Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daring Bakers/Puff Pastry Vols-au-Vent

I would like to welcome everyone to the new TBD. Since our last challenge I have revamped the look and feel of my blog and I really hope you all like it; I would like to send a shout out to Ellie from Rainy Day Templates for all her help. Ellie's templates are beautiful and affordable and she could not be nicer and more efficient, for all of you looking for a blog facelift, I highly recommend you check out her site. What better time to reveal my blog's new look than during a Daring Baker's challenge?

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 was so excited when I found out that we would be making our own puff pastry this month, it is one of my favorite ingredients and I am so happy that I finally learned how to make it myself. I feel like I have always heard horror stories about puff pastry, all the turns, the rolling, the arm pain and so on. The truth is, it was pretty manageable and I found it was all about enjoying the process. Steph require that we make Vols-au-Vent, which is not the first thing that I would think to do with homemade puff pastry. This requirement definitely left me a bit stumped, I spent hours thinking and brainstorming about what to do with it, and in the end I was unsatisfied with all my ideas.

Eventually, I found myself on reveal day (today) with a mound of dough in my fridge and no vols-au-vent made, so after all my brainstorming I had to resort to the ingredients I had available. I still wanted to make one sweet and one savory, and so I have found myself with Spicy Tuna Salad with Wasabi Pea and Crunchy Apple Cheesecake Vols-au-Vent. It's so funny that after thinking about this forever, under the pressure of a deadline I came up with my best ideas. I am doing all of this in the midst of researching for two papers and being sick, as much as it's a great procrastination tool, the Daring Kitchen also really makes me work and I love it.
I still have a lot of puff pastry left so I am day dreaming about that right now, I am having visions of tatins, turnovers and napoleons in the near future. I guess it will just have to be a surprise, for me and for all of you....

Puff Pastry + Vols-au-Vent

I am not writing out the recipes for the fillings because I threw them together haphazardly, if you want to know what went into them, just shoot me an email.

-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.

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.

Baking and forming 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).


Katie said...

Wow both your vol-au-vents sound amazing. I particuarly love the sound of the Crunchy Apple Cheesecake ones.

Deeba @Passionate About Baking said...

Congrats on your new blog look. It looks wonderful indeed, & what better way to celebrate than a DB post! Well done on the the puffs & layers you got. Brilliant!!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

They look beautiful! And I too heard all sorts of horror stories about puff pastry but it was fun to do :)

Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction said...

Your vols-au-vent look beautiful! I loved making my own puff pastry... I'm just looking for a good excuse to make some more! Glad yours turned out well for your first try, too!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Very beautiful and so gorgeously puffy! I love yoir fillings! Great job!



MeetaK said...

great look - for the blog and of course for the vol-au-vents. just loving the flavors!

creampuff said...

It's like I could just take a bite out of them! Lovely!

Cheri said...

Wow! Those fillings sound soo good! It does seem like we come up with more creativity when we are under pressure, eh? And, it certainly worked for you. I could go for either of these right now. Yum!

Hannah said...

What creative fillings you chose! And that pastry does look wonderfully flaky, of course.

Kitchen M said...

Yours rose very nicely! mmm... cheesecake and crunchy apple sounds so wonderful!

By the way, nice layout! I like it. :)

Denise@There's a Newf in My Soup! said...

Thank you for visiting my blog, and for your lovely compliment. I'm really enjoying DB and DC and getting involved in the wonderful food blogging community. Your cheesecake vous-au-vent sound and look delicious and your new "facelift" also looks very nice indeed!

Allie said...

The crunchy cheesecake puffs sound great! Congrats on the makeover, how fun.

mlle noelle said...

When I read "Spicy Tuna Salad with Wasabi Pea and Crunchy Apple Cheesecake", at first I thought it was one flavor, and I was like, wow, I bet that tasted... interesting! :D

I was in the exact same boat as you, I had to do it last-minute because of work and school, etc, that's why I just ended up doing a basic custard filling. But I also have some dough left and can't wait to make a savory tart of some kind. Yesterady I was dreaming of a ratatouille tarte tatin...

Olga said...

The tuna salad sounds awesome! I should tell my sister about it because she loves wasabi.

How psyched are you about or next challenge?

Aysegul - nysdelight said...

Wow great job! These looks awesome! Would love to taste the tuna one! Must try.

Linda@eatshow&tell said...

The crunchy apple cheesecake filling sounds delicious. I love how much your puff pastry rose, looks fantastic

Y said...

Apple cheesecake? Yum! I haven't decided what to do with the rest of my puff pastry either. Maybe something savoury this time :)

Vera said...

Beautiful vol-au-vents! Such perfect puff!

Hilary said...

The rise on your vol au vents is extremely immpressive.

Love your blog 'look' - it is so cute and different with the script title headings you've used.