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.


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.”


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.


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!


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.


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.


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


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


My first turn. So pretty.


Dough rings.


And voila! Vol-au-vents!