Vols-au-Vent / Puff Pastry

I recently joined a group called “Daring Bakers” and each month there is a baking challenge. The challenge is posted on the Daring Bakers website in a section only those participating can view at the beginning of each month. On the 27th, all baker are supposed to reveal the challenge on their blogs.

This was my first challenge… and I must admit it was quite different from the things I normally make! I made it even more challenging for myself because I do not have a food processor and I did not have a rolling pin with me at the time. However, making the recipe was still possible.

The September 2009 Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Step 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.

Puff pastry is in the “laminated dough” family, along with Danish dough and croissant dough. A laminated dough consists of a large block of butter that is enclosed in dough. This dough/butter packet is called a “paton,” and is rolled and folder repeatedly (a process known as “turning”) to create the crisp, flaky, parallel layer you see when baked.

For this challenge the puff pastry dough was formed into vols-au-vent, which are little puff pastry cases designed to hold a filling. They can be made large enough for a full meal or small enough for an appetizer or a dessert. Vols-au-vent are typically served hot and filled with a creamy savory filling (often poultry or seafood-based), but cold fillings, such as chicken or tuna salad, work too. Whipped cream or pastry cream with fresh or stewed fruit often goes into the sweet versions.

It take about 4-5 hours to prepare the puff pastry dough, but much of this time is spent waiting for dough to chill between turns. It take an additional 1.5 hours to shape, chill, and bake the vols-au-vent after the puff pastry dough is complete.

To see the puff pastry recipe go to: Puff Pasty with Michel Richards

To begin:

Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Using a knife or metal bench scraper, divide chilled puff pastry dough into three equal pieces.

Work with one piece of dough, and leave the rest wrapped and chilled.

On lightly floured surface, roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick.

Transfer it to the baking sheet and refrigerate about 10 minutes before proceeding with cutting.

For smaller, hors do’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, us a 4″ cutter to cut out about 4 circles. Half of these rounds will be bases and the other half will be sides. (Save scraps 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 scraps to get enough disks, be sure to use any round cut from it for 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.

Prick the solid bottom rounds with a fork, 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,” prick 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. (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, 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.

I chose to fill mine with caramelized apples (melted 1 Tbsp. butter in a small skillet and added 1/4 c. sugar and 1/4 c. brown sugar and brought to a boil; added thinly sliced apples to the mixture; removed from heat when cooked through), with whipped topping and cinnamon sprinkled on top:

I had a few extras when I ran out of apples so I filled the rest with some dark chocolate cream cheese frosting I had leftover from a cake, with whipped topping and bit of cocoa sprinkled on top:


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