Sunday, September 27, 2009

Beouf Bourguignon Vol au Vent

I mentioned in my last post (almost a month ago....) that my French grandmother is one of the only people who has been able to make me eat fish- largely due to the incredibly buttery sauce that always came along side it- but every once and a while she'd try to get us to eat shrimp and Coquille Saint Jacques (scallops) too which was a whole other level of gross to my 11 year old self. In comes the puff pastry to dull the pain:

It's pretty hard to turn down puff pastry and a buttery white sauce even if it laced with seafood.

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. So I was pretty psyched to create my own (meat) version for this month's Daring Baker's Challenge. I spent a very long but industrious Sunday making Julia Child's Beouf Bourguignon to eat in puff pastry vessels but as both recipes are very long, I've separated them into two posts. Here is how we do the puff pastry:

I made half a recipe of Puff Pastry and I have a tiny little food processor so I did the dough in two batches- no biggie! Once you've made your dough in the food processor you want to put it in the fridge for a bit- meanwhile

Pull out your sticks of butter- place them between two sheets of cling sheet and whack them until they smoosh together and flatten to about 1/4 inch. Then you roll out your chilled dough into a largish rectangle and place the butter in the middle. Use the dough flaps to cover the butter and roll the dough out.

You're going to do 6 turns, where you roll the down out really long, then fold it in thirds like a business letter and then roll it out again the other way.

See? Rolled out nice and long- then you would fold it again and roll it again- 6 times in total. Then I should have some picture of me cutting out the rounds for the vessels. I went with a 4 inch round and stacked two layers of rings to make higher walls.

I'd say it turned out pretty well- And it was truly delicious. Didn't matter that we didn't eat until 10pm- it was awesome then too.

Obligatory parsley sprig

Beouf Bourguignon Vols-au-Vent
puff pastry from Michel Richard in Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan
  • 1/3 puff pastry recipe (see below), well-chilled
  • 1 recipe Beouf Bourguignon (to be posted soon)
  • egg wash (1 egg or yolk beaten with a small amount of water)

Assemble the vols-au-vent: 1/3 of the puff pastry recipe below will yield about 8-10 1.5” vols-au-vent or 4 4” vols-au-vent. 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. 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. (This assumes you will be using round cutters, but if you do not have them, it is possible to cut square vols-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 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. (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 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.

Notes: 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).

puff pastry dough

I made a half recipe of the dough and was able to assemble two large vessels with some leftovers which are now in the freezer.

  • 2 1/2 cups (12.2 oz/354g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups (5.0 oz/142g) 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/454g) very cold unsalted butter
  • 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. Makes 2.5 pounds of dough.


  1. Those look incredible with the Beouf Bourguignon. What a great way to serve both.

  2. Looks fantastic! What a great combination - a french puff pastry with a french savoury filing. Great job.

  3. Yum yum. What a delicious way to have soup. :)

  4. Love the pictures and adore the filling. This looks delicious.

  5. Wow! You went all out. I can't believe you made both recipes -- as someone who's made both, that takes a lot of time! You must have been so happy with the results. Your vols-au-vent look beautiful!

  6. The Beouf Bourguignon looks so hearty and rich, and goes so well with the flaky pastry. Great work!