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.