How to Make Puff Pastry
The real Puff Daddy, right?
“You’re tall, do your exercises by the window where the ledge you can hold onto is higher”…”You’re tall, can you grab that off the shelf for me?”. HUH? This is what I’ve been hearing the past several months. The thing is, I’m not that tall..I’m pretty average (almost 5’7″). Since when is about 5’7″ tall? Did Lilliputians invade the earth while I was holed up for so long?
This actually does have something to do with this month’s Daring Bakers challenge. We’re making Vol-Au-Vents. Vols-au-vents are formed with Puff Pastry. They magically morph from flat disks of dough with rims, into flaky, layers and layers and layers of tall buttery towers..
Towers depending on the execution/temperature of the dough, oven temp, weather, and well, whether they feel like it or not! So they’re either tall or not tall, but they’re really not that tall. They just triple in size vertically if executed properly.
So, so much to do, so little time. As I type this, I’m still working on some fillings for these wonderful vessels of uber flaky pastry. Between reviewing a cookbook, preparing to host the November DB challenge, another DC challenge, THIS DB challenge, an article for Food Talk, Physical Therapy, and life in general, I’ve been up to my neck in food, working out, and ummm..other stuff. No need to elaborate.
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. Thanks, Steph!
Fluffy Sour Cream-Chive Scrambled Eggs with Bacon
Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict with Saffron-Dill Hollandaise
I own a copy of this book. I love Michel Richard and the book, and I’ve made his puff pastry many, many times. However, the only problem is/was..I have/had too many ideas! No block this time, and this is why I’m still up at 3:11 am trying to complete this challenge.
First off, something just caught me off guard that has absolutely nothing to do with the challenge. As I was typing..I suddenly heard a voice from the TV exclaim “It has a firm head, medium sized scrotum, and a 4 way arouser” I wasn’t watching TV – did I hear that right or am I imagining things?
Apparently, my television is tuned into the Oxygen network (which I thought was uhhh, squeaky clean?) and when I walked into the room briefly, I thought it looked to be an HSN or QVC type late night shopping show and figured I was so tired that I imagined those phallic phrases. Well, it IS a QVC/HSN type shopping show..but it’s called ‘Shop Erotic’. Has anyone ever heard of this?
I can’t help laughing every time the straight-laced looking woman uses the word ‘dong’ and rubs the toy to show the audience how firm yet flexible it is. Yep, they’re selling dildos and calling them dongs! Wow, I haven’t watched much TV the past few months, so this is quite a surprise, a strange, hilarious, one at that.
Deep Dish Pepperoni Pizza Vols-au-Vents
OK, back to the challenge. When it was announced that we were making puff pastry, I was excited, and as usual, loaded my plate to the point where the food keeps sliding off. Things can never be simple with me. Like I said above, I’ve made Michel Richard’s puff pastry so many times, I thought nothing of leaving it to the last minute. I could whip this one out easily. I made the puff pastry last Monday without a hitch. I decided I would start working on the fillings in a few days.
Little did I know that after all of this gorgeous, crisp and cool weather, there was still a humidity monster lurking nearby. When I took out the puff pastry to roll, cut and shape it, it was sticky and gooey within minutes. No clean cuts, no beautiful photo of the layers in the raw dough, just many trips to the fridge and freezer to try and chill it up, and many frustrating moments trying to keep my cuts neat and clean so I wouldn’t lose those incredible layers.
Snack? Amuse Bouche? Hors D’oeuvres? Appetizers? Canapes? Anything goes with these mini bites. From left to right: Goat cheese with Pistachio Pesto, Shrimp and Crab Salad, Dates filled with Cream Cheese wrapped in Prosciutto.
I guess you could say I was semi-successful, but the vols-au-vents weren’t what they could have been. Some turned out, some did not, and many were just plain ugly. Oh well, that’s life…and weather.
I brushed half the vols-au-vents with a whole egg wash, and the other half with an egg yolk wash. As you can see, the egg yolk wash was quicker to burn, which is usually the case if you don’t keep an eye on it – plus, the rims turned out much darker, which is always the case when using an egg yolk wash as opposed to a whole egg wash. I didn’t prefer either, as the ones brushed with whole egg wash turned out too light and the ones brushed with egg yolk wash – too dark. It’s all a matter of more and less baking time for each, which I should have paid more attention to.
Sliced Beef and Tomatoes in Black Bean Sauce. I used a recipe similar to this one, but minus the snowpeas and using fresh cherry tomatoes instead of sun dried tomatoes
Obviously, the main challenge was making the puff pastry, known as pate feuilletee. Many find this to be quite daunting and never try it, but it’s actually quite simple. You put together a dough aka detrempe, with flour, water and salt, and while it’s resting, you pound out about a pound of butter into a uniform block aka beurrage (make sure there are NO precious and/or valuable belongings within 10-20 feet of your ‘pounding’ area!). I didn’t, and a favorite crystal candy dish is now known as smithereens.
Fortunately for me, after losing my beloved candy dish, only a fork hit the floor.
To continue, after the pounding, you wrap the dough around the block of butter, which gives you a paton, and start rolling it vertically until it’s about 24 inches long. Fold it up like a letter, turn it around, and roll it to 24 inches in length again. These are called ‘turns’, and you need a total of 6 turns, with 30 minute to 1 hour rests in the fridge in between, to produce a perfect puff pastry with thousands of layers of butter.
I rolled my now buttery puff pastry dough on a slab of marble, since it’s a cool surface, which is VERY key here..as the dough must remain cold or the butter will soften or melt and there goes your layers! You see? In layman’s terms, making puff pastry really is a piece of cake – figuratively, and it’s a wonderfully silky, smooth dough to work with. I LOVE laminated doughs – from puff pastry, to croissants, to danish..et al.
Creme Brulee. Technically not a vols-au-vent since I baked the puff pastry in tart molds. I pulled the sugar corkscrews with my ‘asbestos’ hands *beaming*. Starting to get the hang of it, burnt fingers and all.
I decided to showcase the versatility of puff pastry and the vols-au-vent by creating a vols-au-vent for every meal. Breakfast, Lunch, Snack, Dinner and Dessert. As I sit here typing away, I have yet to make breakfast (two ways – going overboard as always), lunch, and an extra dessert for my favorite whimsical heart cookie cutter vols-au-vant, and it’s now the 27th. For the dinner vols-au-vent…I was initially going to make Julia Child’s Boef (Beef)Bourguignon, but since I procrastinated, I didn’t have time to do so.
I ended up scouring my fridge, freezer and pantry for something delicious to put together, finally ending up ‘inventing’ a beef-tomato concoction in a black bean sauce. It was really delicious, but I cannot remember the exact recipe since I just winged it, throwing in a bit of this, a bit of that etc. I need to staple a pen and paper to my forehead.
It’s now 10:47 am, and I’m just sitting here sniffling and coughing. I’m coming down with a cold – it hit about two hours ago, and I have one last filling to make. A milk chocolate-peanut butter mousse for the second dessert vols-au-vent. I cannot motivate myself to do it, yet I can’t rest until I get this post up! Looks like I’ll be posting a lot later than I hoped!
Peanut Butter – Milk Chocolate Mousse. By now I was too run down to put the mousse in a pastry bag and pipe it in decoratively. A couple messy spoonfuls, a few photos, and back to bed.
I just woke up from a long nap and finished, or shall I say rushed? Loved this puff pastry/vols-au-vents challenge, but leaving any challenge to the last minute is something I’m going to try and avoid in the future. I’m pooped – so much so, that I have no desire to proofread this post, so please excuse any typos, run on sentences, etc..for now as I’ll get to it later.
To see what other puff pastry and vols-au-vents creations my fellow Daring Bakers came up with, check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll and click on the links to the listed blogs! Also, I would like to thank Palidor of Crazy Asian Gal for thinking of me when passing on the award below. I’ll pass it on in my next entry.
To get the recipe for Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry and the directions on how to form the vols-au-vents (this entry is long enough as is), go to THIS page on Steph’s blog. Also, here 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).
Easy Milk Chocolate-Peanut Butter Mousse
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons half and half
1/3 cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 oz good quality milk chocolate, finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2/3 cup heavy cream
1. Place half and half, sugar, and butter in medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high and bring mixture to gentle boil. Remove pan from heat and add chopped chocolate and peanut butter, swirling pan to cover chocolate and peanut butter with hot half and half mixture. Let stand for about 3 minutes to melt chocolate and peanut butter fully. Gently whisk chocolate mixture until blended then stir in vanilla extract. Let stand at room temperature until cool.
2.Place heavy cream in medium chilled bowl. Whip cream until soft peaks form, using hand-held mixer set at medium speed. Fold whipped cream into chocolate mixture.