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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.

Before I left for Italy, I knew that Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon would be hosting the September 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge and that she would be putting forth vol-au-vents (and puff pastry) as the challenge for DBers everywhere.

In the flurry of getting ready for my trip, I didn’t really think much about it until … ummm … yesterday when I was like, “Oh yeah. Vol-au-vents. Puff pastry. Yeah. I should get on that.”

I could look it up but am, quite frankly, too lazy and tired to do so right now but I believe that vol-au-vents means something like flying in the wind or on the wind. Or something like that. Someone will correct if I’m wrong, I’m sure.

In any event, I made like the wind yesterday and threw together a batch of puff pastry and can I just say that I was thanking Steph all along because truly, I adore making puff pastry.

It’s not that I think my puff pastry is all that great. I mean it’s good, but I’m by no means an expert and I’m sure that my puff pastry would be judged as serviceable, at the very best.

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But the act of making it is one of the most beautiful baking experiences. All afternoon long, as I rolled and turned, I kept thinking to myself: “This is what I love.”

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A quiet Saturday afternoon, a hot cup of tea, flour, butter and a rolling pin. It’s the best day I’ve had since I got back from Italy.

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I decided to fill my little puff pastry nests with a cold, dessert filling. For that I chose Italian Chocolate Mousse from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. I chose this chocolate mousse because it’s actually a recipe that I’m making along with my new friends in a new group that I joined.

Love new groups!

I actually found out about this group, called Cooking Italy, from Simone of Junglefrog Cooking (Love Simone!!!). On Simone’s blog I read about this group that cooks recipes from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. The group was created by the lovely Angela of the blog Spinach Tiger.

Once upon a time when I first started this blog, I remember thinking that I wanted to spend a lot of time really studying Hazan’s book. Of course, that hasn’t happened. While I do refer to it time-to-time, I haven’t used it nearly as much as I should and that’s a shame because Hazan is truly a treasure when it comes to Italian cooking.

I e-mailed Angela and she very graciously said I could join the group. So expect to see a lot more Hazan around here!

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I’m going to do a separate post about the chocolate mousse but in the meantime, it was lovely in the little pastry nests. I caramelized some sugar and let it harden and then added some crushed caramel pieces to the top just for a bit of crunch.

So thank you so much to Steph, for choosing this challenge and for helping me remember why I love baking so much. And thanks to Simone for introducing me to Angela who’s helping me rediscover Marcella.

Ciao!

Here’s a photo journal of my vol-au-vent efforts. You can find the recipe on Steph’s blog.

We begin with a mass of flour, butter, salt and water … and a game of tic-tac-toe.

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Bash a block of butter. Say it 20 times really quickly.

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One day I would like to receive a love letter filled with butter.

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My first turn. So pretty.

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Dough rings.

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And voila! Vol-au-vents!

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