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.
I must admit that I was petrified going into this challenge. My first year of marriage I tried to make croissants from scratch for my parents who were coming to visit. After hours and hours (probably more like days back then) of slaving away at it, they turned out to be hard, tooth breaking, croissant shaped, lumps. I was devastated. Since then I have found a new and easier croissant recipe that does not require all the rolling and folding, which made me quite happy, but now I had to face my fears straight on.
Although, I know that I have a lot more to improve on with my puff pastry making skills, I am proud to say that I have no broken teeth and that they were even a little flaky. Gasp! I will be posting the full story of all my trials and tribulations with the puff pastry recipe tomorrow. But, for now I am going to enjoy the rest of my weekend.
I filled my Vols-au-Vent with Vanilla Bean Cranberry Sauce and Rum Pastry Cream. There were some major faults in the recipe I was making, which became quite apparent when my pastry cream turned out like scrambled eggs. I promptly whisked in an extra cup of milk which brought it back to the proper consistency. I also found the cranberries had a little too much rum for my liking, so I would cut it down by half.
This is a perfect dessert for my mother and all of those who prefer tart or bitter over sweet, because there is really nothing sweet about this dessert. Although, it still makes a wonderful ending to a warm meal.
Vols-au-Vent with Vanilla Bean Cranberry Sauce and Rum Pastry Cream
- 1 pckg. Puff Pastry (or 1/3 recipe puff pastry)
- Vanilla Bean Cranberry Sauce
- Rum Pastry Cream
- Egg wash (1 egg yolk + 1 Tbsp water)
- On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry dough into a rectangle about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Transfer it to a 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 and for larger sized vols-au-vent, fit for a main course or dessert, use a 4″ cutter. 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 parchment 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 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 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 (without parchment) 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.
- Put a small amount of Vanilla Bean Cranberry Sauce into the Vois-au-Vent and top with Rum Pastry Cream.
*For additional rise on the larger-sized vols-au-vents, you can stack one or two additional ring layers on top of each other (using egg wash to “glue”). This will give higher sides to larger vols-au-vents, but is not advisable for the smaller ones, whose bases may not be large enough to support the extra weight.
*Although they are at their best filled and eaten soon after baking, baked vols-au-vent shells can be stored airtight for a day.
*Shaped, unbaked vols-au-vent can be wrapped and frozen for up to a month (bake from frozen, egg-washing them first).
Vanilla Bean Cranberry Sauce
adapted from Sugar
- 2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
- 6 Tbsp. water
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp. extract)
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 Tbsp. rum, optional (I would do 1 Tbsp)
- Place cranberries, water, sugar and cinnamon in a small sauce pan. Split vanilla bean in half and scrape seeds into cranberries, add the scraped out vanilla pod. Bring to a simmer and stir occasionally, until most of the cranberries have burst (about 15-20 min.). Scrape into a clean bowl, removing vanilla bean, and stir in rum. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the cranberries to prevent a film forming on top. Refrigerate until serving.
Rum Pastry Cream
adapted from Sugar
- 2 cups milk (the original called for 1 cup)
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 4 egg yolks
- 2 Tbsp. sugar
- 2.5 Tbsp. cornstarch
- dash salt
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 Tbsp. rum, optional
- 2 Tbsp. whipping cream
- Place milk and vanilla in a medium sized saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk together egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and salt in a separate bowl. Gradually add milk to egg mixture, whisking constantly until all is incorporated. Pour mixture back into the pot and bring back up to a simmer, whisking constantly. Once thickened, remove from heat and whisk in butter and rum. Pour into a clean bowl and cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap directly on the surface. Chill completely. Whip cream to medium firm peaks and fold into pastry cream. Refrigerate until serving.
* I just whip the cream by hand. It is such a small amount it does not take long, as long as the whisk, bowl and whipping cream are all very cold.