September 27, 2009

Flying In The Wind! Vol-Au-Vents : Daring Baker Challenge, September, 2009


Vol-au-vents (pronounced vō′lō vän′, that is "vol-aw-vahn") means flight with the wind. They were supposed to have been invented by an early 19th century French chef named Carême, who declared that these small pastry shells were as light as the wind and hence the name.

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.



Vol-au-vents are made by cutting out circles of puff pastry (pâte feuilletée) and baking them into very airy, layered, flaky and beautifully risen pastry cases. These are then filled with filling of choice, usually savoury.
Smaller vol-au-vents make excellent appetizers while larger ones can be served during the main meal.

You can find the challenge in detail with recipe here.



My vol-au-vents experience:


This month has been one of challenges of sorts. My first one was the French Macarons I made with a gang of fellow food bloggers and this was the other one.
One thing I have learnt, again and again, especially after joining the Daring Bakers is never to take anything for granted where recipes and outcomes are concerned! I have now learnt to approach each month's challenge with a slight sense of impending doom.
If something goes wrong, I can tell myself "I told you so!", and nothing goes wrong I can feel good that my "intuition" was way off mark.

While I am nowhere near a puff pastry expert, I have made it at home before successfully. Readymade puff pastry is the stuff that dreams are made of, where I live. I'm not complaining because it means that I go the extra mile to try out techniques and recipes that are totally foreign to me.

So when I saw this month's challenge, I felt I could handle this. We had also made similar laminated dough for Danish Pastries last year. So I went ahead and made dough, beat the heck out of some butter and then lovingly wrapped it up in dough, rolled and folded everything 6 times as specified with ample chilling time in between.

Everything was fine until the pastry cases were baking. They rose quite nicely and then my oven beeped signifying they were done.
I pulled out the tray only to see that my pastry cases were almost drowning in an ocean of melted butter! Alright, I am exaggerating a bit but you get the idea. Looks like the butter decided to take its revenge for being beaten and abused!
Now, I quite like butter but there's something very revolting about puff pastry sitting in pools of liquid butter.

And so my vol-au-vent story was over as soon as it had begun. Well, we aren't called Daring Bakers for nothing are we?
So I decided to give puff pastry a second chance. In the olden days (about 2 years ago), I would have probably given up on puff pastry at this point. There is, however, something very compelling about the thought of having to do a blog post, only to admit to failure.
So, in the hope of a successful DB post I ventured into puff pastrydom again. This time, I am very happy to report reasonable success.

What did I do differently the second time?
Helen told me the butter needed to be cold but just right and pliable. If it was too hard, the butter would crack when being flattened and would ooze if too soft. The other thing I did differently was to bake my puff pastry at a higher temperature as suggested by Audax. So I baked the cases at 220C (instead of the suggested 200C) for about 18 minutes.
I didn't use the egg wash so my cases look a little pale.

We were required to use the given recipe to make puff pastry and had to make vol-au-vents. Creative freedom was ours regarding size, the fillings we used and what else we made with the puff pastry.



So I made savoury vol-au-vents and filled them with sautéed vegetables (onion, carrot, peas and sweet corn) in a herbed and slightly spicy cheese sauce. This isn't really a recipe but something I just make as I go along.
I also made a sweet variation using the puff pastry mille feuille style by sandwiching thin layers of pastry with chocolate mascarpone mousse.

I mentioned in my previous post that we had this for dessert on my birthday. I had used home-made mascarpone cheese to make this mousse, and it was the best mousse (finger-licking good) we have ever eaten. Here is the recipe, like I promised.



Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse:


Ingredients:

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/3 cup unsweetened dark coca powder

a pinch of salt

1 tbsp coffee decoction, cold or orange juice (optional)

1 cup mascarpone cheese

2/3 cup chilled cream (I used 25% fat)



Method:


In a bowl, combine the powdered sugar, cocoa and salt. Add the coffee or orange juice or substitute with 1 tbsp of cold water if you do not want to use coffee or orange juice. Add the mascarpone and with an electric mixer, beat on low speed till everything is well mixed and looking a little fluffy. Now add the cream, and slowly increase the speed and continue beating till the mixture forms soft peaks. Do not over beat.
Scrape the mousse into a bowl and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but overnight is preferable. Serve as dessert or use to make other desserts.



Puff pastry involves using a lot of butter and entails quite some effort though this would probably come down with practice. So it is criminal to throw out the scraps leftover from making vol-au-vents. So I just piled my scraps one on top of another and rolled out the pastry to make palmiers. I used brown sugar here and baked them at 230C for about 18 to 20 minutes.



Verdict:


Where I live, summer is quite warm and the cooler months (July through January) are still too warm to comfortably make puff pastry. Having said that, a bit of practice with rolling and folding the dough is all it takes to make good puff pastry at home. Just ensure that you refrigerate the dough the moment you feel that the butter in the dough is becoming too soft to handle. Let the dough stay in the fridge until the dough has chilled enough to handle and this might take longer than mentioned.

We enjoyed the vol-au-vents and the mille feuille as, in both, the contrast of buttery crispness with the soft filling was interesting as always.
Puff pastry with savoury filling is something we have eaten a lot in the form of "puffs" (a turnover with a variety of savoury filling which is quite popular here) and enjoy very much.

So while we liked the savoury vol-au-vent, the sweet one wasn't quite to our liking. The puff pastry was great and the mousse was fantastic but they didn't really work well together for us. Luckily, I had sandwiched only a few, so we ended up eating the puff pastry and the mousse separately.
As for the palmiers, they puffed out beautifully and were all gone before the evening was done! That's how good they were.

And now it's time to visit the other Daring Bakers and see what they've come up with this time.
Festive greetings for a colourful and happy Navrathri/ Dussera to all who are celebrating.




61 comments:

Raaga said...

yummy... I've only eaten this at Casa's in Bangalore :)

lata raja said...

Great effort and loved how well the result has been.

MandyM said...

That mille feuille looks fantastic! Wow!
Beautiful baking as always, your pastry looks really good :)

Priya said...

Wow such a gorgeous pastry Aparna..great efforts..

Tina said...

Great effort and superbbbb pics.....yummyyyyyyyy

fairy_mi said...

what a great result - your puff pastry looks just amazing!
so light and delishhhh...yammm
You are a wonderful baker, wtg!
Inbal
(also a DB)

Happy cook said...

Wow you made your own puf pastry, that is a real achivement.
Love that mascarpone cheese dasert, looks really professional and beautiful.

Jo said...

All your versions are deliciously great looking .. wish I could a taste of each one of them.

Karen @ Citrus and Candy said...

Your vol-au-vents look amazing! I wouldn't have minded eating all of it today :)

Lauren said...

Yum!! I love how you played with it - Your vols-au-vent look delicious =D.

LoveMeKnot Creations said...

yay for you trying again!
Your sweet looks amazing, I also used mascarpone for my sweet version too.
can't say No to chocolate :) Kudos on a DB challenge well done!

Little Miss Cupcake said...

Wow, that mille feuille looks awesome. What a creative idea!

Shirley said...

Your mille feuille look heavenly! I think I'm going to have to steal your chocolate mascarpone recipe and re-create these!

Parita said...

Oh these look gorgeous aparna!

Dragon said...

I love your fillings! Great job on this month's challenge.

storyscribe said...

Your sweet version is perhaps my favorite sweet so far. Nice work!

teafactory said...

mmm...these look stunning!

singinghorse said...

Aparna, your puff pasty looks gorgeously golden. The vols-au-vents are stunning. Elegance infused with deliciousness. Beautifully executed, as always. Kudos!

anna said...

Great job! I was not fond of mille-feuilles/Napoleons AT ALL in class but a chocolate mascarpone mousse could certainly change my mind...

Namratha said...

Nicely done inspite of the heat there!Chocolate mascarpone mousse, now that's something I would love to eat.

Cakelaw said...

Wonderful vols au vent Aparna, and good on you for trying it again. Love your birthday mille feiulle too - happy belated birthday!

Rachel said...

pretty puff pastries.

Dharm said...

Making puff pastry in Asia just doesnt seem like the right thing to do!! I'm so impressed that you made yours a second time. I did mine at night so that it was cooler but it still didnt puff up as much as the store bought ones!

Eat4Fun said...

You did a terrific job on this challenge making vol-au-vent, mille feuille and palmiers. It all looks deliciouis and your photos are spectacular!

Deeba @Passionate About Baking said...

Brilliant work on th challenge Aparna. You really got it going the second time. I struggled the 2nd ( & 3rd time too). Am glad you like the mascarpone recipe. I use it far too often now, and love it to bits! I brushed mine with a milk glaze the second time,& it worked fine!

Ahmad said...

Hey aparna! I haven't heard from you in the longest time!!!

Congrats on your challenge this month! I hope you are happy with what you accomplished :)

sweetakery said...

They look gorgeous & delicious!! lovee the filling yumm! your photos are beautiful!

Zita said...

I must try your savory filling, spicy cheese sauce sounds very tempting:)

Yasmeen said...

Love the fillings,Aparna.I'll try them again only in cool winter temps :)

Lisa Michelle said...

Aparna, I can imagine how hard it was to keep your pastry workable since it's so hot and humid where you are (I had two days of it and my pastry was totally unworkable), but your puff pastry turned out amazing, and the mille feuille is gorgeous and making my mouthwater!

Nags said...

the choc mousse ones look absolutely yummmm.. the pic is brilliant too..

i really enjoy the DB'ers roundup time :D

MeetaK said...

sensational aparna! love your creations here! kudos for doing this!

Bedazzled said...

yum!!! first time here and love u r blog..i am just learning to bake .. so this will have to wait for a while .. gorgeous photos !!!

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

Extra challenging for you with the heat, your results are beautiful!

isa said...

Beautiful flaky layers!
Your mille feuille sounds delicious - I love your chocolate mascarpone mousse!

farida said...

Wonderful work, Aparna. I skipped this month's challenge:(

Jenny Tan said...

Hi Aparna, your V-a-V looks delicious!! Wish I could taste them! :)

Suzana said...

Aparna, both savoury and sweet versions are gorgeous and look rather DELICIOUS. Great job!

glamah16 said...

I love them all. Beautiful work.

Curry Leaf said...

Can I come there Aparna,can't take my eyes off the chocolate one.:P :P :P (:P)^1000 .I dearly wish I was your neighbour.No words to describe the beauty of both savoury and sweet versions and can only imagine the taste.Great you tried making puff pastry.I am too lazy to do it thgh

Manggy said...

You are far more daring than I am- I would never think to make it in our weather, I can just imagine the greasy mess from all the melting! But you did very well, congratulations!

Shri said...

Looks delicious, Aparna!The choc mousse and the palmiers looks fab

sra said...

Vols au vent: Flight of fancy, I keep thinking, not a literal translation, though!

Saw macarons ;) this morning, they were simply labelled 'cashew nut confection'

Elra said...

Gorgeous challenge Aparna. I love the savory filling as well.

jayasri said...

As always you make something special, I must try this mascaropone mousse as i tried your tahini paste,looks so yummy & perfect, and i always love to read your introduction to a recipe.., that gives a lot information and opens up to seeing so many people's blog. Your vols-au-vent are really flying..

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

All your creations are fantastic! Very well done! I particularly like the Millefeuille...

Cheers,

Rosa

Astra Libris said...

Oh my goodness, you made homemade puff pastry!! I am in awe!! Both your savory and sweet versions are absolutely beautiful, too... Perfect enough to be in a museum!

the traditional gourmand said...

These are gorgeous. Truly, so inspiring. And I love your description of the butter's revenge! :)

veron said...

What a a fantastic pastry. You did great with your vol-au-vents!

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking said...

Lovely puffs, Aparna!! And way to persevere!!

Barbara Bakes said...

Bravo for daringly persevering and trying it again with such beautiful results!

Jill said...

You did such a great job on this challenge! I especially loved the picture of the the pastry with the chocolate mascarpone mousse--so delicious!! :)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

They look amazing Aparna! I love the idea of a chocolate mascarpone mousse to fill the pastry too :)

faraway said...

This looks far too delicious!
any very tricky to eat ;)
Way to go on the challenge, in my books, you rocked it :)

Frenchie said...

Good for you for giving it a second shot, the napoleon looks specatacular!

virginie said...

I like making pastry. I'll probably try this puff pastry.
your chocolate mascarpone mousse is so beautiful !!!

mybricole said...

I paniced when my baking sheet was covered in melted butter too. Your final product is beautiful!

Hannah said...

Wow, your napoleon is absolutely stunning! I'm not sure I could bring myself to destroy it and eat it, not matter how delicious it seems.

Aparna said...

Thank you for coming here and showing your support. You're all the best! :)

Ruchira said...

Wow, your pastry looks really professional. For a change, do try King Arthur's Fast and easy Puff pastry recipe which is just that. Its so easy to churn out puffs and other goodies using it.

http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/fast-and-easy-puff-pastry-recipe

Aparna said...

Thanks Ruchira for that link. Looks very easy and I shall definitely try it out one of these days.