Monday, 5 January 2009
Vol au Vents - A Christmas Meal
One of the culinary experiences that I thoroughly enjoyed as a Student in Melbourne was Vol-au-Vents. I used to love sinking my teeth into the puff pastry shells filled with all sorts of creamy, delightful fillings. There was this delicatessen just down the road from where I lived, on Dandenong Road, that used to serve these delightful seafood Vol-au-Vents. Such lovely memories! Those memories are exactly what prompted me to make and serve these delicious Vol-au-Vents for Christmas dinner.
I made some small vol-au-vents and also bigger versions simply because I was getting lazy cutting out the smaller ones and also because I wanted to see how larger Vol-au-vents would turn out. Suffice to say that size does not matter as far as Vol-au-vents are concerned!!
Vol-au-Vents are a French word which literally translated means 'flight in the wind' and apparently refers to the lightness of the pastry. The vol-au-vent is said to have been created by the famous French chef Carême, whoever he might have been and the vol-au vent is supposedly pronounced 'vawl-oh-VAHN' although I have always known it pronounced as 'vawl-or-VAWN'. Then again, I learnt that in Australia and they are by no means experts in French - and neither am I!
Although I left Melbourne in 1990, I used to visit rather often in what was known as my Annual Pilgrimage. Most of the time, I'd indulge in some vol-au-vents while I was there. It's been 11 years since I last visited Melbourne though, and thus 11 years since I've had a Vol-au-Vent. I'd always wanted to make my own but never had the gumption to try - until now!
I researched how to make vol-au-vents on the web and basically found two methods. One is where for each vol-au-vent, you cut out two circles of puff pastry and then cut a smaller circle into one of the circles to form a ring. Place the ring over the first circle and press firmly. Use some egg wash if you like. With the circles that are cut out, you then then roll them out again to maximise the use of the pastry sheets. Bake in 200C oven till nicely puffed up and then let them dry out a while in the cooling oven.
The second method involves some wastage but is far easier especially if using ready made puff pastry sheets. Place two sheets one on top of the other and then press down firmly. Using round cookie cutters, press out circles (double layered) and then using a smaller diameter cutter, press down in the center to form a concentric circle BUT not too deep as to cut into the second layer. Bake in 200C oven till nicely puffed up and then cut out the inner circle. You can use this 'top' to cover the finished vol-au-vent but I prefer leaving them open. Put the open pastry shells back in the oven to dry out a little.
Once you've made your vol-au-vents, prepare the filling. I used my Chicken Pie filling for these vol-au-vents. Once the shells are filled, bake them in the oven again just to heat it up, dry it a little more and make it oh so flaky.
The results were delicious and my parents, my parents-in-law and most importantly the Lovely Wife and the Kids absolutely loved these.
In hindsight, the placing of a ring of pastry over a circle produced nicer, puffier vol-au-vents. I'm just so happy that I finally know how to make this delicious pastry shells and they no longer need to be just a wonderful memory!