Sunday, September 27, 2009

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

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.

Though a bit intimidated, I was excited when the September challenge was revealed! I have always wanted to make croissants (but haven't yet) and this is a stepping stone towards that goal. Puff pastry (like croissants) is a laminate(roll-and-fold) dough, the difference being that croissants include yeast(which can be fickle) and puff pastry does not.
In French, puff pastry is referred to as mille feuilles, or "a thousand leaves." Though I would have been happier if my pastry had "puffed" more, I was satisfied with the end result:) It made me feel like an authentic, true blue baker to produce this little cup of buttery, flaky bliss:)

I was up till 1 a.m. this morning(last night!) finishing up this challenge and it was a labor of love:)

Though Vols-au-Vent are usually filled with a savory filling, I decided to make it easy on myself(in the wee hours) and whip up "Quick, Fantastic Chocolate Mousse," a favorite recipe given to me by my sister, Laura, years ago. The Vols-au-Vent makes a perfect little dessert cup!
I baked 4 little "cups" and froze the rest of the dough for a later date.

According to "Baking With Julia," ( and referring to puff pastry) "This is still the queen of all pastries, the one that, once mastered, entitles you to whatever bragging rights you wish to claim." :)

Thank you, Steph, for an exceptional challenge! I haven't mastered it yet, but I really
enjoyed it! Oh, and thanks for including the video link-it was a big help!

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.

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.


  1. Chocolat ;)
    My kind of vols au vent, pretty tray too :)

  2. Your pastry looks great! That chocolate filling looks amazing:)

  3. Sue, Your puff pastry looks amazing! I love how beautifully risen it is! You did a fabulous job!

  4. Beautiful! The chocolate mousse looks amazing, too!

  5. I love that chocolate mousse, the pastries look good and so do your spongebob cookies : )

  6. I love your description - buttery, flaky, bliss! I feel the same way. Yours look delicious!

  7. Look at those layers and the gorgeous rise! Bravo, your puff was an amazing sucess! :D

  8. it was well worth staying up till 1am right? lovely!

  9. I think your puff pastry looks quite 'puffed'! :) They look gorgeous!

  10. Sue, Your puff pastry looks gorgeous & delicious!! and beautifully risen! oh just love the filling!! thanks for dropping by =)

  11. lovely puff pasty, your vols au vet with that chocolate filling made my mouth watering, delicious!

    cheers from london,


  12. Those look DIVINE! I bet the chocolate made it perfect!

  13. Your vols au vents are perfect, the layers so golden and distinct! Love the idea of a quick chocolate mousse, and it looks gorgeous and yummy in your vols au vents. Very well done, chicky!!

  14. Beautiful flaky pastry!
    Your chocolate mousse sounds delicious:))
    Great job!

  15. Does that puff pastry look flawless or what! And that sounds like a filling that everyone could enjoy. Beautiful work on yet another challenge. :)

  16. Mmm you got great puff, and your filling looks yummy!!

  17. Your pastry looks great, and I love the background in your photos.

  18. Sue, beautiful and perfectly risen puff pastry you got there! Apparently we have something in common: I also see this challenge as the stepping stone to baking croissants.

    Let's do croissant in the near future, shall we? :-)


  19. Yum, chocolate mousse filled puff pastry. Absolutely gorgeous!

  20. First, love the design on your blog...I am a cherry fanatic. Second, your puff pastry turned out lovely. This was my first challenge and I loved it...hoping to do more in the future.
    If you have a minute, maybe you could stop by my blog and check out my challenge results?
    Thanks and happy baking!! - Val

  21. Sue, the plan goes on :-) My croissants came out pretty well yesterday so have taken some photos and all. Ready to blog it today.

    Well, the croissants could be better, I wish they are flakier and bigger ha ha, should try again. Perhaps it is good enough for the first try. And in your end, I hope things go well or better....