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puff pastry

Trout en Croute for Daring Cooks

trout en croute

The last week of November was quite hectic. I was travelling soon after and there were so many bakes to finish before I could take leave of my oven. As it also happened to be the Thanksgiving week, the time pressure was more. Amidst the dinners and entertaining, I had to find time to complete the month's challenge for Daring Cooks!! Fortunately, this month's challenge was easy enough to put together and completely stress-free, so, I just about managed it! :)

The 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Simone of Junglefrog Cooking. Simone chose Salmon en Croute (or alternative recipes for Beef Wellington or Vegetable en Croute) from Good Food Online.

You will notice that my title says trout and not salmon. Well, I just took some creative liberties with the protein element. You see, when I went to the fish stall, the trout looked way more appealing and fresher than the salmon. Besides, salmon to me is best eaten raw in sushi form. Butter poached salmon from steak houses have just put me off the cooked fish. Also, trout is a softer fish than the salmon and I think that worked really nicely with the sauce in this dish.

Picture 001-1

Anyway, happy as a beaver, I set off on making lunch. I had the pastry dough ready. I used store bought dough (I know that is blasphemous to all you conservatives out there but when is time is short... :)). I made the cream sauce with cream cheese, arugula, basil and spinach flavored lightly with lemon zest.

Packed and trimmed, with those neat little bows (cute, aren't they?!), the fish in pastry looked really pretty and ready for the oven. Thirty minutes later, I took it out, in heavy anticipation. Simone's sample photos of the challenge looked so beautiful, so true to the adage of eating with your eyes first. Unfortunately, I was in for a disappointment. My cooked pastry looked nothing like Simone's!! For some reason, it was neither glamorous looking nor young and taut as hers.


Nevertheless, I put my disappointment at the back of my mind and set about photographing, so we could get on with the eating. My heart was heavy but it lightened quite a bit once I took a bite of the dish! It was awesome! Light and flaky, the trout had absorbed the flavors, from the sauce, well. I had been generous with packing the sauce in the pastry, so we did not even need more on the side.

All the while, there was the nagging question in my subconscious mind about the lackadaisical appearance of the pastry. It was only later in the evening that the answer came to me. You see, as I was reading the recipe for the short crust pastry, it somehow stuck in my mind that it was like puff pastry. So, I had wrapped the fish in puff pastry. Only later, as I was mulling over the recipe, did it strike me that it was like tart crust, not puff pastry!! So there, mystery solved. Next time, I will be sure to use the right pastry. LOL!

trout en croute close up

Interestingly, the dish reminded me very much of a Parsi dish that my MIL makes, Chutney Fish. It is of similar concept; the chutney is made with coriander, green chillies and a hint of tamarind, the fish (usually pomfret) is generously coated with it and then wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed. It's incredibly delicious!

Btw, if you would like a complete en croute meal, check out my Curried Egg Pastry Cups for appetizer and Brie en Croute for dessert.

Salmon en Croute
(serves 4)

5.2 ounces/150 gr Mascarpone or creamcheese
0.6 cup/4.2 ounces/120 gr Watercress, rocket (arugula) and spinach
17.6 ounces, 500 gr Shortcrust pastry
17.6 ounce/500 gr Salmon/trout fillet (skinless)
1 egg

Heat the oven to 200°C/390 F. Put the mascarpone or cream cheese in a food processor with the watercress, spinach and rocket and whizz the lot until you have a creamy green puree. Season well.

Roll the pastry out so you can wrap the salmon in it completely (approx. 2-3 mm thick) and lay it on a buttered or oiled baking sheet (it will hang over the edges). Put the salmon in the middle. If it has a thinner tail end, tuck it under. Spoon half of the watercress mixture onto the salmon.

Now fold the pastry over into a neat parcel (the join will be at the top, so trim the edge neatly), making sure you don’t have any thick lumps of pastry as these won’t cook through properly. Trim off any excess as you need to. Make 3 neat cuts in the pastry to allow steam to escape and make some decorations with the off-cuts to disguise the join if you like. Brush with the egg glaze.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and browned. To test wether the salmon is cooked, push a sharp knife through one of the cuts into the flesh, wait for 3 seconds then test it against the inside of your wrist; if it is hot, the salmon is cooked. Serve with the rest of the watercress puree as a sauce.

Shortcrust pastry

While this is not mandatory to do, I highly recommend making your own shortcrust pastry as it is very simple to do! As mentioned in the notes; please make sure to not add too much water as that is the key to having a successful shortcrust pastry.

450 gr (15.8 ounces or 3.2 cups ) of plain all purpose flour
200 gr ( 7 ounce) cold butter
pinch of salt

Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. If you have a food processor you can use that as shown in the above video.

Stir in the salt, then add 2-3 tbsp of water and mix to a firm dough. Knead the dough briefly and gently on a floured surface. Wrap in cling film and chill while preparing the filling.

For best results make sure the butter is very cold.

Daring Bakers - Vols-au-Vent

I am sooo excited!! I recently joined the Daring Baker's group and this month I completed my first challenge. Daring Kitchen is a great collection of culinary enthusiasts who challenge themselves to create some exotic item every month. I have been following some of my favorite bloggers recreating some fabulous baked goods and I finally decided to take the plunge! :)

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.

Oohhh!! Puff pastry... How many times have I happily used the frozen ones from the store for a quick appetizer, canapes or dessert?! It is one ingredient that is a staple in my freezer. And, now, I appreciate the effort and skill required to get that rectangular piece of dough that transforms into the beautifully flaky and richly buttery pastry.

Some background on puff pastry from our hostess:

Puff pastry is in the ‘laminated dough” family, along with Danish dough and croissant dough. A laminated dough consists of a large block of butter (beurrage) that is enclosed in dough (détrempe). This dough/butter packet is called a paton, and is rolled and folded repeatedly to create the crisp, flaky, parallel layers you see when baked. In the hot oven, water in the dough and the melting butter creates steam, which expands in the trapped air pockets, forcing the pastry to rise.

A vols-au-vent, as you might have guessed from the photo, is a pocket/cylinder of puff pastry that is filled with savory or sweet filling. Depending on which course you want to serve them, they can be of appetizer or main course sizes. I have a

I decided to do bite sized savory and sweet portions for this challenge. Now, that was another challenge! I pondered over what filling to make for like a week, even dreaming up flavors in my sleep. (yes, yes, I know.. I am that crazy!). Finally, I settled on mushroom mousse and shrimp orzo filling for savory and a simple lemon pudding for sweet.

Mousse just seemed to go with the French-ness of the pastry. And, mushrooms automatically lend themselves to little bites. I kept the mousse simple using just sauteed mushrooms and shallots and folding in goat cheese (which, I picked up at a Dutch festival in the city) to create the texture of the mousse.

I thought my first batch of pastry did not puff up as prettily as the store bought dough does. I tried again. The result wasn't very different and I suspect that it was because I halved the recipe and so, the measurements got skewed in the process and the butter was over processed into the dough. So, note: If you are planning to make puff pastry using this recipe, make the whole batch and then use as much as you want. Puff pastry freezes very well, so you don't have to worry about it spoiling.

For second take, I took inspiration from my lunch! I had planned on making pasta for my lunch and I thought "Why not serve little bites of pasta in a pastry!". I mean pasta gets universal acceptance and the pastry casing just added that bit of elegance that carried it off as an hors d'oeuvre! :)

For the pudding, I used instant pudding mix (I did say simple!) and tuned up the lemon flavor with fresh zest. Topped off with dark chocolate shavings, it was just about sweet enough for a bite!

So, now that the challenge is done, I must say while it was an interesting experiment, I think I will stick with the store bought sheets henceforth ....

Please visit the Daring Kitchen, to see what other bloggers have designed for their vols-au-vents!

Mushroom Mousse Vols-au-Vents

10 2-1/4" vols-au-vent shells(recipe here)
1 pint cremini mushrooms, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
2 oz goat cheese, room temperature
1 tsp milk
1 tsp chopped chives for garnish
1/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the shallots and mushrooms in a tablespoon of olive oil until the water evaporates. Season with salt, pepper, paprika and oregano. Let the mixture cool and then blend in the food processor to a smooth paste. Whip the goat cheese with a teaspoon of milk until light and airy. Fold in the mushroom mixture into the cheese. Fill a piping bag fitted with a star tip (I used Ateco #864).

Pipe the mousse into warm vols-au-vent shells. Garnish with chives and serve immediately.

You can truss this recipe up by sautee-ing the mushrooms in white wine and using mascarpone or creme freche instead of goat cheese.

Shrimp Orzo Vols-au-Vents

6 2-1/4" vols-au-vent shells
handful of orzo
2 cups lobster/shrimp/clam stock
3 T marinara sauce
1.5 T sour cream
3 shrimps sliced vertically
1/2 tsp cajun seasoning
1/4 tsp dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste
fresh grated parmigianno regianno for garnish

Cook the orzo until slightly underdone in the stock. Heat the marinara sauce and add the drained pasta to it. Cook for a minute or two until pasta is cooked. Off the heat fold in the sour cream. Meanwhile, toss the shrimps in salt, pepper, cajun seasoning and dry parsley and saute until cooked.

Spoon pasta into the vols-au-vent shells. Top each with a shrimp slice, garnish with fresh grated parmigianno and serve immediately.

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