I like my Daring Bakers' Challenges, because I love playing with new ideas and it is also the only time I can go wild with my desserts! From the quirky Vegemite cheesecake, to a flower Milano Cookie Tuile, oh the possibilities are endless. I always looking forward to that big day when they reveal the next secret challenge of the month. Until when they start mentioning the words, "rolling pin"...
No! No! No! No! NO! No rolling pin! I hate rolling pin! If Rolling Pin is a rock band, it will be like Mick Jagger without his pouty lips chicken dance! Any kind of cooking that involves a rolling pin bound to be tedious task that usually involves cover half of the kitchen in flour dust, and also a 90% chance of failure from past experience. The only time when I want to use the rolling pin is probably to beat the cheesus out of a piece of tough steak for some stress relief.
Rules are rules, I got my rolling pin out with a grunt, printed the recipe out from the Daring Kitchen's forum and I am ready to tackle this month's challenge. 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.
Have to say, I haven't had much success with this challenge, maybe my heart just wasn't quite there right at the beginning. I actually have attempted this challenge twice over two weekends. On the first trial, the puff pastry is disappointingly unflattering. It's partly my fault, as I decided to cut the ingredient to make the puff pastry in half, so I don't end up with a big pile of frozen pastry in the freezer. I am not sure what went wrong, perhaps it does not have enough butter after I split them in half, as the puff pastry didn't rise as high as I would have hoped for. Besides, I didn't spend time to think of an execution for the dessert but just simply made a lemon custard tart, put it on a plate, and zig-zagged with some raspberry coulis and chocolate. It was ugly.
The pastry looks more promising on the second time. This time, I really followed the ingredients without cutting corners but resulted a lot of leftovers in the freezer. Since the challenge is about the crispy pastry, I decided to make a simple lemon custard tart to accentuate the softness of it. And also, for some reason I have this Neo-Plasticism art form by Piet Mondrian stuck in my head.
Neoplasticism is the belief that art should not be the reproduction of real objects, but the expression of the absolutes of life. To the artists way of thinking, the only absolutes of life were vertical and horizontal lines and the primary colors. A movement that strived to produce pure form and color, completely devoid of realism and the artist’s emotion.
Making gateaux, pastries and desserts are just like making edible art which I am sure some of you will agree. Ingredients are your color palettes, kitchen utensils are the paintbrush, and the plate is the blank canvas ready to be turned into an art form. Slowly, I piped the chocolate onto the plate in horizontal and vertical straight lines, and gently filled the squares with more chocolate, and raspberry or passionfruit coulis. A circle of lemon custard tart takes the center stage and gently rested on top to reflect my own interpretation of neoplasticism to bring it into a new era. Art or not, and despite the failure on the puff pastry making process, I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and definitely yet again pushed me to think outside the box.
The rolling pin is back in the third drawer down, and would not like to see it again for a long long time.
How to Make Puff Pastry Dough & Vols-au-Vent
Instead of lengthy recipe, here's an useful video on how to make it. Baking with Julia Child - http://video.pbs.org/video/1174110297/search/Pastry
More useful link how to make puff pastry
To make Lemon custard tart (basic lemon custard filling recipe derived from allrecipes.com)
Ingredients (makes 4)
100 g white sugar
30 g cornstarch
2 g salt
2 egg yolks
180 ml water
80 ml lemon juice
30 g butter
1. In a large saucepan combine sugar, cornstarch and salt and mix well.
2. Beat the egg yolks and water together, then whisk into sugar mixture.
3. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened.
4. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and butter.
5. Cover with plastic wrap until completely cooled and thickened.
6. Heat up the oven at 125ºC
7. Fill Vols-au-Vent with the cooled lemon custard.
8. Put the Vols-au-Vent on a baking tray and put in the oven. Bake for 20mins or until the filling is firm on outside but still a little wobbly in center.
9. Place it on cooling rack and let it cool down.