Daring Bakers and puff pastry
Whew! I feel like falling into a chair and closing my eyes for the rest of football season. My first Daring Bakers challenge is behind me, and though I am very happy that I took part in it, I’m a wee bit exhausted.
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.While not an exceptionally difficult recipe in theory, I found myself mentally tied up over this challenge ever since it was announced on September 1. When would I make it? How long would it take? Would my husband corral the kids long enough for me to do this? When would I bake it? Would I fill the final vols-au-vent with savory or sweet? These questions seemed to repeat on a loop in my brain for weeks, until I finally dug into the challenge and got a little (okay, much) flour on my hands.
I have several cookbooks on my shelves with recipes for classic puff pastry, and if you are interested in the instructions given by the Daring Kitchen for this assignment, you can visit them here. The recipe takes patience, a close adherence to timing–such as giving your pastry dough time to chill in between “turns” (rolling it out again)–and attention to detail, with fork-pricking, egg-washing, shape cutting all jockeying for position in the process. All in all you are simply creating layers of butter and dough, folding, rolling out to create more layers of butter and dough. With a tri-fold before every turn, and six turns, you end up with fourteen million layers of butter and dough. Which means when you bake the puff pastry, the moisture and fat in the butter create air pockets inside the flour dough, resulting in a light, layered, delicious pastry.
I decided to turn my puff pastry into a savory meal, filling the vols-au-vent with my favorite chicken pot pie recipe. It comes from Emeril’s TV Dinner, and is absolutely the best chicken pot pie recipe you can find. It is mildly labor intensive. All that really means is that you should look this recipe over and plan ahead. If your potatoes, carrots, onions, celery and parsley are chopped and your chicken is cooked and shredded or cut up, the recipe itself will fall together quite quickly and easily.
First a few photos of my puff pastry process, with Emeril’s recipe below. I’m sure that my final product is quite amateurish by some standards. My The New Making of a Cook cookbook, is almost oppressive in its directions on making puff pastry. However, rather than turn that into a reason never to make this again, I would simply agree to accept mediocrity (as I have in the past) in order to obtain this delicious result.
Chicken pot pie
6 T unsalted butter
1 c chopped yellow onion
½ c chopped celery
salt and pepper to taste throughout cooking process
6 T flour
2 c chicken stock
1 c half-half
2 c peeled diced potatoes, cooked in boiling water 6-8 minutes
1 c diced carrots, cooked 4-5 minutes
1 c peas (fresh or frozen, thawed)
2 c shredded cooked chicken (one full chicken breast usually makes 2 cups diced meat)
1 T chopped parsley (Italian flat leaf)
Melt butter over medium high heat and sauté onions and celery, season with s & p, stirring for 3-4 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring for 3-4 minutes to make a blond roux (this will thicken almost to a paste). Stir in the chicken stock and bring liquid to boil. Reduce heat and simmer as sauce thickens (4-6 minutes). Stir in half-and-half and cook for 4 minutes. Season with s & p. Stir in the potatoes, carrots, peas, chicken and parsley, season with s&p and mix well. Pour a generous 1 1/2 cups or so of the hot pot pie mixture into a freshly baked vol-au-vent (it will probably spill over) and serve.
Hope you enjoy this chicken pot pie either with your own vols-au-vent, or in a casserole lined and topped with a pie crust (which you would then bake at 400 degrees for about 25-20 minutes, until the crust turns a nice golden brown).