Daring Bakers: Vols-au-Vent
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.
There are times when you make something from scratch, like homemade oreos, and you’re like “wow, I rock!” and there are other times when you make something from scratch and you’re like “it tastes just like it does from the grocery store and I wasted an entire afternoon. This sucks.” Homemade puff pastry falls into the latter category.
I’m going to cut to the chase here: don’t make your own puff pastry. Just go to the store and buy it. I mean it. This was extremely tedious and an over-all pain-in-the-butt.
When I first read this Daring Bakers’ challenge I was mortified. The recipe was so long and involved, with so many places where things could go wrong, it seemed next to impossible. As I stood there maniacally pounding my butter with a rolling pin (think of those games at amusement parks where you have to whack the mole or whatever that comes out of the hole with a padded whacker) trying to make a flattened butter layer, I knew this was going to suck. I had major problems keeping the butter from melting and it kept coming through the dough layers. If you’ve ever tried making puff pastry, you’ll know what I mean.
However, it was not all bad news and tears. I decided to fill my vol-au-vents with crab and shallots sauteed in butter and also with chocolate mousse and raspberries. (I also wrapped my baked brie in the puff pastry, which was FANTASTIC). As puff pastry is made entirely of flour, butter and water, I abandoned all hope of making something even moderately healthy with it. Hence, more butter and some chocolate. It was really good. As in so-over-indulgent-you-know-you-shouldn’t-but-you-just-can’t-help-it good.
I’m not including the recipe since I don’t advise making your own puff pastry. Just buy it. But definitely make sure you fill it with crab and chocolate mousse and raspberries (but not chocolate and crab together, obviously).
Addendum: Several weeks after writing this post and reflecting on my puff pastry experience (and getting some mean comments, which you won’t see here because I deleted them) it occured to me that maybe I was too harsh on puff pastry. Will I make my own again? No, probably not. Did I learn something? Yes, I did. Is the something that I learned useful? I don’t know. We’ll see. However, the fact that I learned something is key here, and I do value my puff pastry making experience.