Sunday, 27 September 2009

Daring Bakers do Vols-au-vents

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.

Puff pasty, proper stuff from scratch ! I was both elated and terrified at the idea. I've never come across decent gluten free puff pastry, most companies, books etc don't even attempt it, though to be fair most normal cook books tell you buy the pre-made stuff but no-one makes premade gluten free puff pasty so I had been thinking about trying it for ages.. but now I had to get off my backside and actually try it!

I decided to try and use as close as the standard recipe as I could as I really want puff pastry, not filo or strudel pastry.. real puff pastry. So I had a think. Dove Farm flour mix is a good place to start they have worked hard on that mix and for most things it does work amazingly like wheat flour. I also decided to add an extra flour for flavour and of course a gel of some sort to allow the pastry some chance of rolling. Finally I thought about liquid.. gluten free flours nearly all take more liquid than wheat flour and as it is steam that makes the layer rise I thought not having enough liquid is going to be a major problem with getting any rise at all. Considering that some recipes add acid to disrupt the gluten I thought we might, just might be able to do this as gluten can't be that intergal a part of the recipe.

I have listed the recipe as we were given it at the bottom of this post but obviously that is the standard none gluten version.

The Ingrediences I actually used were as follows, (no salt as our butter is salted)

Batch 1
1 1/2 Cups Dove Farm Plain gluten free flour
1/2 Cup Chestnut flour
3tsp Xanth gum
7/8 cup water
250g butter

Batch 2
1 1/2 Cups Dove Farm Plain gluten free flour
1/2 cup gram(chickpea) flour
2 tsp Xanth gum
2tsp pectin
7/8 cup water
125g butter (as the first batch seemed TOO buttery)

Both batches I then followed the normal instructions apart from the fact I did all the rolling out on clingfilm as otherwise I find GF dough sticks to the surface and is impossible to move. With the second batch I sprinkled a little more water between the layer a couple of times as it seemed a bit dry still.

With both batches there was a point I thought it really wasn't going to work at all, the butter was showing through so much it looked more like a pat of butter with pastry bits mixed in and I was sure we wouldn't get any noticeable layers but I am happy to say I was wrong.Chestnut dough after two turns.

Gram flour dough after two turns, noticeably drier.

While I had worries about there being no layers the dough actually rolled very well, much better than I'm used to it doing, perhaps because I am getting better at judging how much liquid is needed I'm not sure. The cling film and making sure the top is well dusted with flour helps too.

The chestnut dough after 6 turns cut through.

Both batches cooked well though i ended up pouring off butter on the first batch there was so much which is why I cut the butter in half for the second and I honestly think that was plenty.

As you can see I did get layers on both and while they didn't rise as much as some people's I think they did pretty well and they certianly tasted good. I will definatly do this again next time I really want puff pastry!

For the fillings I did whipped cream and toffee apple slices for the chestnut ones and cream cheese with ham and tomato for the gram flour ones as I always find gram flour goes well with cheese and also because my six year old wanted cheese and ham! One of the other daring bakers did a beetroot and goats cheese filling I might try later as I still have a few that haven't been filled and eaten.

I cooked the cutouts with a little cheese topping as well so they were more like flakey cheese biscuits. Finally I made a cheese turnover with the remaining pasty just to see how it came out and it was a really nice little snack.

Do pop over to the Daring Kitchen and check out everyone else versions, some are just fabulous.


Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough

From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

Steph’s note: This recipe makes more than you will need for the quantity of vols-au-vent stated above. While I encourage you to make the full recipe of puff pastry, as extra dough freezes well, you can halve it successfully if you’d rather not have much leftover.

There is a wonderful on-line video from the PBS show “Baking with Julia” that accompanies the book. In it, Michel Richard and Julia Child demonstrate making puff pastry dough (although they go on to use it in other applications). They do seem to give slightly different ingredient measurements verbally than the ones in the book…I listed the recipe as it appears printed in the book.

2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) 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/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter

plus 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.

Steph’s extra tips:

-While this is not included in the original recipe we are using (and I did not do this in my own trials), many puff pastry recipes use a teaspoon or two of white vinegar or lemon juice, added to the ice water, in the d├ętrempe dough. This adds acidity, which relaxes the gluten in the dough by breaking down the proteins, making rolling easier. You are welcome to try this if you wish.

-Keep things cool by using the refrigerator as your friend! If you see any butter starting to leak through the dough during the turning process, rub a little flour on the exposed dough and chill straight away. Although you should certainly chill the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns, if you feel the dough getting to soft or hard to work with at any point, pop in the fridge for a rest.

-Not to sound contradictory, but if you chill your paton longer than the recommended time between turns, the butter can firm up too much. If this seems to be the case, I advise letting it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to give it a chance to soften before proceeding to roll. You don't want the hard butter to separate into chuncks or break through the want it to roll evenly, in a continuous layer.

-Roll the puff pastry gently but firmly, and don’t roll your pin over the edges, which will prevent them from rising properly. Don't roll your puff thinner than about about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick, or you will not get the rise you are looking for.

-Try to keep “neat” edges and corners during the rolling and turning process, so the layers are properly aligned. Give the edges of the paton a scooch with your rolling pin or a bench scraper to keep straight edges and 90-degree corners.

-Brush off excess flour before turning dough and after rolling.

-Make clean cuts. Don’t drag your knife through the puff or twist your cutters too much, which can inhibit rise.

-When egg washing puff pastry, try not to let extra egg wash drip down the cut edges, which can also inhibit rise.

-Extra puff pastry dough freezes beautifully. It’s best to roll it into a sheet about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick (similar to store-bought puff) and freeze firm on a lined baking sheet. Then you can easily wrap the sheet in plastic, then foil (and if you have a sealable plastic bag big enough, place the wrapped dough inside) and return to the freezer for up to a few months. Defrost in the refrigerator when ready to use.

-You can also freeze well-wrapped, unbaked cut and shaped puff pastry (i.e., unbaked vols-au-vent shells). Bake from frozen, without thawing first.

-Homemade puff pastry is precious stuff, so save any clean scraps. Stack or overlap them, rather than balling them up, to help keep the integrity of the layers. Then give them a singe “turn” and gently re-roll. Scrap puff can be used for applications where a super-high rise is not necessary (such as palmiers, cheese straws, napoleons, or even the bottom bases for your vols-au-vent).


  1. Doesn't that look like perfection! Great job on this month's challenge.

  2. Chestnut flour? What a brilliant idea! Great job :)

  3. Your puff pastry looks amazing! Great Job!!!

  4. Both look amazing!! Wonderful job with this challenge =D.

  5. Amazing job! I've been thinking about glutenfree puff pastry also, but wasn't sure that i could get a dough that would be firm enough to stand up to all the rolling without getting overly tough. yours looks great!

  6. Congratulations! It looks beautiful!

  7. I am envious of the puff..indeed!

  8. Wow! I am so impressed you were able to really pull apart the original and put together two successful alternatives. I love the idea of chestnut flour.

  9. Oh I was so interested to see if anyone successfully made gluten-free pastries! They look phenomenal, awesome job!

  10. Gluten free puff pastry - way to to go!!

  11. I've said it before and I'll say it again.. alternative bakers always blow me away. You all have to practically become chemists to achieve the same results as those of us who can use wheat flour and other traditional ingredients.

    To be honest, I was expecting to see a flatter v-au-v. Yours looks AMAZING, Esther. Truly.

    It looks super flaky and buttery and delicious and I love the fillings - I'm with your son - ham & cheese is always good! :)

    Beautiful job!

  12. You are fabulous it is so hard to do gf puff pastry and you did it, wonderful work and ham/cheese yeah. Bravo Bravo Barvo on a marvellous result. I have bookmarked this post for future reference. Cheers from Audax in Australia. Amazing!!!!!

  13. great job on this it looks great - gluten free puff pastry is not the easiest but this is great!

  14. nice! I admire your experimentation and I think it looks lovely!

  15. Your puff pastry look fantastic! You did very well, considering you didin’t use flour:))
    Great job!

  16. Amazing!! You did a fantastic job making this gluten free.

    Also, "both elated and terrified" describes my feelings EXACTLY upon learning about this challenge!

  17. Very nice results for Gluten-Free. Very cool... I might borrow the recipe to cook for a friend that's gluten-intolerant.

  18. Chestnut flour is not only brill, but it makes a beautiful colored puff pastry. I want the cheesey one badly! Once again, you knocked one out of the park :)

  19. Oh wow, I admire everybody who is working with alternative methods and it's coming out beautifully, where I even can't get a 'straight forward' recipe right.
    It looks absolute yummy!

  20. I always admire the gf bakers. It looked great, and I bet it was a challenge!

  21. Awesome job on your vols au vents! I have never tried chestnut flour.