Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Vols-Au-Vents

The September 2009 ' 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.

A Vols-au-Vent is a small hollow cup of puff pastry used to serve a variety of fillings, usually savory ones.  The word is French for "windblown", used to describe the lightness of the crisp, flaky, layers you see when the pastry is baked.  Puff pastry is a laminated dough with a solid fat.  It's a time comsuming process because the dough must be kept cold and rest between folds.

The ingredients in Michel Richards's puff pastry recipe:
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/4 cups ice water
1 pound very cold unsalted butter

Because I no longer eat butter, I replaced it with Earth Balance buttery spread, a non-hydrogenated, cholesterol free butter substitute.  Earth Balance is salty (they don't make a salt free version) so I eliminated the salt.

I followed the rest of the directions as written. It said to roll the dough out to a 1/8-1/4 inch thick before cutting. Next time I would roll it out closer to a half inch thick to get a taller vols-au-vent.  I filled the finished vols-au-vents with caramelized apples and cinnamon.

Caramelized Apple Filling
4 Servings - Use organic ingredients whenever possible

3 tablespoons Earth Balance buttery spread
3 tablespoons honey
1 apple, peeled, cored and sliced into small pieces
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Melt the Earth Balance in a small pan on a medium low heat.
Add the honey and stir.
Add the apple slices and cinnamon, stir to coat and simmer until the apples are soft.
Put a teaspoon or so of the caramelized buttery honey from the bottom of the pan in the bottom of the cooked vols-au-vents.
Fill the vols-au-vents with the cooked apples.
Drizzle the top of the apple filled vols-au-vents with the remaining caramelized buttery honey.

I also made a dinner version of the vols-au-vent by cutting larger circles and filling them with a tofu mushroom stroganoff.

I wasn’t entirely sure why the puff pastry didn’t rise as high as I had hoped.  Did I make it correctly?  Did I roll the dough out thick enough?  Was it because I made the dough with a butter substitute?  Should I use pastry flour next time?  I conducted a little experiment with the scraps.  I cooked one vols-au-vent as I had done before and I cooked the second one using the convection setting on my oven.  

The one on the left was cooked with the convection setting. It rose higher and browned better in a shorter amount of time. One thing is certain, I should be using that convection setting more often!

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