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:
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
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
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
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
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.
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