September 27, 2009

Sugar Plum Vols-au-Vent

Sugar Plum Vols-au-Vent with Honey Custard and Pistachio Millet Pastry

A Daring Baker's September 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.

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 (called the “beurrage”) that is enclosed in dough (called the “détrempe”). This dough/butter packet is called a “paton,” and is rolled and folded repeatedly (a process known as “turning”) to create the crisp, flaky, parallel layers you see when baked. Unlike Danish or croissant however, puff pastry dough contains no yeast in the détrempe, and relies solely aeration to achieve its high rise. The turning process creates hundreds of layers of butter and dough, with air trapped between each one. In the hot oven, water in the dough and the melting butter creates steam, which expands in the trapped air pockets, forcing the pastry to rise.

 Equipment Needed:

-rolling pin
-pastry brush

-parchment paper

-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

Forming and Baking the Vols-au-Vent

Yield: 8 vols-au-vent with extra dough left over

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.

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 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 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).

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough

From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 1 1/4 lbs dough

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…Stephanie listed the recipe as it appears printed in the book.

Protein Content:
Original Recipe: 25.679 g
GF Recipe: 25.58 g
Note: protein content follows each flour or meal


56 g sweet rice flour (3.36 g)
54 g arrowroot starch (.162 g)
68 g pistachio meal (14.008 g)
70 g millet flour  (8.05 g)
3/4 tsp sea salt
4 g chia seed meal
3 g agar agar powder
10 ml agave syrup
3/4 cups (5 fl oz/ 150 ml) ice water
2 sticks (8oz/227 g) very cold unsalted butter
 plus extra arrowroot starch 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 dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir together.  Add the water and agave syrup all at once, stirring until a soft ball forms. You may need to add extra arrowroot starch to get a soft ball.The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers.

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 or sheet of parchment paper dusted with arrowroot starch (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. 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.

Honey Custard

1 8-ounce pkg. cream cheese, room temperature
5 Tb honey
3 Tb sugar
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and set out a 9-inch pie pan. Place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer, along with 5 Tb honey and 3 Tb sugar, beat until smooth.  Add in the cream, egg and vanilla and blend again.  Pour the mixture into the pie pan and bake for 20 minutes or until it sets.  Place on a rack to cool completely before filling the vols-au-vent.

Note: This recipe is from the October 1995 edition of Bon Apetit and can be found in it's entirety and without my tweaks on the website, as Honey Custard in Phyllo Pastry.

Sugar Plums

40 g chopped whole almonds, for sprinkling
60 g finely chopped dried figs, raisins, golden raisins & cranberries
2 to 3 Tb honey
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
tiny pinch grated orange zest
tiny pinch ground allspice
tiny pinch grated nutmeg
confectioner's sugar, for dusting

In a small bowl combine the dried fruits, honey, vanilla extract, orange zest and spices. Mix together and allow to sit and soak until needed.


Wic said...

this looks good, really good. great answer to the challenge

VeggieGirl said...

Another lovely creation!! LOVE the filling, especially.

Lauren said...

Yum! The honey custard and sugar plums sound delicious =D. Love the idea of adding nut meal to the dough - The vols-au-vent look amazing!

Anonymous said...

Incredible looking pastry! Nice work! I am constantly amazed...

Cheryl Harris said...

wow. as always, what a super job!

zebe912 said...

Would you use this dough for cream puffs or eclaires, or still stick to the one from about a year ago with the chestnut flour for something like that? I really really want to be able to make yummy eclairs for myself so I don't cheat eating the gluten-full ones at the bakery anymore!

Natalie, aka "Sheltie Girl" said...

Hi Zebe912 - I wouldn't use this dough to make eclairs. I'd use the chestnut dough from my eclair recipe or my recipe for sweet puffs.

Why? Vols-au-vent are made with puff pastry or pate feuillettee. It is a laminated dough, where the butter is worked through the dough in layers making a flaky baked good. This dough makes croissants, napoleons, palmiers and allumettes. You can also use it to wrap various foods like cheese, meats or fruits.

Eclairs are made with pate a choux or cream puff pastry. This dough is made by combining flour with boiling water and butter. Then you beat eggs into the mixture which makes the dough rather like paste. This type of dough makes cream puffs, eclairs, gougere and profiteroles.

I hope this helps,