The Daring Bakers Make Homemade Puff Pastry and Vols-au-Vents | The Gingered Whisk: The Daring Bakers Make Homemade Puff Pastry and Vols-au-Vents

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Daring Bakers Make Homemade Puff Pastry and Vols-au-Vents

It's my favorite time of month again - time for me to reveal the Daring Bakers Challenge for September 2009! 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 don't think I will ever buy store bought puff pastry every again. This recipe is just that amazing. While I did end up with a giant flour-ey mess all over my kitchen, and me, and the dogs, it wasn't all that hard to make. Time consuming, but not hard. And the puff baked up perfectly - golden delicious, buttery, flakey, yummy! I had a great time making these, and with picking the fillings (we were allowed to do anything we wanted and I felt like since last month's challenge didn't go so well that I needed to step up my game a little). The only problem I had with this recipe was when I was beating the butter into the dough, my rolling pin definitely died. As in cracked in half. Boy did that make rolling the turns so much fun! I had to be careful not to create giant creases into the dough. But its all ok, since I've been wanting to get one of those french rolling pins anyway. Now I have a good excuse to buy one!

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough
From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan                                                                      
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

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

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.

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.

**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.

Making the Turns:
**Roll the puff pastry gently but firmly, and don’t roll your pin over the edges, which will prevent them from rising properly.

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.

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. Brush off excess flour before turning dough and after rolling.

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.

**-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.

Chilling the Dough:

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.
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
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 and lightly brush them with egg wash. When egg washing puff pastry, try not to let extra egg wash drip down the cut edges, which can also inhibit rise.. 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. 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.
*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).


Brie, Bacon and Apples

2-3 Green apples, peeled, sliced, and cubed
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup brandy
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Brie Cheese

1/2 pound bacon, cooked and chopped

Saute apples in butter, sugar, cinnamon and brandy until the apples are soft.
Place a round of brie cheese in the bottom of the puff pastry and top with the apple mixture.
Warm in oven until cheese melts.
Sprinkle bacon on top.

Champagne Chicken
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons thinly sliced tarragon leaves
1 lemon, zest and juice
250 ml champagne
1/2 small leek, white part only, thinly sliced
chicken breast
Combine champagne, leek, lemon rind, tarragon and 125 ml of water in a saucepan small enough to fit chicken snugly.
Bring to a boil, add chicken, return to boil, cover, and cook until chicken is done cooking,.
Remove chicken, finely shred with fingers and refrigerate until later.
Bring the liquid back to a boil over medium heat and cook until reduced (15-20 minutes).
Add the cream to the liquid, and return chicken to the saucepan.
Season with salt and pepper and lemon juice to taste.
When thickened enough (can add some corn starch if needed) fill the puffs.

Blackberry Compote
1 pound blackberries
1 cup sugar
juice of 1 lime
1 cinnamon stick
2 cups water
Combine all in a saucepan over medium heat.
Simmer for 45 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the berries have broken down and its thickened.

Lavender Whipped Cream
1.5 cups whipping cream
1 tsp dried lavender
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
In a small saucepan combine the whipping cream and lavender.
Bring to a simmer.
Remove from heat.
Strain mixture and discard lavender.
Cover and chill 2 hours.
Take the chilled metal mixing bowl and beat whipping cream, vanilla and  sugar until soft.
**You may feel like 1 tsp of lavender barely simmering in the cream won't really lend enough lavender flavoring to the whipped cream. But trust me, it does. Any more lavender for any longer will be way to much. Unless you like eating something that tastes like a spoonful of potporri, then feel free to add more! :)

Chocolate with Earl Grey Custard

1 box brownie mix, cooked
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon earl grey tea leaves (from 3 tea bags)
Whisk egg yolks and 2 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl.
In a medium saucepan, combine milk, cream, tea leaves, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar.
Bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar dissolves.
Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into egg yolk mixture.
Return to same saucepan.
Stir over medium-low heat until custard thickens, about 8 minutes. DO NOT BOIL!
Immediately strain sauce into small bowl.
Refrigerate, uncovered, at least 4 hours.
This can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.


  1. May your rolling pin rest in peace, knowing it gave it life for the greater good.

    Love the idea of brie, bacon and apples.. too good!

  2. These look beautiful! We would have done brie, bacon, and apples if the apples were ready in time for the savory puffs... used dried cranberries and cherries instead.

    I love the idea of Earl Grey custard. Sounds delicious. I may have to try it!

  3. bacon! I love bacon!
    I think you did a delicious looking job.

  4. I totally agree with you, the flavour of this pastry was incredible compared to store-bought, wasn't it?

  5. I'm so glad you loved the recipe!! Your vols-au-vent look stunning =D. Love the sound of the earl grey custard!

  6. nice..and so many yum fillings

  7. All your fillings sound amazing. Apples and bacon? I never would've imagined but I'm drooling at the thought! And earl grey custard? Love it!

  8. I've been waiting for years for my rolling pin to give out on me so I can buy a french one. Still no luck. ;)

    Beautiful vols-au-vents! Very well done!

  9. The chocolate and tea filling sounds amazing. Great job on this month's challenge!

  10. Wow, I love that your rolling pin died and you still were able to pull this off! Nice work! Love your choice of fillings too.

  11. I might've cried for real if my rolling pin had died! This was my first challenge and so fun.

    Your fillings look so tasty!! I'm going to try that Champagne chicken salad before the cold sets in.

  12. What lovely fillings! And I can't believe you cracked your rolling pin - that is hardcore. Oh what a shame, now you need a new one! ;)

  13. This looks like ALOTTA work but you did awesome! The earl gray custard sounds heavenly. It's one of my fave flavours!!!

  14. I know right?? isn't the pastry just so much more delicious than store bought stuff!??

  15. OMG, I rock? You totally rocked this challenge to the 100th degree! Not only does your PP look awesome..beautiful layers, color et al, but your fillings, especially the brie, bacon and apples, are so creative and calling out to me! Bookmarked!

  16. BTW, LOL@ cracking your rolling pin and trying to avoid 'the crease'. I almost knocked my camera off the table - again, along with various kitchen tools, whch DID hit the floor! Also, totally agree, blows away the store bought, and so worth the time, especially since you can freeze it for a long, long time!

  17. These look so yum, I love blackberries so much!

  18. YUM, I want that brie and bacon!!!!! Looks delicious! Oh, and I definitely floured the dog, all right!

  19. Just had to come back and tell you that I totally went to the grocery store and bought some brie and raspberries to enjoy because of seeing the brie in this post! Yum!! :D

  20. Lovely fillings you chose! I too had never tried to make my own puff pastry before but will never buy it again. This stuff is a little time consuming yes, but it freezes so well that you can just make it in advance and keep some on hand. Great job on the challenge!

  21. They look perfect! And the fillings (all of them) must taste super-delicious!

  22. Chocolate with earl grey custard sounds amazing. Breaking a rolling pin for this challenge definitely deserves praise. Excellent work!


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