Daring Bakers - Vols au Vent

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' Challenge has been chosen by Steph of a whisk and a spoon. Steph chose Vols-au-Vent, which we are pretty sure in French means, “After one bite we could die and go to heaven!”

So at first I didnt feel intimidated by trying my first Daring Bakers challenge... but when I started seeing the pictures of others on the forum, I felt more and more scared. I had all the ingredients in the house, but it took me another week to gain enough confidence to actually give it a shot.

At first it was ok, I had some problems with the butter being too soft but the turns went ok. Although after the 3rd or 4th turn the dough got a bit sticky and butter seemed to be oozing a bit. I did the 5th turn like that too, and then my boyfriend needed the kitchen and I forgot about the pastry. I picked it up again after 1.5 days and the dough was soo much better to work with. It was really cold, and no more stickyness or butter oozing. And I started wishing I knew this before hand so my pastry would be better.

The first vol au vents I made didn't really rise much. There was butter all over the parchement paper, but it didnt really help my pastry rise, and it even felt undercooked.
The second try I made sure the pastry was really cold, and the oven was nice and hot, but the vol au vents still didn't really rise like some of the ones I have seen at others.

Still it was great to make these, and become part of the Daring Bakers. I will definitely give the vol au vents another go. And maybe to 2 rings instead of 1 to see if that works better. If anything they were really tasty! It was my first time working with puffpastry, and it was a lot of fun, eventho it was frustrating at times.

Some really good movies on how to make puffpastry are:

Makes 2 ½ pounds dough
354 gram unbleached all-purpose flour
142 gram cake flour (substitute with normal all purpose flour -2 tablespoons flour +2 tablespoons of cornstarch)
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
300 ml ice water
454 gram very cold unsalted butter
Plus extra flour for dusting work surface

Mix the dough:
Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.
Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)

Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that’s about 1″ thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.

Incorporate the butter:
Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with the all-purpose flour (a cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10″ square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with “ears,” or flaps.

Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don’t just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8″ square.

To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it. You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Make the turns:
Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 50 cm / 24″ (don’t worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 50cm / 24″, everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).

With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24″ and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.

Chill the dough:
If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you’ve completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.

The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.

Form and bake the vols-au-vent:
Yield: 1/3 of the puff pastry recipe above will yield about 8-10 1.5” vols-au-vent or 4 4” vols-au-vent
In addition to the equipment listed above, you will need some egg wash (1 egg or yolk beaten with a teaspoon of water or milk)

Line a baking sheet with parchment or silicone mat and set aside.

Using a knife or metal bench scraper, divided your chilled puff pastry dough into three equal pieces. Work with one piece of the dough, and leave the rest wrapped and chilled. (If you are looking to make more vols-au-vent than the yield stated above, you can roll and cut the remaining two pieces of dough as well…if not, then leave refrigerated for the time being or prepare it for longer-term freezer storage. See the “Tips” section below for more storage info.)

On a lightly floured surface, roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick. Transfer it to the baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the cutting.
(This assumes you will be using round cutters, but if you do not have them, it is possible to cut square vols-au-vents using a sharp chef’s knife.) For smaller, hors d’oeuvre sized vols-au-vent, use a 1.5” round cutter to cut out 8-10 circles. For larger sized vols-au-vent, fit for a main course or dessert, use a 4” cutter to cut out about 4 circles. Make clean, sharp cuts and try not to twist your cutters back and forth or drag your knife through the dough. Half of these rounds will be for the bases, and the other half will be for the sides. (Save any scrap by stacking—not wadding up—the pieces…they can be re-rolled and used if you need extra dough. If you do need to re-roll scrap to get enough disks, be sure to use any rounds cut from it for the bases, not the ring-shaped sides.)

Using a ¾-inch cutter for small vols-au-vent, or a 2- to 2.5-inch round cutter for large, cut centers from half of the rounds to make rings. These rings will become the sides of the vols-au-vent, while the solid disks will be the bottoms. You can either save the center cut-outs to bake off as little “caps” for you vols-au-vent, or put them in the scrap pile.

Dock the solid bottom rounds with a fork (prick them lightly, making sure not to go all the way through the pastry) and lightly brush them with the egg wash. Place the rings directly on top of the bottom rounds and very lightly press them to adhere. Brush the top rings lightly with egg wash, trying not to drip any down the sides (which may inhibit rise). If you are using the little “caps,” dock and egg wash them as well.
Refrigerate or freeze the assembled vols-au-vent on the lined baking sheet while you pre-heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). (You could also cover and refrigerate them for a few hours at this point.)
Once the oven is heated, remove the sheet from the refrigerator and place a silicon baking mat (preferred because of its weight) or another sheet of parchment over the top of the shells. This will help them rise evenly. Bake the shells until they have risen and begin to brown, about 10-20 minutes depending on their size. Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (180ºC), and remove the silicon mat or parchment sheet from the top of the vols-au-vent. If the centers have risen up inside the vols-au-vent, you can gently press them down. Continue baking (with no sheet on the top) until the layers are golden, about 15-20 minutes more. (If you are baking the center “caps” they will likely be finished well ahead of the shells, so keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when browned.)

Remove to a rack to cool. Cool to room temperature for cold fillings or to warm for hot fillings. Fill and serve.
Although they are at their best filled and eaten soon after baking, baked vols-au-vent shells can be stored airtight for a day.

Shaped, unbaked vols-au-vent can be wrapped and frozen for up to a month (bake from the frozen, egg-washing them first).

Couscous Salad with Mint and Shoarma

Today was a lovely day. And sadly this was most likely the last nice day of this summer. Autumn is coming, it's a shame really. There are so many things I still want to do, most of them involve playing in the garden with fresh herbs and learning how to grow them.

This growing season has been short for us. We moved into this house in May. Before that we didn't have a garden and thus didn't really grow any herbs at home other then the basil, chives and parsley that lived on the kitchen window ledge.
After we settled into this house and finished everything inside, we started work in the garden. At first I hated it. Getting soil under my fingernails, dirty hands... really I had brown, rather then green fingers. That changed when my boyfriend suggested that we could dedicate part of the garden to be a herb garden. I loved the idea, cooking with lots of different fresh herbs out of our own garden. What could be better then that! Since then, my knowledge about plants, gardening and herbs has grown a lot and I wish that there was more summertime left. It feels that I now need to wait forever until I can grow new things again. Of course growing season is not over, and I can still enjoy all the fresh herbs we have in the garden, but I want more.

This salad gives me that summery feeling you need at the end of the season. It has a great orangy and minty flavor, with tasty little chunks of shoarma meat. Last week I did a post on how you can make your own shoarma spices in case you can't buy shoarma meat in the supermarket. I hope you like it as much as we did this summer!

This post will be my first entry to Weekend Herb Blogging. This week it is hosted by Chriesy of Almond Corner.

Couscous Salad with Mint and Shoarma (serves 4)
150 gram Couscous
250 gram Shoarma
1 Cucumber (optional)
3-5 Tomatoes
4 Sundried Tomatoes (on oil)
2 Oranges
2 Lemons
2 tablespoons Pine nuts
6 sprigs of Mint
20 gram of fresh Parsley

1. Put the couscous in a bowl. Add the zest of the lemons and oranges to the couscous, squeeze the juice out of the oranges and lemons and add too. Put aside.
2. In the mean time roast the pine nuts and let them cool down on a plate. Fry the shoarma meat, and let this cool down also.
3. Clean the tomatoes and cucumber and chop into small pieces. Chop the mint and parsley, keeping a few good leaves aside and add this, together with the meat, to the couscous. Stir and let it stand for half an hour so the couscous can take in all the fluid. Season to taste.
4. Cut the sun dried tomatoes into small strips, add this with the pine nuts and separate leaves to the salad and serve. Enjoy!

Cinnamon Biscotti

We have a grain mill at the end of the road, and they mill and sell organic flours. And as I always have trouble finding nice flour, and I have a darking bakers recipe to bake which involves a lot of flour, I had to go and test this flour to see if it was good enough. So I went to the mill shop and got us some nice all-purpose flour.

As I have been baking a lot of chocolate recipes lately I felt it was time for something else. And as I have a sweet tooth, it was going to be something sweet.

After a long day walking around in Amsterdam with some friends I came home exhausted. I fell asleep on the couch as soon as we came back home. But the longing feeling of baking was still there, so there I was, standing in the kitchen at 22.000 baking cinnamon biscotti. I found the recipe the other day, now I know they aren't chewy and definitely not chocolaty, but they were delicious! And the next day they were even better.

I've never had biscotti before these, but my boyfriend did and said that these were exactly how biscotti were supposed to taste. I myself would have liked to be a bit more crunchy so next time I will use the Italian way of making biscotti instead of the American way.

For those who don't know the two ways of biscotti. The American version uses butter in the recipe to make the bscotti a bit more chewy, whereas the Italian biscotti are so hard that you might have to dunk them in some hot tea or coffee to make them softer so they wont break your teeth.

Cinnamon Biscotti
310 gram all-purpose flour
150 gram sugar
1 1/2  teaspoons  baking powder
1 1/2  teaspoons  ground cinnamon
1/4  teaspoon  salt
3  large eggs
2  tablespoons butter, melted
2  teaspoons  vanilla extract
2  tablespoons  sugar
1/2  teaspoon  ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 160°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
1. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture. Combine eggs, butter and vanilla; stir with a whisk. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.
2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead lightly 10 times. Shape dough into a 16-inch-long roll. Place roll on the baking tray; flatten to a 3/4-inch thickness. Combine 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; sprinkle over dough.
3. Bake at 160 °C for 30 minutes. Remove roll from baking sheet; let cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Cut roll diagonally into 24 (1/2-inch) slices. Place, cut sides down, on a baking sheet. Bake at 160 °C for 10 minutes. Turn cookies over; bake an additional 10 minutes (cookies will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool). Remove from baking sheet; let cool completely on a wire rack and enjoy!


Shoarma or as the other going name is Shawarma, is a really popular Middle Eastern dish in Holland. It's a sandwich-like wrap of shaved lamb, goat, chicken, turkey, beef, or a mixture of these meats. Beef can be used for shawarma instead of lamb, and turkey is used instead of chicken. In Saudi Arabia, goat is as common as beef or lamb. Less common alternatives include fish and sausage. In the Netherlands you can also buy it with pork, and that is probably because its a cheap meat that goes well with the spice mix. Shawarma is a fast-food staple across the Middle East and North Africa. Shawarma here is eaten with in pita bread with some lettuce and lots of garlic sauce. Sometimes there is some hot chilli sauce on too, but thats not everyones cup of tea.  Other dressings include tahini and hummus. Chicken shawarma is served with garlic mayonnaise and / or a hot chili sauce.

Originally shawarma is prepared by placing strips of meat or marinated chicken on a stick; an onion or tomato is placed at the top of the stack for flavoring. The meat is roasted slowly on all sides as the spit rotates in front of, or over, a flame for hours. Traditionally a wood fire was used, now a gas flame is common. While specialty restaurants might offer two or more meat selections, some establishments have just one skewer. Here we also use thin strips of meat marinated in the spicemix and fried off in a frying pan.

After cooking, the meat is shaved off the stack with a large knife, dropping to a circular tray below to be retrieved. Shawarma is eaten as a fast food, made up into a sandwich wrap with pita bread together with vegetables and a dressing. Vegetables found in shawarma include cucumber, onion, tomato, lettuce, eggplant, parsley, pickled turnips, pickled gherkins, cabbage, and in some countries, such as Romania, Bulgaria, Jordan, Israel, or the United Arab Emirates, french fries.

Shawarma Spice Mix

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder.
1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon piment (all spice).
1/2 teaspoon paprika powder.
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder.
1/2 teaspoon cayennepepper.
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg.
1/2 teaspoon kurkuma.
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder.
1/2 teaspoon celery leave.
1/2 teaspoon parsley.
1/2 teaspoon salt.

Mix all the spices in a bowl and marinate 500 grams of meat with 2.5 teaspoons of the spice mix. I also added 3 tablespoons of oil to the meat to make the mixing a bit easier. Let it marinate for at least half an hour. Then fry the meat and eat it with rice an vegetables or eat it the traditional way in a pita bread with some salad and garlic sauce. Enjoy!

Quesadilla's with Goatscheese and Kidneybeans

We live in a cohousing community. This is a community where we all have our own houses, but also share certain facilities with our neighbours. We also have more contact with our neighbours then what we had when we lived in our old house.

When I tell people that we live in a cohousing community I get a lot of questions. "Do you have your own house?" yes, "Do you have your own kitchen?" yes, "Do you have to spend all your free time with your neighbours?" no, but we have some chores that we do together, like taking care of the shared garden, cleaning the shared hallway and communityroom and a meeting once every other month.

Our cohousing community is divided into six clusers. And we spend more time with our own cluster then with the others. Once a month we have a potluck dinner with our cluster. This potluck needs to be attended by everyone. Then there is another weekly potluck dinner, that is voluntairy and if you want to join your free to come.

Because of the summer holidays this weekly potluck sort of stopped, and last friday it was the first time in 2 months that some of us got together and shared a meal together. Everyone brought delicious food and I want to share with you what i brought along.

This is a recipe I found on a great blog from Meeta and is called "What's For Lunch Honey?". If you don't know it you should go and have a look. I'll wait...

Right, are you back? Here is the recipe. It's slightly altered and really delish!

Quesadilla's with goatscheese and Kidneybeans
450 gram can kidneybeans, washed and drained
150 gram goat cheese, crumbled
1 onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
0.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon
salt and pepper
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 tortillas

1. Heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until fragrant and opaque - about 5 minutes. 
2. Add beans together with the garam masala, cinnamon and chili powder and stir to incorporate the spices. Allow to cook for about 3 minutes to release the aromas of the spices, then add about 150 to 200 ml of water. Simmer, stirring occasionally until the water has evaporated - about 6-8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. 
3. Using the back of a fork mash just part of the bean mixture up to give a chunky mixture. This will also make it more sticky and easier to spread it on the tortilla's. 
4. Spread the bean mixture over the 1 tortilla, leaving about 1 cm space along the edges. Scatter a third of the crumbled goat cheese over the bean mixture and cover with a second tortilla. Pressing slightly so it will stick together. Lightly brush or spray a fryingpan with oil and over medium heat place the quesadilla in the fryingpan.
5. Brown each side of the tortilla for about 2 minutes. Proceed in this manner until all the tortillas have been used. Cut the quesadillas into wedges and enjoy!

Yummy Scrummy Carrot Cake

In the Netherlands there is a joke about carrotcake. Maybe this joke contributes to the fact that noone really knows carrotcake, and when seeing the cake people wont try it.

Once upton a time there was a rabbit and he went to the baker. He asked: "Baker do you sell carrotcake???" "No" the baker said and a little bit sad the rabbit went home. The following day the rabbit went back to the baker and asked: "Do you have carrotcake???". "No" the baker said and again a bit sad the rabbit went home. Then the baker thought "I will go and bake a carrotcake." And for the next few hours the baker was busy baking a carrotcake. The next day the rabbit came to the baker and asked: "Baker, do you have carrotcake?". "Yes" the baker said "I have carrotcake." The rabbit looked at the baker and says "discusting eh!"

When the parents of my boyfriend were over for a long weekend, his mum brought over 2 small cookingbooks. On the last day of their visit the boyfriend and his dad went birdwatching and me and his mum went baking. One of the cakes his mum said was delicious was the carrot cake. I was a little bit sceptical but we tried it anyway. And she was right, it was delicious!

Allthough the chocolate cake was eaten first the carrotcake was liked by everyone. Before trying though most people asked if it didn't taste like carrots too much and if it was a sweet or savory cake.

This carrotcake is a sweet cake, it doesnt taste like carrots at all, I'm guessing the carrots give the cake an extra sweetness to it.

This recipe for carrotcake comes out of Good Food, 101 Cakes and Bakes and is altered a little bit by me. The recipe I used is below:

Yummy Scrummy Carrot Cake
For the cake:
175 gram light muscovado sugar
175 ml sunflower oil
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
140 gram grated carrots
100 gram raisins (optional)
grated zest of 1 large orange
175 gram self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg (freshly grated will give you the best flavour)

For the frosting:
185 gram cream cheese
juice of halve an orange
icing sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Oil and line the base and sides of an 18cm square cake tin with baking parchment. The easiest way to do this is to cut two long strips the width of the tin and put each strip crossways, covering the base and sides of the tin, with a double layer in the base.
2. Tip the sugar into a large mixing bowl, pour in the oil and add the eggs. Lightly mix with a wooden spoon. Stir in the grated carrots, raisins and orange rind.
3. Mix the flour, baking soda and spices, then sift into the bowl. Lightly mix all the ingredients. The mixture will be fairly soft and almost runny.
4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 40- 45 minutes, until it feels firm and springy when you press it in the centre. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn it out, peel off the paper and cool on a wire rack. (You can freeze the cake at this point.)
5. Beat together the frosting ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Set the cake on a serving plate spread the creamcheese over the cake. Put the cake in the fridge to help set the creamcheese and enjoy!