For many years, and I mean many, I couldn’t pronounce this fancy word! I mean why in the world would someone call a puffed stuffed pastry a vol-au-vent? But then it’s French and the language calls for flair. Did you know the name was actually coined by Antonin Careme–an exponent of the style of cooking commonly known as grande cuisine–the most sophisticated and grandiose style of cookery in France. I never liked history, thus the name was but I loved gobbling up these delicious crispy puffed stuffed pastries with all kinds of filling. It thus became an integral part of my cooking repertoire.
It’s a long process, so unless you are cut out for a hard day’s work in the kitchen and ready to use some elbow grease don’t bother to start off. Otherwise, you will be in dough heaven.
The process starts with accurate measurements and a clean dry place to work in, and peace of mind. I was always told don’t bother baking or making pastry if you’re in a bad mood. It will never work. So yes, another necessity is a smiley you.
Vol au Vent
(I’ve made the puff pastry from scratch, but you could choose to buy ready-made dough too)
- 2 cups of refined flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1.5 cups of margarine
- 1/2 cup cold water.
1. Sift the flour and salt together and add chilled margarine pieces till the dough resembles breadcrumbs. (You should need about 1 cup of margarine)
2. Invert the crumbly mass onto a lightly floured work surface and bind it together.
3. Use a rolling-pin to shape the mass into a long rectangle. Divide the dough into 3 parts. Place 1 tablespoons of butter each of part 1 and 3. Now fold the rectangle across the 3 parts such that every side is buttered. Place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
4. Reshape and roll the dough into a rectangle. Repeat the folding and cooling process three more times. At this stage the pastry can be frozen for up to 3 months. However if you thaw it, make sure to use it all up.
5. When done, roll the dough lightly and use a cookie cutter to cut out the round vol-au-vent’s and their caps.
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees. Your pastry should fluff up and the top should be golden in colour. You could use an egg wash on the pastry top if you want a honey colour. These can be made up to 4 days in advance and stored in air-tight bins.
7. Stuff the Vol-au-vent’s with a stuffing of your choice. I often stuff it with cooked mince–chicken, meat, egg or vegetables.