Sunday, September 27, 2009

Gorgeous Vol-Au-Vents with Homemade Puff Pastry!

Vol-Au-Vents with Crab, Avocado, Tomato and Lime Salad


Vol-Au-Vents with Chocolate & Frangelico Flavored Whipped Cream + Fresh Strawberries

***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. We were given the chance to select our own filling recipes this month, which I loved. I made both a sweet and savory version.

My fillings included (recipes are at the bottom of this post):
1. Crab, Avocado, Tomato and Lime Salad
2. Chocolate & Frangelico Flavored Whipped Cream with Fresh Strawberries & Blackberries

The Crab Salad was incredible. It had a wonderfully fresh flavor. The sweet version was equally delicious...especially with the addition of Frangelico. That just sent it over the top!

Homemade puff pastry is enough to make most people run for cover. It involves massive amounts of butter, arm muscles and patience. The dough has to be kept cold throughout the entire process of incorporating the butter and making the turns. If the directions aren't followed carefully, you'll end up with a buttery mess and flat pastries!

Because of all these little things, puff pastry is something that I've always just purchased at the grocery store...I know, I know...it's the easy way out, right? However, I have to admit...homemade puff pastry is SO incredibly delicious! Sure, it takes time and practice, but it's worth it. It's something that every home cook should try at least once!

I was shocked at the amount of butter in this recipe - a full pound! It was fun pounding the sticks of butter into one big block, though. Who needs a punching bag when you have a ton of butter to smash into oblivion?? The rolling & turning of the dough wasn't particularly hard...just be sure to keep the dough cold, putting it back into the fridge in between turns, if needed.

I wonder how many of my other fellow Daring Bakers sat in front of their ovens, watching anxiously to see if their pastries would rise. Yes folks, that was me....haha! I slid the baking sheet into the pre-heated oven and got ready for the show. I sat right in front of my oven, on the floor, with the oven light turned on. What followed was one heck of a show! After a few minutes, the puff pastry started to, well, puff! And puff up, they did! After they turned a golden brown, I pulled them out and waited while they cooled.

In the end, the results were nothing short of fantastic...Considering the amount of butter in this dish, I'm glad that this recipe isn't extremely easy, otherwise I would be making it all the time!

THANKS Steph for a fabulous challenge this month!!!***

Equipment:
-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
-fork
-oven
-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: 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.

Directions:
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.
Ready for the oven...

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.
Check out all those flaky layers!

*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: 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. http://video.pbs.org/video/1174110297/search/Pastry

Ingredients:
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.
That's a lot of butter!!!
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.
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 dough...you 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).



Crab Salad w/Lime, Tomato and Avocado
Ingredients:
5 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon very finely chopped jalapeño
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, plus cilantro leaves for garnish
1/2 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound lump crabmeat, picked over
1 1/2 Hass avocados, diced ( 1/2 inch)
1/3 cup minced red onion
1 large heirloom tomato, cut into four 1/2-inch-thick slices
Tortilla chips, for serving

Directions:
In a small bowl, combine the lime juice with the olive oil, vegetable oil, jalapeño, chopped cilantro, honey and garlic. Season the dressing with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, toss the crab with 3 tablespoons of the dressing and season with salt and pepper. In a medium bowl, gently toss the avocado with the red onion and 2 tablespoons of the dressing; season with salt and pepper.

Place a tomato slice on each plate and season with salt. Top with the avocado and the crab and garnish with the cilantro. Drizzle the remaining dressing on top and serve with tortilla chips.

Source: foodandwine.com

Chocolate Whipped Cream
INGREDIENTS:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Frangelico

PREPARATION:
Put chopped chocolate into a medium bowl. Pour cream into a small heavy saucepan; stir in sugar. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil. Pour boiling cream over chocolate; stir until smooth and chocolate is melted. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours, until thoroughly chilled.

Transfer to a large bowl. Beat to spreading or filling consistency, or until it reaches soft peaks.

Add Frangelico and stir/beat until mixed thoroughly.Refrigerate for about 1 hour before using.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups. Keep in refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Source: about.com


18 comments:

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

What gorgeously flaky pastry! the layers are beautifully showing and I love your choice of fillings! Great job!

Cheers,

Rosa

sweetakery said...

looks SO good! love the combo of flavors! beautiful photos!

MandyM said...

Frangelico.... mmmmmmmmmm..... Wow! Sounds incredible!
Your pastry rose beautifully! I was also an in front of the oven viewer, not just the first time, every time I made another batch! Lol :)
Stunning photos

Jo said...

Gorgeous looking flaky puff pastry and the filings to the vols au-vent look yummy.

Karen @ Citrus and Candy said...

Lovely photos and I love the perfect flaky layers :D

newlyweds said...

Your pastry is beautiful! Love the flavor combos. And yes I sat in front on my oven watching them rise!!!

Jenni said...

Great job! Your puff pastry looks fantastic!

Heather said...

Beautiful, perfectly risen puff pastry and a delightful choice of fillings!

Catherine said...

These look delicious! It's makes me just want to reach through my screen and take one! :)

Amy I. said...

You got a beautiful rise, and I love how you piped your sweet filling in. Great work!

Namratha said...

Wow, that's a gorgeous rise, lovely layers.

6p01053695af5a970b said...

I was anxiously waiting to see if mine would rise too! Although, I don't have an oven light so I had to peak in at a point. Your crab filling sounds perfect to cut all that butter :)

melissa said...

that chocolate filling looks so good. great job! i'd love to try these by awhile back I made croissants and it was a buttery mess!

Jane said...

All you daring bakers with your vol au vents this month are giving me courage to try puff pastry. Your look just wonderful!

Lauren said...

Gorgeous!! They look so professional =D. Love the photos, and love how much they rose!!

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking said...

Beautiful photos and pastries! Your fillings are some of my absolutely favorite ideas! They sound delicious.

"Who needs a punching bag when you have a ton of butter to smash into oblivion??" -- This is exactly how I felt too, although my pup was nervous about all the racket! I have to admit, also, to being a "helicopter baker" and hovering around my oven :D

Tia said...

what wonderful layers you have! awesome job!

Maryanna said...

Your challenge turned out beautiful.