September 27, 2009

Vols-au-Vent with Home-made Puff Pastry for DB challenge

Once again its time for all of the Daring Bakers across the world to reveal our challenge for the month of September.

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.

Eventhough I was a little scared thinking that this would be a lot of work, I was encouraged and excited by the wonderful photos that Steph had posted in our forum on challenge reveal post!! I knew I wanted to attempt this challenge, but like the last few months, I wasnt sure if I would actually get to do it because of time constraints.

Mandatory parts of the challenge: You must make Michel Richard’s recipe for puff pastry (as seen below), and form at least part of it into vols-au-vent.

Optional parts of the challenge: You may make your vols-au-vent large or small, and may fill them with whatever you choose (savory or sweet).

I finally got to start my challenge yesterday!! I halved the recipe because the thought of using a pound of butter on the same day, almost made me faint! I started at around 8.00 am and finished all of my six turns of dough by about 10.00 am. Working with the dough was so easy and everything went smooth, but still a bit of butter leaked here and there, once in a while. But I was really surprised at how quickly I finished my turns without major problems.

I was thinking of completing the baking in the evening, but couldnt' wait to see if my pastry would rise or not. So I cut the dough in half, rolled it out and cut out floral shapes to form my savory vols-au-vents. By the time I finished cutting them out, I think the butter was softened, so it was hard to align two floral cutouts to form the shell. So my initial shells turned out a bit lopsided or uneven.

The savory shells were filled with chilled chicken salad with chopped cooked chicken, celery, onion, mayo and salt. The sweet version was kept simple with whipped cream, chopped strawberries and grated chocolate.


I really really loved the home-made puff pastry!! I am so excited because I never thought I could make a supposedly hard dough of puff pastry at home, ever! It was really amazing to me how fast I got done with preparing the dough! The pastry puffed up nicely when baked and was crisp, flaky and delicious! The chicken salad was perfect on the pastry shells. Yes, for the first time ever, I loved the savory version more than the sweet version (probably because the dough had salt which went well with the mayo and the salad). The sweet version was kept simple because I just didnt have any time, though I thought about a filling of mango mousse or vanilla mousse. I bet it would be awesome fillings for a more elegant dessert version! JM and even lil LM loved the chicken salad version. I would love to make the puff pastry again and maybe make some meat puffs and some sweet versions of vols-au-vent! Thanks Steph, for this wonderful choice...

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 above 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).

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).

Thank you so much for visiting me today!! Have a great week ahead! Check out the work of other DBers here.

September 11, 2009

Raspberry Fool and some fun pictures!!

Welcome back to Tasty treats! I have great news to share with you all today! Finally, I mean FINALLY, I am employed!! I am going to start my job next week. Totally excited and nervous at the same time, but since I have been volunteering at the same place for the last three months, I am familiar with my work and colleagues. I got the work visa and papers a couple of days ago and is currently busy with getting everything in order before I start my work. But I will definitely maintain this blog, and will continue to share with you all wonderful recipes and stories that I come across.

Now, about this recipe - We went to a "raspberry and apple picking excursion" last weekend. We all love raspberries here, but I seldom buy them from the grocers because they are really expensive! So when we went to the orchard, I made sure to pick raspberries to my hearts fill so that I can make use of it in a couple of good simple recipes. We had so much fun at the orchard and since lil LM is almost 4 yrs now, she had tons of fun, especially looking under the leaves for bright red ripe raspberries! We had a couple of casualties, yes, when we came back home, both of us had bee-stings on our arms, serves us right for sticking our hands onto their faces!! But nevertheless, LM had great fun riding on the cow-ride, picking the raspberries and eating apples picked straight from the tree, which made us parents reeeeeally happy!

A fruit fool is a dessert made by mixing fruit puree, whipped cream, sugar and flavorings like rose water or extracts (wiki). This is one of the simplest recipes ever and gives you great flavoring options along with a great choice of the primary fruit. It hardly takes 15 minutes to prepare but is such an amazing and light dessert. If using fresh fruit that is not very sweet, make sure to add sugar to the whipping cream so that the dessert has a balance of sweetness and tartness. I actually halved the recipe and used fresh raspberries instead of frozen raspberries in syrup. So I added a bit of sugar to the whipping cream before beating. I had posted a recipe for Mango-Lime Fool earlier.

I loved the raspberry fool, it was light and airy, could have been a bit more sweet. It was a bit tart because I didnt use raspberries in syrup. It was a pleasure taking pictures of this blushed dessert, it simply was beautiful on a white background!! JM would have given it 5 stars if it were a bit more sweet. LM enjoyed her share, after all the waiting while the photo-shoot was going on! I garnished mine with grated chocolate, fresh raspberries and mint leaves.

Be sure to check out our pictures at the end of this post!! Feel free to let me know if you enjoyed my post.

Recipe (Makes 4 servings) :

Frozen quick-thaw raspberries in light syrup - 1 (10 oz) package, thawed

Heavy or whipping cream - 1 cup
Almond extract - 1/8 tsp

Raspberries and mint leaves - for garnish


Press and scrape thawed raspberries with their syrup firmly against a medium-mesh sieve, over a large bowl, with the back of a spoon, to separate seeds from pulp.

Discard the seeds.

In a small bowl, beat heavy or whipping cream and almond extract until stiff peaks form, on medium speed.

With a rubber spatula or wire whisk, fold the whipped cream mixture into the raspberry puree.

Garnish with raspberries and mint leaves, chill and enjoy!!

Source: The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Book of Desserts.

  1. I halved the recipe and used fresh raspberries.
  2. Since the raspberry juice was a bit tart, I added 1 tbsp of sugar while whipping the cream. Next time, I would probably add 4 tbsp.
  3. I also added rose water instead of almond extract which gave the raspberry fool a wonderful exotic aroma and flavor.
  4. Check out the mango-lime fool that I had posted earlier.

The pictures above are a few from our fun trip to an orchard where we picked raspberries and apples!! It sure was a memorable trip which lil LM enjoyed a lot. JM was busy taking pictures including the ones of a grasshopper and a cute lil lady bug! I was obviously busy picking 2 cartons of raspberries for us to enjoy!! So hold on, a couple more of raspberry recipes will be coming up soon on Tasty treats....

Thanks for visiting me today!! Have a great weekend....