Vol-au-vents

Vol-au-vents

Vol-au-vents are light, delicate, pastries that typically hold creamy, savoury ingredients.

You’ve probably seen them in the freezer section of your local grocer but if you want an extraordinary appetizer, you’ll need to handcraft your own puff pastry.

If you don’t believe me, here’s what Julie Child says about vol-au-vents in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume II:

“ … your own puff pastry makes shells so light, buttery, and flaky you can hardly believe they are real even while the pastry is melting in your mouth.”

I once made dozens of vol-au-vents for a friend’s party. The pastry shells were filled with creamed lobster and served on small napkins as finger food. Unfortunately, much of the filling ended up dribbling down the front of the guests as they attempted, unsuccessfully, to eat the appetizer in a single neat bite.

Serve vol-au-vents on small plates with a fork and large napkin.

Makes 14 shells 2”  diameter

2 pounds of chilled puff pastry, preferably homemade
flour as needed for dusting the dough
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 385 F

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
To prevent dough from sticking, roll it onto a flour-dusted sheet of parchment.

Roll half the dough and shape into a rectangle approximately 16” x 12” and about 1/4” thick.
Using a cookie cutter, stamp the pastry into 12 circles about 2 1/2” diameter. (If the pastry is too warm to cut easily, place it in the fridge for 20 minutes to firm it up.)

Cover with plastic and refrigerate while you roll out the remaining dough.

Crab Vol-au-vents

Roll the balance of the dough into another rectangle approximately 16” x 12” and about 1/4” thick.  Stamp the pastry into 12 more circles, 2 1/2” diameter, then using a 2” cookie cutter, stamp a hole in the centre of each circle; the outer ring will form the vol-au-vents’ rim.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and brush the edges with the beaten egg.  Place the pastry rings along the egg-moistened edges.

Holding a vol-au-vent in front of you, score the outer edges by etching vertical lines every quarter inch, with the dull side of a knife. This helps the dough to rise evenly.

Refrigerate or freeze until ready to bake.

Place the tarts onto a parchment-lined baking tray with an inch between each. Poke holes into the base of each tart, with a fork.

Bake the chilled dough in a pre-heated oven for about 10 – 15 minutes, or until golden, on the middle rack, rotating the pan halfway during baking.

Cool the tart shells on a wire rack.  Just before serving, fill each with 1-2 Tbsp of savoury filling and garnish with crab or lobster and dill, if desired.

Delicious filled with cooked crab and the lemony herb filling used in the chicken pot pie recipe.

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