Sunday, September 27, 2009

Puff, the magic pastry...

... lived in all our Daring Kitchens this month! (No clue what I'm talking about?) I know my posting has been sparse this last month. I wish that were not the case, but I'm happy to have at least gotten around to my Daring Baker challenge this month. By the time life settled down a bit (after Hawaii and Colorado), the month was half over. I was lucky to have a weekend to myself or this just wouldn't have happened. And even though it was quite warm - it seems I did okay.

For September, the Daring Bakers made: Puff Pastry (pâte feuilletée)!

A simple, rustic Napoleon with vanilla crème

A variation on a dish my mom calls "chicken burgers". Only I replaced her
typical French roll with the vols-au-vent shells.

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.

After making Danish Braids last June, I suddenly knew how rather tricky and particular making laminate dough is. I had it in my head that I would soon make croissants, but so far haven't gotten my act together. Puff pastry is, of course, another laminate dough just like croissants (and danishes) and I've been finding myself reading and pondering over recipes as I flip through my cookbooks, but not gotten that act together either. Well, until my trusty DBs kicked me into action!

* Pound * Roll * Fold * Stretch * Dab * Flour *

Oozy, soft butter - the reason most people are scared of laminate dough

I understand why making laminate dough is scary to people. The moment that POUND of butter starts to get a little warm and soft, it starts to squeeze out of the dough as you roll it, and makes an absolute mess. But if you 1) liberally dab the oozing butter with flour and 2) continually chill the dough for ½ an hour at a time - it works. And it's really not that bad. I did my 6 turns roughly as the recipe said: 2 turns, chill for half an hour, 2 turns, then I think I let it chill for 1 ½ hours before doing that last 2 turns.

Worth its weight in gold...

I baked a little sample vols-au-vent just to be SURE it would "work". It did.

My mom makes a dish she calls "chicken burgers". There's nothing very burger-y about them, yet that's what we've called them over these years. It's a mixture of cooked chicken, mayonnaise, minced onion, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. I know it's sounds awful but OMG it is so much the opposite of awful. You spread it over a half French roll, top it with tomatoes and some cheese and broil it. We ♥♥♥ chicken burgers at my house!

I used my largest round cutter to make the vols-au-vent for the chicken

I decided to make our chicken burgers in vols-au-vent shells while at my parents' house last weekend. And OH MY. They got RAVE reviews. The lightness of the shells was just magnificent! Crispy, flaky, light, buttery. I couldn't even believe how much praise I got from my dad, who is not usually a fan of any changes made to his favorite foods. :)

I measured my success by the presence of flakiness.
Lots of flakes = success!!

But of course we needed some dessert as well. My family also loves napoleons. LOVES napoleons. We used to have a tradition of getting napoleons and coffee at La Patisserie on the bottom floor of the San Francisco Shopping Center every year when we'd go in for Christmas shopping. It was a treat and their napoleons were wonderful. But La Patisserie closed around 6 years ago and we've not yet found a worthy replacement...

Docking pastry squares and covering with parchment

Baking with a sheet on top for the first
5 minutes to keep them from puffing too high

Easy choice - I decided to make napoleons with my beautiful puff pastry dough! I placed a baking sheet on top of the pastry squares for the first 5 minutes in the oven, so that they wouldn't puff up too much. And I added a little gelatin to my custard so that it wouldn't so easily ooze out from between my pastry sheets. Glaze was made with powdered sugar, vanilla and hot water and then a quick drizzle of semi-sweet chocolate and voilà!! Napoleons!

Not so much puff (as I'd wanted) but LOTS of light flakiness

I actually couldn't have handled 3 layers of pastry. I guess
there is such a thing as too much awesomeness!!

Delicious! Absolutely delicious! I was delighted with this challenge. Something I'd actually make again (and perhaps even again!) I'm so excited that I still have 1/3 of the dough left. I'm thinking palmiers... And let's not forget the most important aspect of this challenge... it's brought me yet another step closer to making croissants! Thank you so much Steph, and thank you Daring Bakers!!


  1. Mmmm, looks amazing! I especially love that vols-au-vent with chicken...the cheese melted all over the tomato looks SO DELICIOUS! YUM. :)

  2. Holy napoleon! I want to eat it! Looks great! Funny, I also wrote "puff the magic pastry" in my blog. Wonder how many other bloggers did as well.

  3. Very well done! Your sweet and savory versions just look fabulous! Nice layering!



  4. Oh wow!, looks amazinglyyy delicious!! yumm great job!! =)

  5. The vol au vents looks yummy and I love your step by step photos.

  6. Hand the Napoleon over and back away slowly! YUM! It looks so good!
    Beautiful job on the pastry :)

  7. Jebus look at that cuastard cream! *drool*

    You should def try to make croissants asap because now that you've tried puff pastry, croissants would be a breeze for you. I actually learnt to make croissants before this puff pastry so it was such a relaxing challenge. Hope you try it soon :P

  8. Yes I too would say your puff pastry worked. Wow. Boy did it work. I wish I would like to eat puff pastry, because yours look divine.

  9. Great idea making a Napoleon with the puff-I wish I'd thought of that! Your vols au vent look delicious too :D

  10. Oh wow, everything looks so gorgeous and yummy. I especially like the neopolitan.

  11. That napoleon looks dangerous. As in, I might have to make another batch of puff pastry.

  12. Wow Lisa! Yours look amazing! Yes, yes, you can do croissant if you could do such a beautiful job on Vols-au-Vent.

  13. wow yours looks absolutely fantastic!All hail Puff, the magic Pastry! :)

  14. loved la patisserie, love napoleans and love palmiers! long live flakiness! ;)

  15. You are officially the most talented person I know...

  16. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! To everyone! :)

  17. Wow, your napoleon looks amazing...yeah I had to cut myself off of the flakiness too...there is definitely such a thing as too much butter! Great job!

  18. delicious! just reading what you bake makes me hungry.

  19. Ohhh, I want a chicken burger vol-au-vent, please!! That sounds amazing! And your Napoleons are beautiful. Turns out they're my brother's favorite dessert, so perhaps I should put my extra puff to work...

  20. I'm in total awe, Lisa. Your pate feuilletee looks like it was made by the French chefs in the Bocuse d'Or! Your napoleon is to die for..and a chckn burger vols au vent? Brilliant! No doubt your croissants would turn out marvelous. Great photos too...pure art!

  21. Beautiful! Those look delicious =D. I love the flavours and shapes you made!

  22. chicken burger vols-au-vent--- oh yeah! napoleon is one of my very favorite pastries, and i think it's how i'll use up my left-over puff. gorgeous puff, and thanks for making the time to bake with me this month!!

  23. Gorgeous, Lisa! And your chicken burgers sound wonderful to me!