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Daring Bakers Challenge – Roast Beef & Caramelised Onion Vol au Vents


The month seems to whiz by and before I know it it is The Daring Bakers Challenge again and as usual I just manage to complete mine in time, although I do have the benefit of time zones on my side so even if I am behind on my actual reveal day I am still ahead of others.

When the challenge was revealed this month my heart sank, I had images of parties in the 80s with vol au vents, sausage rolls and cheese and pineapple hedgehogs! Not to mention all the other images that go a long with the 80s, like shoulder pads, teased blond hair and ra ra skirts! I am certain I haven’t touched a vol au vent since those days, although a Belgian friends insists the ones they serve at the Belgium Beer cafes in Auckland are really good. P was thrilled, it meant pastry, which to him is a staple, and in no certain terms was I to turn it into a sweet dish. So here are my savoury vol-au-vents filled with Caramelised onions, roast beef and horseradish cream.

Once I got my head around making vol-au-vents I decided to make plenty puff pastry so that I could freeze some of the dough and use it later in a dessert :o) The pastry was easy to make and really worth the effort, so much better than shop bought puff pastry. So for those who want to make their own puff pastry, please see recipe below and if you click on the Daring Baker link you will be able to see how everyone else did this month.

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.

2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
1 pound (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter

plus extra flour for dusting work surface

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.

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.

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.

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 (use your arm-strength!).

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.

Cutting the vol-au-vents

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. 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.

For smaller, hors d’oeuvre sized vols-au-vent, use a 1.5” round cutter to cut out 8-10 circles. For larger sized vols-au-vent, 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.

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 vols-au-vent, while the solid disks will be the bottoms. You can either save the center cut-outs to bake off as little “caps” for you vols-au-vent, or put them in the scrap pile.

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.

Refrigerate the assembled vols-au-vent 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.)

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 vols-au-vent. If the centers have risen up inside the vols-au-vent, you can gently press them down. 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.

20 Comments Post a comment
  1. Beautiful shot!

    September 27, 2009
  2. A stunning shot! Those vols-au-vent are perfect and so beautiful! I love your choice of filling, yummy!



    September 27, 2009
  3. Yum! I just love roast beef! What a fantastic filling. I’m glad everything worked out even in bad heat 🙂
    Your photo is stunning 🙂

    September 27, 2009
  4. the layers look perfect! fantastic!

    September 27, 2009
  5. s #

    superb!! im really speechless

    September 27, 2009
  6. jo #

    Absolutely gorgeous and the photo is amazing.

    September 27, 2009
  7. Ooooh, this looks SO good! I love caramelized onions with roast beef…looks totally to-die-for! 🙂

    September 27, 2009
  8. That photograph is absolutely stunning. I wish I could take photos that looked half that nice!

    September 27, 2009
  9. Wow, that’s a stunning picture!

    September 28, 2009
  10. Wow! These are the prettiest I’ve seen so far. Your husband must be very happy. I’m making mine today…late as usual.

    September 28, 2009
  11. I’m officially impressed! You made something essentially feminine into something a man would love.

    September 28, 2009
  12. yummy some grand flavors here. a superb job on this well done!

    September 28, 2009
  13. teaandscones #

    beautiful tall puffy vols. Love he ‘filling’.

    September 28, 2009
  14. oooh. nice shot. the short filled glasses…..classy~

    September 29, 2009
  15. OMG..caramelized onions slay me..and along with roast beef, it’s like mini open Beef Wellingtons – minus the duxelle. Also, your can almost hear TS, FG and Photograzing knocking down your blog door to get it 🙂

    September 29, 2009
  16. Charmaine #

    beautiful photographs!!

    September 29, 2009
  17. Beautiful job! I love the sound of your filling, and the vols-au-vent look delicious =D.

    September 29, 2009
  18. I would be glued to a snack platter if these babies were on there!!! You know how to make beautiful food, for sure!!!!

    October 1, 2009
  19. Lovely picture. Congrats:)

    November 6, 2009

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