick to circular vols-au-vents in two sizes. I made smaller ones which became raspberry and lime cream tarts and larger ones which were baked around a stuffed mushroom which I enjoyed for dinner.

The dough, although a little time consuming, was quite straightforward to make. It was rather fun attacking the large lump of butter with a rolling pin and beating it into a flat oblong before encasing it in the dough. It certainly helped release any pent up stress! Once rolled, cut and assembled I thought they looked rather like buttons, especially with their prick marks to prevent the bases from rising.

I was thrilled when the sides rose up straight, tall and turned beautifully golden. They were also very light and crisp with many buttery flakey layers that made a great freshly-baked-crispiness crunch as you bit into them. Once filled with a lime cream and topped with the last of this seasons raspberries they tasted divine and were much enjoyed by my family.

You are not meant to re-roll puff pastry as it disrupts all the perfectly aligned layers, but I couldn’t bear to throw my scarps away and so made a few cinnamon palmiers with the offcuts.

Thanks Steph for such a great challenge choice. Don’t forget to visit the blogroll to see other Daring Bakers vol-au-vents.

Vol-Au-Vents with Homemade Puff Pastry
This recipe makes about 1kg of puff pastry, but you can halve it quite easily.
500g plain flour
1 tsp salt (use less if making a sweet filling)
300ml ice cold water
455 g very cold unsalted butter
1 egg, beaten for glaze

Mixing the Dough
Put the flour and salt in the 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 clingfilm 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 flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin 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.

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.) 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.
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. 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.

Assembling and Baking
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.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 3-6 mm thick. Transfer it to the baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the cutting.
Use cookie cutters to cut out circles of dough. 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.
Use a smaller cutter to remove the centre from half the circles, to leave you with a ring of pastry. Place a ring of pastry on top of each pastry round and dock the base with a fork (but not the ring).
Transfer them to a baking tray and lightly glaze them with a beaten egg, trying not to drip any down the sides (which may inhibit rise).
Once assembled, refrigerate vols-au-vents on the baking sheet while you pre-heat the oven to 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 bake the shells until they have risen and begin to brown, about 10minutes depending on their size. Reduce the oven temperature to 180ºC, and continue baking until the layers are golden, about 15-20 minutes more depending on their size.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature for cold fillings or leave warm for hot fillings.

For the Stuffed Mushrooms
2 portobello mushrooms
1 small red onion
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tbsp breadcrumbs
1 tbsp pesto

Heat the oven to 190C.
Slice the onion into strips and fry in the oil along with the thyme until just starting to soften. Add the vinegar and fry for 1 minute more before removing from the heat.
Arrange the onions in the base of an unbaked vol-au-vent case, which has been cut big enough to incorporate the mushroom (I used a saucer for a cutter).
Place the mushrooms on top of the onions, with the underside facing upwards.
In a small bowl, rub the pesto into the breadcrumbs and divide among the mushrooms, pressing it into the underside cavity.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry has risen around the mushrooms and turned golden brown and the mushroom is softened and juicy. Serve immediately.

For the Raspberry and Lime Filling
300ml double cream
1 tbsp icing sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lime
150g raspberries
Redcurrant or raspberry jam for glazing

Place the cream into a bowl. Finely grate the rind off the lime and add it to the bowl of cream along with the juice. Add the sugar and whip until soft peaks form. (This should be very quick as the limes acidity speeds up the process).
Spoon the cream into the cooled vol-au-vent cases and top with the raspberries.
Heat a little jam until runny and lightly brush over the top of the raspberries to glaze them.
Serves 6-8 dependant on size


Simones Kitchen said...

They look lovely! I have this habit of first checking out the photos of the post and then start reading so I first see this little perfect vol-au-vent with lovely raspberries inside and then I see this giant thing without (to the eye) puff pastry Ofcourse I had to read it first to realize what it was! Once you know what it is, it looks lovely!

James said...

Its great that you go into the details of how and why what you do, and how that works to create the puff pastry.

Elle said...

Love your fillings and particulary love the photos showing how the butter and dough are combined...very instructive! Even the 'leftovers' were turned into tiny creative!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Very well done! They look really pretty and tempting!



Yasmeen said...

Sweet and savory both look equally delish :)

Johanna GGG said...

mmm - stuffed mushrooms in pastry sounds like a lot of yummy stuffing - that pastry looks excellent

Unknown said...


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I agree, the battering of the butter was lots of fun! Your fillings look divine-well done! :D

Frenchie said...

you did a great job on this challenge, puff pastry is such fun to cook with isn't it?

Dharm said...

your pastry turned out really well! I love how the raspberries look so at home in those vol-au-vents! great job!

Monica H said...

Your pastry shells look so wonderfully golden and flaky!

great job.

The Caked Crusader said...

wow - your puff pastry looks amazing! I'm dead impressed that you went to all that effort!

tracieMoo said...

Great job! Puff pastry seems to need lots of patience. They look great!
I would love the raspberry filled ones for dessert!

Meeta K. Wolff said...

raspberry and lime a great choice of filling. lovely!

Peabody said...

Nice puff pastry...but yum to the stuffed mushroom.

Unknown said...

Ooo, I like the stuffed mushrooms! That looks delicious!

Jill @ Jillicious Discoveries said...

I love your choices for both the sweet and the savory! Great step by step pictures and instructions. Raspberry and lime are such a great combination--I just made a wedding cake last weekend and they choose a coconut-lime cake with raspberry filling for one of the tiers. :)

Unknown said...

First time here..I love puff pastry..but never tried to bake one..looking at your post gives lots of inspiration..also read about your final year in BSc with food & Nutrition..thats awesome...Our is a vegetarian blog...hope you like something from peek in..whenever time permits..

Hilary said...

The stuffed mushroom thing is genius! Were they good? Sounds like a delicious supper.

Vera said...

They are perfect! Look at this puff!

Jennifer @ OrangePolkaDot said...

Very helpful pictures describing how to make puff pastry. I look forward to trying. I posted your recipes on my blog post about large amounts of vol-au-vents for sale in the markets here in Barcelona.