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Daring Bakers Sept Challenge- Vols-Au-Vent

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've never even considered making my own puff pastry. I'm one of those people who buys the Pepperidge Farms puff pastry sheets and calls it good. In fact, I have a package of THAT in my freezer now, right next to the homemade.

Then of course, time got away from me, Max had a vet appointment where we found that his liver is STILL out of whack, so back onto 3 more weeks of antibiotics via force feeding he went. Yeah, that's fun.

I was, however, determined not to miss out on this Challenge, even if it meant my puff pastry didn't puff and I failed miserably.

As per usual, I gathered all the stuff I thought I'd need, and then some. I don't have cake flour- I never remember to buy any to have on hand, just in case. One of these days, I will. So I ended up making a sub- corn starch and regular flour.

While we were in Michigan back in August, my mom gave me one of her marble rolling pins. So if ever there was a perfect time to use one, this would be it. After all, the dough is supposed to be well chilled throughout, so marble is good at keeping cool.}:P Works for me.

Sifted together the proper ratios of corn starch to flour - don't ask, I don't remember and don't feel like looking it up again right now- and dumped it and the rest of the flour into the food processor.

That's a lot of sea salt... Added the salt and pulsed the flour mix a few times to combine. Ok, so maybe it was more than a few times.

The recipe calls for ice water and I just happen to keep water in my fridge. For drinking, generally. But hey, it works for this too, I guess. Added it to the flour stuffs and turned the processor on. Then I waited.

It took a bit, but once the dough formed a sort of ball around the blade, I turned off the processor and dumped it out onto my table. Formed it into a ball and scored the top in a criss cross pattern.

THEN I realized, well, crap, I need a damp towel, and went looking for one...

Well, I couldn't find a stupid towel, my house seems to have eaten all my dish towels. *grumble grumble* So I had to make do with well flouring the dough and wrapping it in plastic wrap. Then into the fridge it went.

Next up was making the butter layer. I used Land o' Lakes Unsalted butter. From what I understand, you shouldn't use generic butter. Use a name brand. Something about the fat ratio to water content. Audax would know for sure.}:P Oh and it has to be very cold butter too.

Laid the butter out on a layer of plastic wrap, then covered with another layer. Then I proceeded to beat the daylights out of it. Here's when the hubby came home. And good thing he did too, cause otherwise, there'd no more photos as my camera almost FELL ON THE FLOOR. Yikes. Yeah, the pounding made the camera edge towards the edge of the table and almost off. Whoops. That would have been bad. Real bad.

So the butter gets beat into a rough square. It says to make it about an inch thick. Well, that's hard to do when it starts out at an inch thick as is. Mine I think I got to about a half inch thick instead. Wrapped it back up and into the fridge it went.

I will admit, I did the rest of the steps the next day. *nods sagely*

So yesterday, I took the dough back out of the fridge. Floured it well again and rolled it somewhat flat. Then I rolled the sides out so it was way thick in the center. Only, mine didn't really form a square. Hrm.

Took the butter out of the fridge, played havoc with getting the plastic wrap off, and laid it in the center of the dough.

Then I took the 'sides' and carefully pulled them, stretching as evenly as possible, up over the butter. Rather like I was making a homemade envelope. Had to make sure the edges overlapped a bit. Then took my marble rolling pin and tamped everything down to make sure it'd all stay put. Which it sort of did, I guess.

Rolling the dough while making sure the butter spread evenly too was actually a bit trickier than it looks. however, if you look closely, you can see faint lines where the actual butter is. This amused me for some reason. But hey, I know the butter definitely spread well. I also learned that I tend to get flour Every. Where. And that rolling the length of the table instead of the width would be easier.

Folded the dough into thirds, like a business letter. And rolled out again. This was turn one. This was repeated 5 more times over the course of the next 3 hours. It actually did start lining up and evening out along the edges after the first 2 turns. Amazing. Then I cut about a third off and folded the rest up, wrapped it very well in plastic wrap and tinfoil, then stuck it in the freezer. There's only 2 of us, so no reason to make a whole lot.

I like cookie cutters. So any excuse to buy more, hey, I'll take it! I got these neat sets at A.C. Moore, which is a hobby/craft store like Micheal's or Hobby Lobby. The square ones? Are actually fondant cutters. Hee.

And these are the two I used.

Rolled out the dough I was going to use, and I'll admit- I did a seventh fold/turn on this bit of dough. I also think I rolled it out too thin. Hrm. Had enough to do 5 Vols-au-Vent, which worked for me.

'Docked' or 'pricked' the bottoms and the center pieces, then brushed them with an egg wash. Then I carefully laid the sides on, and used my finger to brush egg wash on them too, so I wouldn't get any down the sides. Stuck it in the fridge while Mark fired up the grill and I preheated the oven.

I grilled out some Black Cherry Mead, Olive Oil and dried Tarragon marinated chicken breasts and Olive Oil And Sicilian Sea Salt coated Asparagus for the side. While they grilled, I sauteed a mix of mushrooms in butter, sea salt, pepper and dried basil, then added heavy cream to make a nice sauce.

The center pieces were done first, so they were removed. I had achieved puff! I was happy. Yayness abounded! Of course, then I almost burned the Asparagus. Whoops.

The rest were pulled out a few minutes before the chicken was done. So not bad on my timing if I do say so myself. I had to push the centers down a few times, it wouldn't stay put. Hee.
Not bad on the puff factor either, if I do say so myself.

Sliced the grilled chicken, arranged it in a base, topped with mushroom sauce and plated with Asparagus on the side. It was delicious. And it all was gone relatively quick too.

I cut one of the small pieces in half, so as to show the layers and puff. Crispy deliciousness. Better than store bought, honestly.

Thanks, Steph , for a very interesting Challenge! And yes, I'm feeling it in my shoulders today.}:P


-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

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. (**** Definitely WATCH THE VIDEO***)

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 chunks 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).

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).


Sep. 27th, 2009 07:24 pm (UTC)


I love your filling! Great job on this month's challenge.
Sep. 27th, 2009 07:24 pm (UTC)

delicious puffs

Love the step by step picture, adore the pictures of the finished pastry shells.
It looks delicious.
Sep. 27th, 2009 07:37 pm (UTC)
I like the stripes of butter to and the end result looks fabulous. The filling looks particularly nice!
Sep. 28th, 2009 01:11 am (UTC)


I love these pics. You did a nice job. I love puff pastry now. Its my new baking friend.

lori- from Lori's Lipsmacking Goodness
Sep. 28th, 2009 04:42 am (UTC)
They look great to me!! I hope Max is feeling better - your kitties are all gorgeous!
Sep. 28th, 2009 03:10 pm (UTC)
Audax here - lovely work as usual and as always you have some of the best step-by-step pixs on the internet so clear, informative and precise. Your fillings Black Cherry Mead, Olive Oil and dried Tarragon marinated chicken breasts and Olive Oil And Sicilian Sea Salt coated Asparagus sound and look amazing. Hope Max improves fast. Beautiful work and I just love all the layers and the height is stunning. Bravo on a wonderous effort and a tasty (I bet) result and you have a batch in the freezer now that is so cool. Cheers from Audax in Australia. The idea of black cherry mead is very interesting will have to do some research on the recipe for it. And thanks for the nice comments you left on my blog and in your posting. Good quality butter has a lot of evenly distributed water droplets in the butter which makes for a good even lift in the puff pastry while the cheaper brands of butter have large badly arranged water droplets that cause uneven or no rise in the final pastry. And good quality butter is dry while cheap butter is wet which makes for a poor result in the puff pastry. OBTW your posting seem to work in Firefox now if you wanted to know. A
Sep. 29th, 2009 01:43 am (UTC)
Really nice work, I love your step-by-step photos, too!
Sep. 29th, 2009 02:10 am (UTC)
"Yayness" will now be a feature in my vocabulary and I will use it with honor. Seriously. Nice. Job. Loving the whole round/square thing and those cool puff pastry pillows. Mushrooms & chicken? Oh my. I made it through the dessert portion and pooped out on taking photos of our shrimp in white wine cream sauce. But, I just may whip up some croissants for dinner tonight with the left over dough and forget the real food ; ) On to the next challenge!
Sep. 30th, 2009 07:45 pm (UTC)
Your filling looks so DELICIOUS and my mouth is watering over that plated dinner you had--great pictures! :)