Making Vol-Au-Vents

puff pastry dough
Okay, so if you've been following along, on Sunday, we revealed the Daring Bakers' challenge: vol-au-vents. It was an incredibly fun challenge. You can see my post about the finished product here.

Yesterday, I shared the recipe and method for making puff pastry with you.

Today, you'll see how the vol-au-vents are made from that puff pastry. Below are the instructions from the Daring Bakers' challenge, as well as some notes and pictures from me.

Forming and Baking the Vol-au-Vents (instructions from Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon)

Well-chilled puff pastry dough (recipe below)
Egg wash (1 egg or yolk beaten with a small amount of water)

Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Using a knife or metal bench scraper, divided your chilled puff pastry dough into three equal pieces. Work with one piece of the dough, and leave the rest wrapped and chilled. (You can repeat the whole process with the other two pieces, depending on how many vol-au-vents you want.)

On a lightly floured surface, roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick. Transfer it to the baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the cutting.

puff pastry dough square and rolling pin
rolled out puff pastry dough
(This assumes you will be using round cutters, but if you do not have them, it is possible to cut square vol-au-vents using a sharp chef’s knife.) For smaller, hors d'oeuvre sized vols-au-vent, use a 1.5” round cutter to cut out 8-10 circles. For larger sized vol-au-vents, fit for a main course or dessert, use a 4” cutter to cut out about 4 circles. Make clean, sharp cuts and try not to twist your cutters back and forth or drag your knife through the dough. Half of these rounds will be for the bases, and the other half will be for the sides. (Save any scrap by stacking -- not wadding up -- the pieces: They can be re-rolled and used if you need extra dough. If you do need to re-roll scrap to get enough disks, be sure to use any rounds cut from it for the bases, not the ring-shaped sides.)

Using a ¾-inch cutter for small vols-au-vent, or a 2- to 2.5-inch round cutter for large, cut centers from half of the rounds to make rings. These rings will become the sides of the vol-au-vents, while the solid disks will be the bottoms. You can either save the center cut-outs to bake off as little "caps" for you vol-au-vents, or put them in the scrap pile.

I also used cookie cutters to get different shapes for the middles and caps. I used apples, stars, and hearts. I knew I'd be making an apple filling, and I thought apple caps would just be adorable for that. And I ended up using a slightly larger outer ring (I think 2" or 2 1/4") because my smallest inner ring was 1" not 3/4".

biscuit cutters and dough
Dock the solid bottom rounds with a fork (prick them lightly, making sure not to go all the way through the pastry) and lightly brush them with egg wash. Place the rings directly on top of the bottom rounds and very lightly press them to adhere. Brush the top rings lightly with egg wash, trying not to drip any down the sides (which may inhibit rise). If you are using the little “caps,” dock and egg wash them as well.

dough cutouts for vols-au-vent
dough cutouts brushed with egg
dough cutouts using apple and star cutters
dough cutouts brushed with egg
Refrigerate the assembled vol-au-vents on the lined baking sheet while you pre-heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). (You could also cover and refrigerate them for a few hours at this point.) This is important. My last batch may have gotten a little too warm and didn't rise as well as the rest.

Once the oven is heated, remove the sheet from the refrigerator and place a silicon baking mat (preferred because of its weight) or another sheet of parchment over top of the shells. This will help them rise evenly. Bake the shells until they have risen and begin to brown, about 10-15 minutes depending on their size. Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (180ºC), and remove the silicon mat or parchment sheet from the top of the vol-au-vents. If the centers have risen up inside the vol-au-vents, you can gently press them down. (A tart tamper works well for this.)

vols-au-vent bakign under silpat
At this point, I let mine cool and then I froze them until I was ready to fill them a few days later. You can then follow the directions below to bake the frozen ones, though you may need to tack on a couple of minutes. If you have fillings that you want warmed, put those in the frozen vol-au-vents before you bake them.

Continue baking (with no sheet on top) until the layers are golden, about 15-20 minutes more. (If you are baking the center “caps” they will likely be finished well ahead of the shells, so keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when browned.)

Remove to a rack to cool. Cool to room temperature for cold fillings or to warm for hot fillings.

Fill and serve.

Next up: The fillings! And also, if you have leftover puff scraps from shaping the vol-au-vents, don't throw them out! Stack the pieces, wrap them in plastic, and toss them in the fridge. I'll give you a fun idea of what you can make with those scraps very soon.


Puff Pastry (For Vol-Au-Vents)

Yesterday I shared with you my completed vol-au-vents. Today I want you to see all the hard labor involved in making puff pastry. Tomorrow we'll look at how to shape the vol-au-vents.

As you know from yesterday's post, the vol-au-vents were this month's Daring Bakers' challenge. We were required to use Michel Richard's recipe to make the puff pastry. Here's how to do it...

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough
From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 TBS salt
1 1/4 cups ice water
1 pound very cold unsalted butter

plus extra flour for dusting work surface

puff pastry tools and ingredients
Mixing The Dough

Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them. (My food processor is teeny, so I made the dough in my KitchenAid mixer instead, using the dough hook.)

Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)

Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

dough for puff pastry
Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that's about 1" thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.

flattening butter for puff pastry

Incorporating The Butter

Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10" square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with "ears," or flaps.

Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don't just pull the ends.) You should now have a package that is 8" square.

To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it. You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Making The Turns

Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24" (don't worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24", everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich.

With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24" and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.

Chilling The Dough

If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you've completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.

The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.

It definitely takes a long time to make, but it's helpful that you can start and stop when it's convenient for you. As the recipe advises, chill your dough often! If you're doing a turn, and you notice some butter oozing through the dough, don't try to do the next turn until the dough has been refrigerated for at least 30 minutes.

Rest assured, this is not nearly as hard as it looks. Who knew butter could be beaten into submission and then layered with dough? It's absolutely fascinating when you see it happening. The dough gets firmer and smoother as you work the butter through it with each turn.

And then when you bake the puff pastry dough, and you see that it actually puffs, you'll be so excited, you'll want to tell everyone you know. Or at least give yourself a huge pat on the back.


Daring Bakers: Vol-Au-Vents

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vol-au-Vents based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

I can't even begin to tell you how excited I was when I saw this challenge. I've been wanting to make puff pastry and croissants for quite some time now, and here before me was a reason to make at least puff pastry. I knew that if I could pull off making the puff pastry, actually getting it to puff, then making and filling the vol-au-vents was going to be incredibly fun. So fun, in fact, that I decided to turn this challenge into the perfect excuse for a party.

I invited some friends to come over the Wednesday night following my birthday. We were all free that evening and my boyfriend had a softball game, so it was the perfect night to pick for a fun girls'-night-in puff pastry party.

The weekend before the party, I prepared the puff pastry. Following the advice of another Daring Baker, I made my vol-au-vents and then prebaked them for about 15 minutes. Once they were cool, I put them in freezer bags and stashed them in the freezer until the night of the party.

It was so nice having them all done and being able to just concentrate on making the fillings and spending time with my friends. We made a batch of savory vols-au-vent and then a batch of sweet ones.

The filling options for the savory puffs included caramelized onions; roasted tomatoes, squash, zucchini, green beans, broccoli, and eggplant; turkey bacon; sundried tomatoes; marinated artichokes; toasted walnuts; dried cherries and dried cranberries; smoked salmon that my mom brought back from Alaska for me; lemony cream cheese; goat cheese, gruyere, feta, and brie; and corn, black beans, avocado, salsa, and Mexican cheese.

The filling options for the sweet ones included caramelized apples, bananas sauteed in butter and brown sugar, raspberries, strawberries, mangoes, kiwi, homemade whipped cream, homemade caramel whipped cream, chocolate ganache, nutella, toasted walnuts, and basil sugar.

To make the savory ones, we filled our frozen puffs first and then baked them.

To make the sweet ones, we baked the frozen shells and then filled them.

We came up with so many delicious combinations. There's just so much you can do with these, once you get the puff pastry recipe down. Be sure to check out the blogs of other Daring Bakers for even more ideas. And check back for details about making the puff pastry and shaping the vol-au-vents, as well as all of the fillings.


Apple Cider Doughnuts

apple cider doughnuts

Note: This post has been updated. Click here for the newer version.

Happy fall! Yesterday was the first official day of fall, which happens to be my favorite season. I thought the best way to welcome the season would be to make a quintessential fall food (only because there aren't any piles of leaves to jump in yet).

apple cider doughnuts
And so there I was on the first day of fall, frying up apple cider doughnuts -- those doughnuts I crave at the first sign of cool weather, when thoughts of apple picking fill my head. While I haven't had a chance to go apple picking yet, when I got together with my mom last weekend, she brought me apples and cider from an orchard she had gone to in Connecticut, an orchard I used to go to every year as a kid, an orchard where I used to eat apple cider doughnuts.

It only seemed logical that I take my new gifts and turn them into these doughnuts. And it just so happened that I had actually dog-eared a recipe for them in the Food Network Magazine a few days earlier.

Apple Cider Doughnuts (from Food Network Magazine, October 2009)


1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
Vegetable oil, for frying
2 red apples, such as Cortland or McIntosh
2 1/2 cups apple cider
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
4 teaspoons baking powder


Core and coarsely chop the apples (do not peel).

chopped apples
Combine with 1 1/2 cups cider in a medium saucepan over medium heat; cover and cook until softened, about 8 minutes.

Uncover and continue cooking until the apples are tender and the cider is almost completely reduced, about 5 minutes.

simmering apples in cider
Puree with an immersion blender or in a food processor until smooth. Measure the sauce; you should have 1 cup. (Boil to reduce further, if necessary.) Let cool slightly.

apples in food processor
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, salt and nutmeg in a medium bowl.

Beat 2/3 cup granulated sugar and the shortening in another bowl with a mixer on medium speed until sandy. Beat in the egg and yolk, then gradually mix in the applesauce, scraping the bowl. Beat in half of the flour mixture, then the buttermilk and vanilla, and then the remaining flour mixture. Mix to make a sticky dough; do not overmix.

dough for doughnuts
Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper and pat into a 7-by-11-inch rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. (Definitely use parchment. I had run out of it, so I tried to substitute wax paper. Even though I floured the paper, the dough really stuck, making it a bit difficult to lift off the doughnut cutouts.)
Meanwhile, make the glaze: Simmer the remaining 1 cup cider in a small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to 1/4 cup. Whisk in the confectioners' sugar until smooth and glossy, then set aside. Mix the remaining 1 cup granulated sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a shallow bowl; set aside for the topping.

Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Cut the chilled dough into 12 rounds, using a floured 2 1/2- or 3-inch biscuit cutter, then cut out the middles with a 1-inch cutter (or use a doughnut cutter). Slip 2 or 3 doughnuts at a time into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side, adjusting the heat as needed. Transfer to the paper towels to drain.

doughnut cutouts
apple cider doughnuts
Dip one side of each doughnut in the cider glaze, letting the excess drip off; dip just the glazed side in the cinnamon-sugar or roll all over in cinnamon-sugar, if desired. Serve warm.

apple cider doughnuts
When you bite into these doughnuts, you first experience the crunch, then the swirled flavor of cinnamon and sugar, then the slight tanginess of the cider glaze, and then finally the warm, soft, apple-y inside.

apple cider doughnut - inside view
The flavor and texture of these doughnuts are amazing. The texture is virtually the same as that of the doughnuts I used to eat at the orchard. The only difference is that the apple flavor is stronger in these, which is clearly not a bad thing.

I definitely recommend eating them warm (if you have leftovers, try microwaving them for about 10 seconds). If you're lucky enough to be the one making the doughnuts, you can fry and eat the scraps as you go. No one will even know how many you ate or how much sugar you loaded onto them! Not that I'm saying that's what I did or anything...

apple cider doughnuts
What's your favorite fall treat?