Vols-au-Vents, the Forgotten Fillings

October 31st, 2009  |  19 Comments

How do you like that? I win an award and disappear. Isn’t that typical of us big-headed rock stars.

But, really, let me fill you in (like a vols-au-vent, heh).

In the last few months, Scott and I have gone from  On-The-Rocks to Splitsville. I sure wish it didn’t have to be this way, but to borrow a phrase from the tabloids, I’ll chalk it up to “irreconcilable differences.” Funny how one week you’re bopping around Spain and the next you’re divvying up the dish set. These days, it’s next to impossible to drag myself up to brush my teeth, let alone bake, so this site has taken a minor hit during my recovery from broken heartedness and general upheaval. Thanks to the wonders of marathon television and weeks of laying about like an invalid, I’m ready to dust myself off and get back to it.

Where were we? Oh yeah, the vols-au-vents. Last we spoke, I was making puff pastry for the Daring Bakers Challenge and was gearing up to tell you about the fillings. This challenge seems so long ago now, doesn’t it? Even another has now come and gone (dangnabbit, I was really looking forward to those french macaroons. They WILL get their day in the sun.) Talking about it now makes me feel like I’m selling you a rotary phone. Completely out of touch. Luckily, these fillings are as timeless as diamonds.

One batch of vents were blessed with dark chocolate chantilly, then topped with bruleéd bananas, crushed peanuts, and a little chocolate sauce. Though there are a few different components, this dessert is simple to put together. If made with store bought puff pastry, it appears to have taken days of slaving away, but really needs less attention than an episode of Survivor. The other filling is a passion fruit curd with a smattering of pineapple dice and a drizzle of mint syrup.


I didn’t know that passion fruit puree was the unicorn of the food world — often talked about but never seen. I had a hell of a time tracking it down. Here, in New York City, of all places. You’d think there would be passion fruit puree squirting out of every corner bodega around these progressive parts. But, no. Apparently, New Yorkers are too blasé about their passion fruit puree for anyone to consider stocking it. After some unfruitful trips to local specialty food shops, I had to go so far as consulting google. Turns out they stock it here. Or you can get two 1-kilo tubs here and store in the freezer:

Passion Fruit Puree – 2/1 kg

This brand is from SOS.


I used a torch to bruleé the bananas, which makes them crackly and scrumptious. If you don’t have one, you can skip all that and just serve the Vents with sliced bananas (just be sure to slice them seconds before serving or people will think you dug them up from your backyard.)

Since I’m in a grumbly, bitching mood, here are my few cents about kitchen torches. I have a bone to pick with these:


These torches have no power. The poor flame sputtering out of the nozzle couldn’t melt an ice cube. I think they are designed for the feeble who own 2-pound dogs and can barely lift their house keys. To add insult, these torches run about $40 USD.

If you want to feel like a muscle-driven force of nature, a fiery, caramelizing machine, get this instead:


This trio can be found at the hardware store, costs around $20, and makes the most evenly golden, snap-with-a-spoon crust on all your brulee-like desserts. You can also use it to brown up a meringue topping, add some color to a gratin, or weld your jewelry. Don’t let this thing intimidate you. It’s as easy to use as it’s little, lazy cousin. This set-up is the standard at restaurant kitchens and for good reason — it works fast and gets results every time. Here’s a quickie on how to use it:


1. Screw the top on on to the canister.
2. Twist the black knob until you hear a hiss of gas.


Grind the spark maker until you activate a flame. (Makes me feel like I’m on Survivor.) Brulee to your heart’s satisfaction.

Once you finish using it, twist the black knob back until the flame sputters away. Twist the gold top off the canister, and store.


This canister of propane will last a while, to say the least.


Let’s assemble these puppies.

For the chocolate chantilly dessert:

First, make the chocolate chantilly

For 6 servings, you’ll need:

1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup (55g) heavy cream
3.5 oz (95g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
2/3 cup (110 g) heavy cream (yes, two separate measures of heavy cream)



Add sugar to the 1/3 cup cream and…



…microwave until very hot (30-45 seconds). Stir it up to dissolve the sugar.



Pour over the chopped chocolate and let it sit for a minute to allow the chocolate to melt…


…then whisk it together to make a smooth gananche.



Pour in the remaining cold cream and whisk that in.





Refrigerate this until set, about 3 hours or overnight. It gets stiff enough to poke.



Now whip it like whipped cream! (Either whip it directly in its bowl with a handheld mixer, or scrape it into a standing mixer. Or hell, just use a whisk.) It will magically fluff up. Be careful not to overwhip it, or it will break, like whipped cream.




Scrape this into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe into you vols-au-vents, building it up with a spiral motion. (If you need a refresher on filling a pastry bag, hop on over here and scroll to the ganache filling.) Do this right before serving or the puff pastry might get soggy.



Next, make the chocolate sauce

You’ll need:
4 oz (112g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup (80g) heavy cream 
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract



1. Pour the heavy cream, corn syrup and oil into a microwave-proof cup and nuke until almost boiling (you might be able to see it gurgling in the cup), about 45 seconds. It will look curdled but pay it no mind. Stir it up to blend.


Pour over the chocolate and allow to sit for a minute to melt it all.



Whisk everything until completely smooth.


Here’s your chocolate sauce. Yup, it’s that easy. (You can store this in the fridge for up to a week, but it will firm up. To bring it back to its liquid splendor, microwave it in 30 second intervals and stir between each until it’s saucy.)

Brulee the bananas

Thinly slice the bananas, and on a metal sheetpan, overlap them to make long strips. Sprinkle them with sugar.
Put that blowtorch into action. Run the flame  about 3″ above the bananas in a smooth, steady motion until the sugar is completely melted and you reach the desired color. Make sure all your sugar is melted, or the bananas will taste unpleasantly gritty. Feel free to ruin a few bananas by practicing on them.
Now assemble a plate: grab a filled vols-au-vent, pour a couple of spoonfuls of chocolate sauce on and around, slide the bananas on to the plate using an offset spatula, and sprinkle the whole thing with some chopped, salted peanuts. Try not to weep from the deliciousness.


For the passion fruit-pineapple dessert:

First, make the passion fruit curd

Follow the recipe for the lemon curd, but substitute passion fruit puree for the lemon juice.


Next, make the mint syrup

You’ll need:
1 bunch of mint
1/2 cup light corn syrup



Pick the leaves off the stems, and discard stems.



Bring a pot of water to a boil, and get a bowl with ice water ready.




Drop the leaves into the boiling water, and allow them to blanch until just wilted, about 30 seconds. This blanching step will keep the sauce bright green, even if it sits for days.



Quickly drain them…



…and “shock” them by plunging them into the ice water. This will stop the cooking and trap the greeness.



Pull them out of the water and squeeze out the excess liquid.




Drop this into a blender and pour in the corn syrup.



Blend until smooth and green.



All ready. You can store this in the fridge for a couple of weeks.



Dice the pineapple

You’ll need pineapple and granulated sugar. Here’s a very basic tutorial on cleaning and dicing a pineapple. We’re after tiny dice. They look very precious on a plated dessert.

Chop off the top and bottom of the pineapple.



Stand it up vertically, and slice off the outer husk in strips. Be sure to lop off the “eyes” too, as they are unpleasant to eat.



Next, slice the pineapple in 1/4 inch strips. Granted, doing it evenly takes a little practice, but we always do the best we can, right? Don’t include the core, just cut around it.


Slice each piece into 1/4″ batons…


…then crosswise into dice.



Taste the pineapple for ripeness, and then stir in a little sugar until it pleases m’lady (or m’lord).



Assemble right before serving. Pipe some passion fruit curd into the vents. Top with some diced pineapple and drizzle a little mint syrup over that. Go easy with the mint syrup. It’s potent in flavor.


Well done.

19 Responses to “Vols-au-Vents, the Forgotten Fillings”

  1. Christine says:

    Whilst the absence is completely understandable, it really is great to see you back.

    Also, the fillings are looking pretty delicious. Can’t wait to try them!

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Oh no! I’m so sorry to hear that Irina…I hope it’s for the best, although I’m sure that’s the last thing you’re thinking of right now. I’m glad to see you back in the swing of things though. I sure missed your sharp wit!

    Good to see you and if you ever want to cry on someone’s shoulder, I’ve always got cookies!



  3. I’m so glad you’re back! I missed you and your wonderful dessert tutorials! I have one of those baby blow torches (received it as a gift one year). Now you have me coveting yours!

  4. Joy Manning says:

    Irina! I have missed your creations as well. These pastries look amazing, in particular the chocolate one. I would probably be nervous about that blow torch but you do make it sound approachable and those bananas look awesome. Take care!

  5. Sarah says:

    Yay! You’re back!

    I completely agree with you on the torches. I worked in a fine pastry shop for about a year and caramelized many a creme brulee with the blue propane torches! We, however, had a nozzle with a trigger lighting system and a lovely fine-tune flame adjuster that could get the flame really small and blue, or giant and orange and everything in between. If ever I manage to get up enough ambition to make creme brulee or flame anything else (those torches are also useful for keeping chocolate ganache semi-liquid when used to heat the bottom of a metal bowl), I am so buying one of those suckers. Makes me feel knowledgeable when I visit the hardware store for that kind of thing. : )

  6. PastryPal says:

    Christine—Glad to be back.
    Liz—You’re going to be sorry you offered, because I’ll cry just to get cookies!
    Deanna—Thank you!
    Joy—Hope you give it a try some time, it really is easy.
    Sarah—Thanks for backing me up on those torches. The ones with the automatic nozzle are even easier, and may be worth the added expense.

  7. Lisa says:

    wishing you the best.

  8. Memoria says:

    *HUGS* I know how you feel. I’m going through a similar process. That’s why I love baking; it distracts me from the heartbreak. The bad thing is that you eventually stop baking. You eventually stop doing things…that distract you, and then you go back to thinking about the hurt, sorrow, the good times, bad times…*sigh* Wow, I’m not helping you at all, am I? haha

    On a lighter note, your vol-au-vent fillings look delicious. I always enjoy looking at your process photos. I’m glad you’re back. Let’s get over the pain and into the kitchen! :)

  9. Cara says:

    I completely have been in your shoes to the reason of your absence and absolutely feel your pain. Eat lots of chocolate, it helps, LOL! I have never tried a puff pastry before, but I may brave the waters and give it a try soon. You break things down very easily to follow!! :)

  10. Tracy says:

    Glad to see you back and healing your broken heart. Your lovely tutorials always brighten my day.

    I am going to the hardware store tomorrow, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a propane torch ended up in my basket….

    Thanks for the two vols-au-vent. The pineapple looks so tempting. I might try lime curd though — passionfruit ranks with cilantro among foods I’ve tried to like and just can’t. No ambivalence about the chocolate and caramelized bananas though! Mmmm!

  11. Sorry to hear about your news, but good to see you back – was getting worried!

    This looks so amazing. I really love how you have documented all the steps. I especially love how you’ve used bananas here. I typically only think of banana bread when I have bananas on hand. Never think of them used and presented in this way. Fantastic!

  12. Sil BsAs says:

    So glad you’re back! Maybe a trip to South America with lots of dulce de leche and alfajores can help you… =) Give me a call !

  13. PastryPal says:

    Memoria—Though, misery loves company, I’m sorry to see you have to go through this. I wish you the best.
    Cara—I eat lots of chocolate no matter what my mood :)
    Tracy—Lime curd would be a great alternative.
    Julia—Aw, thanks. Maybe we both need to come up with some banana desserts?
    Sis—What an offer! I just may show up on your doorstep :)

  14. rona chiera says:

    Honeycomb recipe.
    I love honeycombe, I cannot find a great honeycombe recipe that i like. I absolutely love your brittle recipe and my children love it too. Could you please experiment with a good honeycombe recipe for my family to love
    Thank you kindly

  15. Eleni says:

    Fantastic pastry! It was delicious and easy the way you described it. Thank you so much!

  16. Eleni says:

    I was so excited that I mistakenly wrote my comment for puff pastry on Vols-Au-Vents recipe because I was reading both at the same time to get ideas :-)

  17. Tina says:

    I stumbled upon your website because I was trying to look for a good macaron recipe. So I decided to browse your posts and my god you have good knife skills.

    What kind of serrated knife are you using to cut those pineapples? I don’t see many people own that type of knife…

  18. PastryPal says:

    Hi Tina — Thanks… years of practice :). I’m using something like like this offset serrated knife

  19. Cheryl says:

    Hi! I made these this weekend (I used store bought puff pastry, though) and it came out wonderfully delicious. I’m typing up the recipe to print/save and I just realized that the Chocolate Sauce directions do not say when to add the vanilla! (And I obviously missed that when making them). Thanks!!

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