27. rujna 2009.
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.
This was my very first Daring Bakers' challenge and I must say I was both excited and intimidated by it. When I saw the puff pastry recipe I was completely and utterly terrified. I knew there was a good reason why I never tried to make it before. It's so darn complicated! Well, at least it seemed complicated from my perspective. Anyway, since there was no way out, I rolled up my sleeves and walked into my kitchen determined to make puff pastry and bake cute little vols-au-vent. Like a complete nerd that I am about those things, I studied the recipe in detail before embarking on my puff pastry mission and saw the Michel Richard video (which was extremely helpful) at least five times. I scrutinized his every move and admired the ease with which he prepared the dough. He made it all look so easy. So, armed with a detailed recipe and a lot of patience, I started working on my very first puff pastry. I did everything by the book and, surprisingly, there were no apparent difficulties during the process. So that's it?! No way! That was too easy! I must have missed something, I thought. I stood there looking at the dough, wondering at what point things will start going wrong. But, in the end, my puff pastry turned out just fine, better then I expected. Imagine my pride and joy! But above all I felt relief. My first Daring Bankers' challenge was successfully completed.
Once my vols-au-vent shells were successfully baked, I made two different fillings: a refreshing chicken salad filling and a sweet caramelized apple filling. You can find those recipes at the end of the post, if you have enough patience to read through all this gibberish first :)
Without further ado, here's the Michel Richard's puff pastry recipe, followed by instructions on how to assemble cute little Vols-au-Vent (which, in case you're wondering, is a fancy French name for little puff pastry cases designed to hold a filling).
Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough
From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: slightly more than 1kg of dough
354 g unbleached all-purpose flour
142 g cake flour
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
300 ml ice water
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. 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 4cm vols-au-vent or 4 10cm vols-au-vent
You will need:
well-chilled puff pastry dough
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.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 3-6 mm thick. Transfer it to the baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the cutting. Make clean, sharp cuts with a cookies cutter 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 smaller cutter 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.
And now for my two fillings.
Chicken Salad Filling
enough for 6 9x12cm vols-au-vent
200g boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into small pieces
50g rucola (rocket salad)
50g Camembert cheese
70g feta cheese
100g cherry tomatoes
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
fresh basil, rosemary and thyme, finely chopped
salt & pepper
For the marinade
1 tsp. lemon zest
2 tbsp. lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 tbsp. olive oil
fresh basil, rosemary and thyme, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
salt & pepper
Cut the chicken breast into small pieces. Mix together all the ingredients for the marinade and add the chicken. Marinate for at least 30 minutes. In the meantime prepare the cherry tomatoes. Put them in a bowl and cover with a mixture of olive oil, fresh herbs, garlic, salt and pepper. Let them marinate for 15-20 minutes. Wash the rocket salad and pat it dry. Cut the cheeses into small pieces and set aside. Fry the marinated chicken on one tablespoon of olive oil until golden and crispy. Remove from heat and let it cool a bit.
Bake your vols-au-vent shells, let them cool down a bit and fill them. First arrange a few leaves of rocket salad in each shell, then add the chicken followed by marinated cherry tomatoes and the cheeses. Spoon some leftover tomato marinade over each filling and decorate with fresh basil leaves. Serve immediately.
Caramelized Apple Filling
enough for 6 12cm vols-au-vent
40g butter, diced
40g granulated sugar
40g brown sugar
3 apples, peeled and diced
130ml heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Heat a medium sized skillet over medium heat and melt the butter. Continue cooking the butter until lightly browned. Remove from the heat and sprinkle the sugars evenly on the skillet. Arrange the apples into the skillet cut side down. Return the skillet to medium-high heat and cook for about 3-4 minutes(or more, depending on the size of your apple pieces). Turn the apples onto the other side and cook for another 3-4 minutes, until the apples are a deep golden brown. I cooked them a bit too long, as you can see by their color (but that didn't affect their taste). As soon as the apples start getting that brownish color remove them from the skillet. Once they start browning, they tend to burn very quickly.
Remove the apples, leaving the caramel in the skillet. Add the heavy cream and the lemon juice to the caramel. Lower the heat and whisk continuously to deglaze. Cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, until the caramel is thickened and warm.
Bake your vols-au-vent shells, let them cool down a bit and then arrange the apples in the shells. Spoon the caramel over the apples and serve while still warm. Serve with a spoonful of creme fraiche and some chopped almonds.