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?
All of the above 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, and 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
Vols-au-vent 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 heard a voice from the TV exclaim “It has a firm head, medium sized scrotum, and a 4 way arouser!” I wasn’t looking at the 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 this straight-laced looking woman uses the word ‘dong’ and rubs the toy to show the audience how firm yet flexible it is (because I’m a child). 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, and a strange and 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, then 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 beast lurking nearby. When I took out the puff pastry to roll, cut and shape it, it was sticky 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 Chive Pesto, Shrimp and Crab Salad, Dates filled with Cream Cheese and 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. To be honest, I didn’t care for 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 OR Brown Bean Sauce. Brown Bean Sauce is spicier, so use Black if you don’t like it too spicy.
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 pretty easy. 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 since 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 an extraordinarily silky, smooth dough to work with. This is why I LOVE laminated dough, from puff pastry, to croissants, to danish, et al.
Creme Brulee Puff Pastry Tartlets. 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 ended up scouring my fridge, freezer and pantry for something delicious to put together. I finally ended 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. UPDATE: I made it again, this time writing everything down as I went along. Recipe below.
I seriously 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 which 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-vents. 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 had 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? I really 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. I’ll get to it later; pinky swear.
On another note, 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, or HERE. 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).
- 3 egg yolks **
- 1 small shallot, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- a scant ¼ teaspoon saffron (use turmeric if you don't have saffron)
- 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh dill
- 1 stick of butter, melted
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 sheet of homemade or store bought puff pastry
- 6 to 12 large slices of smoked salmon aka lox
- 6 poached eggs
- saffron dill hollandaise sauce recipe, above
- extra melted butter for brushing on the puff pastry circles, if desired
- Place the egg yolks, chopped shallot, lemon juice, saffron and dill in the container of a blender. Cover and blend on high speed for about 7 seconds.
- Place the stick of butter in a microwaveable glass measuring cup and microwave until completely melted and hot.
- Set the blender on high speed and through the hole in the blender cover, slowly drizzle the butter into the egg yolk mixture in a thin stream. It should thicken almost immediately. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep the sauce warm until serving by placing the blender container in a bowl or pan of hot water.
- Preheat oven to 400 F.
- Roll out one sheet of puff pastry to about 15" by 15" inches. Using a 3 to 4-inch round biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out 6 circles of puff pastry. Place circles on a parchment lined or greased baking pan. With a fork or skewer lightly dock (poke holes that do not go all the way through all over each circle) each circle with a fork. Place the circles in the fridge for about 25 to 30 minutes, or the freezer for about 15 minutes. You want the puff pastry circles to be cold when they're placed in the hot oven.
- Bake at 400F for 15 to 18 minutes until slightly risen and golden brown,
- Place one puff pastry round on a plate and brush it with melted butter. Top with one or two slices of smoked salmon (folding some of slices if need be) then a poached egg and a tablespoon or two of the saffron-dill hollandaise sauce. Repeat with the remaining puff pastry circles, poached eggs and smoked salmon. Garnish with fresh dill and chopped chives, if desired.
** Even though the hot butter brings the egg yolks to a safe temperature to eat; if you're concerned, make the sauce using the double boiler method instead of the blender, following the same directions, but using a whisk. Whisk until it has thickened and is piping hot.
- 1 and ½ sheets of puff pastry
- 1½ cups heavy cream
- 1 plump vanilla bean, split and scraped, saving the pods.
- 3 large egg yolks
- 3½ tablespoons sugar, plus more for torching the tops, about 2 to 3 tablespoons
- pinch of salt
- Place six 4-inch fluted tart molds(or use a standard size muffin tin, only using 6 of the wells) on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roll out the puff pastry dough, the seams rolled together if using store-bought pastry, to make one large sheet, to a ⅛-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut out six 6-inch circles. Save the scraps, if there are any, for another use (keep in freezer).
- Press the dough circles into bottoms and up sides of tart rings, or muffin tins, patching together any holes or tears. Prick bottoms of tart shells all over with a fork, and freeze for about 1 hour..
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Remove the frozen puff pastry shells from the freezer and place in the oven, Bake for about 10 minutes, pressing down the dough in the wells if it puffs too much. Remove tartlets from oven and reduce the oven to 325 degrees F.
- In a medium saucepan bring the heavy cream, vanilla bean seeds and the split and scraped pod from the bean to just under a boil. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Slowly whisk some of the hot cream into egg yolk mixture, until it's tempered, then whisk the rest of it in. Strain the cream into a large measuring cup through a fine sieve; discard vanilla bean pods.
- Divide cream mixture evenly among tart shells, filling each to the top. Bake until custard is just set, about 20 minutes. Let cool, then refrigerate for 1 hour to set. completely.
- Remove tartlets from the fridge. Sprinkle the tops of each tartlet with about 1 teaspoon or more of sugar; you want to cover the whole surface. With a small kitchen torch, about 3 to 4 inches from surface of each tart, move flame back and forth until sugar is caramelized and deep golden brown, or broil in the oven until sugar is caramelized. Serve immediately.
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or peanut oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 12 oz beef tenderloin, cut into thin strips
- ¼ cup black or brown bean sauce* - brown is spicier
- 2 scallions, sliced
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil*
- 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce, more or less depending on how much heat you like.
- Chopped cilantro or parsley.
- Over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable or peanut oil in a skillet. or wok Add the onion, garlic, ginger, and sliced cherry tomatoes. Stir and fry for 5 minutes. Add the beef and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes. Add the black bean sauce, scallions, brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and sriracha. Cook for another 5 minutes then garnish with chopped cilantro or parsley and serve.
- ¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons half and half
- ⅓ 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
- ⅔ cup heavy cream
- 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.
- Place heavy cream in medium chilled bowl. Whip cream until soft peaks form, using a hand mixer set at medium speed or a stand mixer. Fold whipped cream into chocolate mixture, then cover and chill or serve immediately.
- ¾ cup unsalted, shelled pistachios, toasted
- 1 large clove of garlic, chopped
- ¾ cup roughly chopped chives
- 1½ cups chopped or torn basil or baby spinach leaves or a mix of both
- olive oil
- grated parmesan cheese
- kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
- In a food processer, pulse the pistachios and garlic until chopped finely. Add the chives and basil and/or baby spinach leaves and run the processer while drizling in the olive oil until you reach a smooth consistency. If you like it chunkier, stop when it hits that point. Taste to season with the salt, papper and parmesan cheese.
- This pesto will keep well in the fridge for about a week, but a lot longer in the freezer. I've stored mine up to 6 months.
- Mix some with a soft goat cheese like chevre, as shown in the vol-au-vents canapes above.