Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daring Bakers September 2009 Challenge: Puff Pastry & Vols Au Vent

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' Challenge has been chosen by Steph of a whisk and a spoon. For the recipe, click here.

Oh boy, puff pastry. I almost chickened out and then reminded myself that making things I would never make on my own was why I joined Daring Bakers in the first place.

Puff pastry involves wrapping a block of butter in a casing of dough, and then you roll it out, fold it in thirds, turn it, roll it out again, and so on until you have hundreds of thin layers of butter and dough. If done properly, the pastry puffs dramatically as the moisture in butter turns to steam in the oven and pushes up all those layers into a crisp, tender, delectable symphony of texture and flavor.

I watched the video of Michel Richards making puff pastry several times, so I would know how thick the pounded butter should be and how to make the turns. I read on another website that the dough and butter should be about the same temperature and consistency. I already knew that the dough should be worked on a cold surface like granite or marble. Another tip was to not use the fan in the convection oven or you'd get slinky-shaped vol au vents.

But before I got to the oven part, I needed to get through making the puff pastry.

The pastry making started out okay.

I made the dough in the food processor, shaped it into a ball, slashed it on top in tic-tac-toe pattern, and put it in the fridge to rest. Check.

I pounded out the cold butter, making sure it was not too thin, probably around 1/2" to 3/4" thick. No problem.

I encased the butter in the dough and did the first turn. Nothing was oozing, and the rolling was easy. Cool.

I started gaining confidence.

At turn four, I noticed the counter was wet. At first, I thought some liquid got on the countertop, but it was actually butter. The butter was coming out of small rips in the outer layer of dough. Maybe I didn't have enough flour on the countertop when rolling, and the dough started adhering to the surface and breaking open. Or could this be what the recipe meant by "oozing"? Whether ripping or oozing, one thing was for sure: trying to roll the dough out when it was in this condition only exacerbated the problem.

I patted down the rips with flour, wrapped it in plastic, and stuck it in the fridge for one hour.

When I brought it out to make the final two turns, the oozing was gone.

When I cut the vols au vent as directed and popped them in the oven, they puffed! They puffed unevenly, but I am satisfied with my first try. The vol au vent is pictured here with some coq au vin made by my 11 yr. old Christina.

The puff pastry can also be used in sweet applications and can be frozen for another time.

My conclusion from this challenge is that puff pastry wasn't as hard as I thought. I'm glad I completed the challenge.

P.S. A few hours later, I took some scraps, rolled them out and made mini-puff pastries. I split them in two, added a couple slices of banana and a drizzle of chocolate for a lovely dessert bite. Yum!

What made it even better is my husband found our long-lost camera tripod. Finally, no more hand shake in my photos!


Lauren said...

Gorgeous!! I love the rise you got =D. The vols-au-vent look amazing, and I love the sound of the coq au vin as well! Great job to both of you!!

Barbara Bakes said...

I'm just as impressed by your beautiful puff pastry as I am by the fact that your 11 year old made coq au vin! I had the same problem with my dough getting too soft as you did and was grateful it was so forgiving.

La Table De Nana said...

I am so impressed also:) I only made it once..Nigella's.. .. perhaps the next Top Chef?:)

I love the look of her Coq Au Vin in your timbales:)

Ninette said...

Thanks, everyone, for commenting on Christina's coq au vin, which is an American interpretation of the French classic. I added carrots for the picture ... the original chicken was just chicken, mushrooms , and onions in a wine sauce.

Deeba @Passionate About Baking said...

Oh your pastry is gorgeous. Just look at the rise you got! the choice of delish fillings too. I have a tough time battling oozing butter too!

Ravenous Couple said...

great recipe ands for the video link! we've never really baked but one day....

E. Lee said...

Yum! Your vols-au-vent look so classically French and adorable! Mine definitely came out more "biscuit" like, but sometime this week I'm going for round 2. Thanks for the inspiration!

Jackie at said...

Looks delish. in French, this dish is called Bouchees a la Reine = the queen's bite lol

MeetaK said...

great job on this looks wonderful!

Jenny Tan said...

YOur V-a-V looks beautiful!!! The look delicious! :)

Anonymous said...

My name is Haley Destafino, I am the Associate Publisher of The Mountain Times, a weekly newspaper in Killington, Vermont. Every year we publish a summer and winter menu book which is a collection of the local restaurants menus. We look for colorful and seasonal photos for our covers and the photos you have are very appealing. I write to you in hopes of getting your permission to use one of them for this winter’s menu book cover. We would gladly give you the photo credit and copies after it is published. You can see this summers cover on our website, I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for your time.