Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: Puff Pastry (Vols-au-Vent)

Today is the reveal date for this month's Daring Bakers' Challenge and guess what?!

I'm still mixing, rolling, turning, chilling and baking (this will make more sense when you read the directions later).

Yep, I've waited till the last possible minute, so I'll be back much later today (hopefully before midnight PST). Check back later for write-up and pictures of this delicious pastry.

I know, I know, it's actually Tuesday now (yes, I'm 2 days late with this post--my first time and hopefully the LAST time) and I have the puff pastry made, baked and filled with yummy goodness.

But first things first--a BIG thank you to our hostess for choosing a great Daring Bakers' challenge:

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.

These last two weeks have been busy, busy, BUSY with work and other types of baking and before I knew it, it was the 27th and I hadn't started the challenge yet. I've been looking forward to making puff pastry, since it's been awhile since I've made it and I was excited to come up with some delicious savory and sweet fillings--and then I ran out of time and had to make fillings using what I happen to have on hand.

I decided to only use 1/3 of the dough and I rolled out the rest into sheets and they are in the freezer. I will be re-visiting the puff pastry later in the month and be a bit more creative with some fillings, but all was not lost with this last minute challenge.

If you happen to have some puff pastry in your freezer (homemade or even store bought), then you will appreciate the simplicity of the fillings I made. They were quick and easy and the best part was they were delicious and they could be made at the last minute if you have unplanned guests show up.

I decided to make mini vols-au-vent's for both the savory and sweet fillings. Although they can be eaten in 3 or 4 bites, 2 or 3 of these filled with the savory filling were plenty.

For the first batch, I made a Creamy Chicken & Herb filling with fresh cherry red and yellow tomatoes, topped with freshly grated Asiago Cheese.

Creamy Chicken & Herb Filling

Ingredients: Boneless, skinless chicken tenders, cream of chicken soup, milk, lemon-n-herb seasoning, fresh parsley, salt, pepper, asiago cheese & yellow and red cherry tomatoes.

1) Cook chicken with seasonings and herbs in pan on stove top.

2) Add cream of chicken soup and about 1/2 cup milk and mix with cooked chicken. Simmer for a few minutes till combined and hot throughout.

3) Spoon chicken mixture into puff pastry and garnish with parsley, cheese and tomatoes.

Now for the dessert. I made a puff pastry trio dessert plate, because two desserts are better than one and three is better than two!

Again, these were filled with ingredients or products that I had on hand and they didn't take long to put together.

Dessert #1:
Fresh Raspberries w/Dark Chocolate & Sweetened Whipped Cream

Dessert #2
Apricot-Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream w/Fresh Pomegranate Seeds

Dessert #3
Lemon Curd w/Fresh Blueberries & White Chocolate Shavings

It was fun and relaxing to make puff pastry (once I was able to catch up with my work and everything else that I felt like I was behind on) and it was a great reminder to make this more often than I have in the past.

Now for the recipe!

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
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
4 sticks (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.

1) 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.)

2) 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.
3) 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:

1) 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.

2) 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.

3) 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:

1) 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.

2)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.

3) 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:

1) 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.

2) 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

*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

1) Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

2) 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.)

3) 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.)

4) 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.

5) Dock the solid bottom rounds with a fork 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.

6) 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.)

7) 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.)

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


  1. I missed it again! I really need to plan and make it ahead. This weekend was super busy, not a chance I could make them on time. I will tomorrow, late again. Can't wait to see yours.

  2. You must be really bz Jill...I do hope you're having fun with the puff pastry. I was surprised how friendly the dough actually is! :P Will be waiting to see yours! :)

  3. Jill..I'm dying to see your vols au vents! It's now the 29th..where are you chicky? I know, busy business, so I'll just keep checking back :)

  4. I'm late too, but that's good bacuse I got see these.
    I so totally agree with you, 3 desserts are better than 2 and yours look gorgeous.

  5. Jill, your vols-au-vents are absolutely gorgeous and perfect. Keeping them to mini bites is a fantastic idea because puff pastry is so rich. Your fillings are extraordinary, especially the Apricot-Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream with Fresh Pomegranate Seeds and Creamy Herbed Chicken, but I'll take ALL of them. That said, don't even get me started on your gorgeous photos. You kicked some major booty in this challenge, but you always do, so nothing new there :)

  6. Oh my! I love the fillings, it all sounds (and looks!) delicious =D.

  7. LOVE that dessert plate!! Perfect, simple combinations that must have tasted just divine inside a buttery puff pastry cup. Great puffs!

  8.'s really well worth the wait for your post...but it'd be even better if you had shared those yummies with me in Beaverton! LOL. I LOVE your V-a-Vs ~ especially the lemon curd/white chocolate/blueberries --- I love anything lemons! Totally agree with you...even a few of the small ones will fill you up & 3 desserts is better than 2 ~ I love having varieties! ;)

  9. Yum! What you had on hand was absolutely delicious. And great rise on your puff pastry!! Fantastic work at the last minute. I'd never be able to do that. Aghh!

  10. I'm definitely having a HUGE "wish I had thought of that" moment with every one of your fillings... all of my very favorite flavor combos! Especially lemon/blueberry/white chocolate, YUM. They came out beautifully, great work!

  11. Jill, your puff pastry is fabulous. They are so neat and rose perfectly. Love the way you decorated it with blueberries, raspberries and pomegranates.

    Beautiful pictures you got there for the creamy chicken puff. Good choice of colorful tomatoes....


  12. Jill, your vols-au-vent looks so pretty and perfect.

  13. Beautifully made and those sweet puffs are calling me!!
    Amazing pictures, too!!

  14. Beautifull!! great puffy pastry and beautiful presentation! awasomm fillings! yummm! =)

  15. Raspberry & dark chocolate is such a yummy combo! I also love the pomegranate seeds, they look so pretty, little gems of sweetness :)
    Your pastry looks fantastic :)

  16. You really went all out with some classic flavor combos! Love the lemon & blueberries and apricot will always get my attention. Gorgeous presentation too ; ) Like you I'll find a reason to make something else soon with my left over pastry. Haven't frozen it yet, though, so I hope it's okay!

  17. Ooo, I think I like the lemon-blueberry-white chocolate one the best, but they all look fantastic! I really like how you covered the tops of your vols-au-vent with the filling instead of sticking with the cavity... It really enhances the presentation. Nicely done!

  18. Gorgeous! I absolutely NEED the trio dessert plate. Love love love lemon curd!

  19. Perfect puff pastry and vols-au-vent! I love your choice of fillings!



  20. The dessert flavors sound amazing. I love the blueberry, lemon, and white chocolate combo. And I agree..the more desserts the better!

  21. The dessert play looks SO delicious! I too have 2/3rds of my dough in the freezer..must not forget about it.

  22. Oh they turned out must have been the workig under pressure effect hihi. i'll have a a raspberry chocolate one please!

  23. The chicken and herb filling looks delicious! I can't believe it's that simple. And pomegranate seeds were a great idea -- they look gorgeous. Beautiful vols-au-vent!

  24. Mmm, yummy! I would have been perfectly happy snacking on your vols-au-vent all day. Your fillings sound delicious, and your puff pastry... ooh la laaa, such a nice rise you got.

  25. I really love the tray you've used to display your beautiful masterpieces! Great job!

  26. So pretty! You're very good with the presentation, and I bet they tasted wonderful!

  27. I was planning a lemon curd version and a creme brulee version, but time caught up with me... ;)

    Great job!

  28. Wow, looks almost too good to eat!, nah.:) You definitely have a talent.

  29. They all look so delicious! I want to try them all!

  30. woww, good job for all the different varieties you tried! I'm particularly in love with the rapsberry and dark chocolate one.! great phots :)

  31. I've also waited until the last minute to make mine! Glad I wasn't the only one! They came out perfet yours!

  32. Your sweet and savory vols-au-vent all look beautiful and delicious! Your puff pastry is so light and puffy:) Awesome job!

  33. Your vols-au-vent looks perfect! I love the creamy chicken filling. Lovely job!

  34. They look like works of art! Especially with the pomegrante seeds!