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 pastry is in the ‘laminated dough” family, along with Danish dough and croissant dough. A laminated dough consists of a large block of butter (called the “beurrage”) that is enclosed in dough (called the “détrempe”). This dough/butter packet is called a “paton,” and is rolled and folded repeatedly (a process known as “turning”) to create the crisp, flaky, parallel layers you see when baked. Unlike Danish or croissant however, puff pastry dough contains no yeast in the détrempe, and relies solely aeration to achieve its high rise. The turning process creates hundreds of layers of butter and dough, with air trapped between each one. 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.
I procrastinated this challenge this month. I could list reasons but they aren't great. However, It wasn't a huge challenge to me as I've made croissants in the past and making puff pastry dough is pretty similar. Roll dough, add butter packet. Lots of rolling in "turns" and putting it back in the fridge when its not cold enough. Eventually you have it incorporated in such a way that you get lots of tasty flaky layers.
It's a time consuming process and on top of that I had to choose a filling. I was never inspired by anything new to try and finally just used vanilla pudding and kiwis. They made a lovely light dessert. Honestly, making puff pastry is not something that gets me excited or that I ever really plan to do again. I guess its good to know I can though right?
As far as mistakes, I skipped the egg wash and that was not smart b/c the layers need something to help them stay together. I also improvised on my hole cutters and so some had too big of holes and some had too little. Luckily after you add filling, it doesn't really matter. They taste good either way. If you would like to make them, be sure to visit another Daring Baker's page for the recipe. Either way, check out all those daring bakers. Some of them are super creative!