Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's Huff & Puff Time aka Makin' Vol-au-Vent

This post is brought to you in part by the letter Y.
DB Vol-au-Vent
OK so, here's the thing I think I should come clean about: I didn't use the same recipe as everyone else for the DB challenge this time *ducks from the rotten eggs and tomatoes flying her way*. My sincerest apologies to Steph of a whisk and a spoon who is our hostess this month, I am sincerely grateful to you for getting me to finally make puff pastry, and I promise the next batch will be the recipe you chose.
See, I'm kind of obsessed with Michel Roux's book Pastry: Savory & Sweet right now and since I'd never made puff pastry before and have been trying as many recipes as I can -none of which have failed me so far- from his book, I figured if I was going to give puff pastry a go, which in my house means sprinting from the living areas upstairs to my kitchen dungeon when Baby Saffron deigns to grace me with a nap, I wasn't going to suddenly have a brief, puffy fling with Michel Richard when Michel Roux and I had been having a torrid pastry love affair for the last couple of months.

So, I opened Pastry: Savory & Sweet to page 108, circled the table we don't own in this pre-furnished house a number of times before gathering my courage to clear and clean it thoroughly since it happens to be marble (and marble is the ideal surface on which to roll pastry I am repeatedly told) and set about making the detrempe (first dough that will eventually hold the slab of butter) and that was the first thing that didn't go so well, 'cause you know, Michel Roux does it perfectly in the pictures in the book because he's been doing it for oh, I don't know, around 55-60 years now, and this was my first attempt. Let's just say that mixing the way he describes by hand, not so great at it; then I'm pretty sure I overworked the dough to get it to be homogeneous before letting it rest in the fridge, and that is when I called upon Y's expertise. Thus began the saga of the if-left-in-the-fridge-too-long-it-could-become-a-bit-grey dough and off I went, intending to leave it in there until the next day instead of for 2 hours.
DB Vol-au-Vent
Well, needless to say that whole timing thing didn't work according to schedule, because that was a Saturday and Y asked me how they'd come out on Tuesday morning to which I replied that I hadn't gotten around to making the turns yet. As Y had predicted, by the time I actually got around to doing my turns on the following Thursday, it had become a bit gray on the side in the wrapping closest to the oxygen supply. Thankfully, she also let me know that it didn't matter if it was still grey, "it's still good" she said, repeating it to me like a mantra.

Once the turns began, oh the travesty. Michel Roux tells you to make a rectangle that is 16 by 28 inches, which is quite large and possibly in the realm of ludicrous for a complete beginner like me, but try to make a 16 by 28 inch rectangle I did, taking up the whole length of the marble table as I went. I'd be lying if I said I thought my butter was at the perfect consistency because soon after lovingly wrapping the butter in the detrempe and rolling it out for my first turn, ever so tiny tears began to appear in the dough and tiny pieces of soft butter started spilling out of the edges, but I plowed on, determined to see if it could work anyway. I made the huge rectangle, folded it, quarter turned it and rolled it out again, fine tears be damned, oozing (but not liquid) butter be damned. I folded it and threw it back in the fridge figuring that, if nothing else, we could eat some delicious buttery hockey pucks in the end.
DB Vol-au-Vent
I'd consult periodically with Y on twitter, and while waiting for the clock to strike time for another turn, I spoke to some favorite people on twitter amongst which @ColloquialCook who is one of the funniest bilingual people I have ever met. She cheered me on, declaring that as far as she knew, a little spillage and tearing had never entirely killed a puff pastry dough. So on it went, the grey disappearing completely back into a charmed buttery color on the third turn, and by the fourth turn the dough appeared to be behaving itself rather decently. By then I'd given up on making my rectangles 16 by 28 inches and just rolled them out as much as I could before folding them. The cutting and shaping were fairly uneventful, as it were, but the next step in this laugh-a-minute process to go awry was the actual baking.
I attributed what happened to 3/4 of my small and large vol-au-vents (which you are about to see) to be the cause of my masterfully uneven rolling and layering, but it turns out that may not have been the whole story. To sum up: They rose sideways, which I later found out may have been partially caused by my fan-ventilated oven and my not turning them halfway.

So here I present to you, as christened by my father when I described their somewhat familiar horn of plenty shape, Corne-au-Vent or horn-with-the-wind instead of flight-with-the-wind.
The filling in these pictures is caramelized apple sauce topped with muscat grapes, because I like my food sweet and extremely tart thank you. We also had a beef and ale filling in large vol-au-vents for dinner but it was too late and I was too lazy to take pictures of those too.
Corne-au-Vent TM ;)
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.

Recipe for Puff Pastry by Michel Richard

-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
-cooling rack

Prep Times:
-about 4-5 hours to prepare the puff pastry dough (much of this time is inactive, while you wait for the dough to chill between turns…it can be stretched out over an even longer period of time if that better suits your schedule)
-about 1.5 hours to shape, chill and bake the vols-au-vent after your puff pastry dough is complete
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

In addition to the equipment listed above, 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.

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).

You can find lots more general tips for making puff pastry on-line, including here:

I encourage everyone to watch the on-line video from the PBS show “Baking with Julia” that accompanies the book:

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Wic said...

They look fantastic and I can understand that you would not want to change the “man” if you already getting it right.
Does this sound as naughty as I mean it?

KPB said...

I was nervous about the recipe too, having quite a soft spot for Michel Roux - but on watching the video I bit the bullet so to speak and used the recipe Steph had stipulated. I don't think anyone will hold it against you.

Yours look absolutely delightful!

Deeba PAB said...

Ha ha cracked me up big time. Non...don't change the 'man'! Just learnt that 'grey' is good and so is 'Y'...and the fault is not 'ours'! the tart & sweet combination! YUM!!

Jamie said...

Love your story telling. I can't get to mine till I'm back in France but I'm excited about it. With all of your so-called problems, your pastry looks like it came out perfect! It is beautiful puff pastry and I love the fruit filling. Would've loved to taste the savory.

Cannelle Et Vanille said...

for being your first attempt and intimidated by it, your results are wonderful. look at those layers!

Jen said...

This almost seems like the perfect type of recipe for me. 15 minutes of work with 1 hour rests in between! beautiful!!! my question is - would you make puff pastry again? Could you tell the difference between store bought & homemade?

Jo said...

Great first attempt and you certainly did a great job if I may say so. Your vol-au vents looks yummy!

Karen | Citrus and Candy said...

Oh I love Michel Roux too and so far I've only tried his croissant recipe. I have to admit this recipe by Steph is a good one but I can't wait to pit Michel Roux against Michel Richard!

Sara said...

So cute! I love the one set up to look like a cornucopia! Looks delicious. :)

LoveMeKnot Creations said...

ahhh see you just made an abstract art version of traditional v-a-v's! :P your fillings, both sweet & savory (beer, heck yeah) sound amazing! great challenge!

Dragon said...

These are so perfect! Great job on this month's challenge.

Sharon from Cheesy Pennies said...

Great writing! And as another sweet/tart lover, I'm with you all the way.

Anonymous said...

gorgeous photos, blueberries look lovely!

Beth said...

Ohhh I want to have a torrid pastry love affair with someone too! In my opinion, it doesn't matter where the recipe comes from, as long as you attempt the challenge. Nice job, and enjoy the rest of your affair!

Colloquial Cook said...

Now I don't think vols au vent should be made *any* other shape. I'm calling Michou tomorrow morning first thing to arrange the editing of his original (and, let's face it, boring) recipe. Then I'll call Christophe Michalak and

~oh wait~

sorry, I got mixed up in my to-do list.

Anyway, your cornes-au-vent do look like they're about to take off (and get hijacked to Colloquial Cooking International Airport) which is always a good thing. I think.

Y said...

Can I just say, I LOVE the horns of plenty! You had it planned all along I'm sure. The normal ones (pft.. how boring they seem now) look really good too. Your puff layered beautifully, and the pictures are fantastic :)

Hilda said...

Thank you all very much for the kind comments.

Wic: I think I got the jist.

Jen: I think now that I know that I can do it, I would definitely make puff pastry again & you can totally taste the difference, totally. Even in France where store-bought is pretty good. It's worth a try, seriously.

Mowie @ Mowielicious said...

Hilda - I love this post and especially the way it is written - brilliant! I can just see it: you running up and down the stairs to check on the lovely papoose whenever she made a noise while you were in the middle of baking, with flour on your hands and pastry in your hair (or the other way round!) and then freaking out because the beauties were only rising on one side. Sounds like me when I bake! I personally love them just the way you made them, please save me some =)

anna said...

You did a wonderful job! I kind of like it when a few fall over in baking, it's endearing. Like they're trying so hard and don't know how to stop. Your filling sounds excellent as well!

Namratha said...

Wow,awesome pics! And the vols-au-vents are great.

Parita said...

Lol..loved your story :)
Vols-au-vent looks gorgeous there.

sweetakery said...

These are so gorgeous & perfect! Great job

Claire Mercado-Obias said...

Cute & yummy!

Meeta K. Wolff said...

oh you are cracking me up with this post. lovely going on this hilda! and now i want that book too!

Simones Kitchen said...

Well whatever the choice of the recipe; they sure look lovely too! Great story! :)

Unknown said...

I have been making the rounds looking at all the Daring bakers entries for this month. Wow! I am so envious - these look perfect. My attempts at making these have always been unmitigated disasters but you have inspired me to maybe just maybe give it one last try...maybe when I am on vacation and have the time. I'm guessing a rainy day too cause the heat here would melt that butter in seconds

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

These look absolutely beautiful, Hilda. And I like the new look here too.

Anonymous said...

Funny post!! Sorry it was so full of obstacles, but you achieved lovely layers!

Lauren said...

Love how much they rose =D. The fillings look great too!

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

Me again, I just remembered about the "cheating" remark you made the other day. Frankly, if you hadn't mentioned it, I wouldn't have noticed! :D

Nutmeg Nanny said...

Your pastry turned out beautifully!

Lisa said...

Oh, that was such a fun read! I loved your comment about not wanting to jeopardize your pastry love affair with Michael Roux by having a brief patry fling with Michel Richard. Funny stuff!

With that said, your vols-au-vent turned out GORGEOUS, as did the photos, and the caramelized apple sauce with concord grapes look and sounds lovely!

BTW, you can have a 'brief' fling with Michel, but right now, he's mine! LOL

kellypea said...

So I've never "cheated" on one of our challenges. Um, right. Actually, I was tempted to use a different recipe, too, but didn't. I did compare a few and they're so similar I figured what the heck. I can see sticking to a book you're working on definitely. You've really got great rise and the photography is fabulous!

steph- whisk/spoon said...

haha! you are forgiven, and they look really great! even the horn...loks like it was meant to be exactly that way! :)

shayma said...

Hilda, I honestly cannot get over how beautiful your photography is. a lovely, lovely blog.

Eric Woods said...


Elizabeth said...

Ha!! I thought the sloped shape was on purpose! I WANT our next puff pastry to look like that!


Stacy said...

It's official, your blog is dangerous to read and is making me hungry!

Unknown said...

I agree with Stacy! I would add that I'm becoming addicted to your blog.

Secretnatasha said...

Those are beautiful. Puff pastry is one of the things I miss now that I'm gluten-free!

Anonymous said...

I'm embarrassed to admit that it never occurred to me that puff pastry came any way but in a box in the freezer section of the grocery store. This was quite educational.

Leah Wentzel said...

lol, nice corey

Pat said...

The only puff pastry I've had was done by Corey!

darci said...

beautiful pictures!

Meg Kat said...

Your blog is making me so incredibly hungry.

Mrs. D said...

These sound like fun to make - but what I really love about this post are the photos! So charming, especially that last one with the berries spilling out of the pastry like clowns from a tiny car.

Dbe said...

Those look like the most perfect blueberries.

Kat said...

Those look amazing. I haven't been brave enough to make my own puff pastry yet.

Jeanne @ Cooksister said...

Beautiful vol-au-vents!

Zara H. said...

Very excquisite!

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