Vol-au-vent how-to

Some of my favorite things to bake are pastries that look really intricate and difficult when they are finished, but that don’t actually take much work. These Vol-au-vent are a good example, but I cheated a bit: I used pre-made, packaged pâte feuilletée. So these are kind of like making chocolate chip cookies from a tube, but they look fancy, don’t they?

The method:

1. Defrost the frozen puff pastry by following package directions. Cut the sheet into thirds (It usually comes already folded in three). Then lightly fold the top corner of your long thin rectangle to form an isosceles right triangle (diagonal half of a square):

2. Cut off the square of pastry you have just formed, and repeat until you have as many diagonally folded squares as you can get out of the strip (probably three or four):

3. Make incisions one centimeter from each leg of the triangle, parallel to the legs, ending on the diagonal edge, but stopping short of the corner opposite the diagonal:

So, if you unfold the square, it will now look like this:

4. Now, the cool part. Fold each corner of the outer frame over so that it meets the opposite corner of the inner square. Now you should have something that looks like this:

5. Lightly press down the edges of the frame you have just formed. You want them to stick to the base of the vol-au-vent, but you don’t want to squish them or they won’t puff optimally. Finally transfer the vol-au-vent shell to a baking sheet, dock the central square with the tines of a fork, and paint the whole thing with a thin coat of egg white:

The docking (hole poking) serves to keep the bottom of the vol-au-vent shell from puffing too much. They release steam that would otherwise do the work of puffing up the pastry. The egg white is optional, but will give the final pastry better color and shine, and will help keep the filling from soaking into the pastry.

6. Once your baking sheet is covered in vol-au-vent shells, bake them at the temperature recommended on the puff pastry package for about 12 minutes. They will come out looking like this:

See how high the floors of the inner square are in this batch? That’s what happens if you don’t dock them. If you liberally dock the floors of the vol-au-vent shells, the floor will stay lower, and you’ll have a lot more room for filling inside the shell. But you can just squish down the floor if it does puff up like these did and you’ll be fine.

7. Finally, fill the shells with whatever filling you like. I used a rosewater flavored  custard, and made some napoleon style stripes with chocolate syrup: I just drew chocolate lines across the custard using the bottle of syrup (Nesquick, Bosco, Hershey, or whatever), and then dragged a toothpick through perpendicular to the lines to make the napoleon pattern:

Alternate filling ideas:

  • Soak some cherries or blackberries in brandy or cognac for a few hours and push them into a custard filling.
  • Make a stirred crème brûlée, and spoon it into the shells just before brûléeing the tops with a torch.
  • Chocolate mousse
  • Spinach/artichoke dip

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One Comment on “Vol-au-vent how-to”

  1. susan Says:

    Oooh, my mouth is watering!

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