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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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