Tag Archives: puff pastry


We are continuing our decluttering project and have moved to the garage where we store most of our infrequently used kitchen gear. That was where we found our two croquembouche molds that have subsequently been given to our daughters. That is also where we keep our stove-top smoker (a useful item) and supplies and equipment for making sausage.

I was excited to discover in a large bin of items a set of vol-au-vent cutters. One is shaped like a fish, one is shaped like a flower, and one is shaped like a heart. The cutters are cleverly designed with a central cutter that is just very slightly shorter than the outside cutter so that it does not completely cut through the pastry. It is also designed so that if you want to make pastry shells with only one layer of pastry dough you can do so. But you can also stack layers to make a taller shell. Most cookbooks that have a recipe (not many!) recommend using three layers.img_0751

It is said that vol-au-vents were invented by the great French chef, Marie-Antoine Careme. He, by the way, is considered to be the first celebrity chef as well as the inventor of such kitchen essentials as the toque, the tall chef’s hat. His fame came from all of the elaborate dishes and food displays that he prepared for his patrons, including Talleyrand, Napoleon, Czar Alexander I, British King George IV, and one of the famous Rothschild family.

Vol-au-vents are not commonly seen on restaurant menus these days. The name translates to “flying with the wind”, presumably because of the lightness of the puff pastry casing used to contain a delicate sauced meat or poultry. The original dish was, to say the least, complicated. Here is the recipe for Careme’s version, drawn from the book, Cooking for Kings by Ian Kelly and reported on NPR by Melissa Block.


Les Petits Vol-Au-Vents á la Nesle
Brighton Pavilion and Chateau Rothschild

20 vol-au-vent cases, the diameter of a glass
20 cocks-combs
20 cocks-stones (testes)
10 lambs sweetbreads (thymus and pancreatic glands, washed in water for five hours, until the liquid runs clear)
10 small truffles, pared, chopped, boiled in consommé
20 tiny mushrooms
20 lobster tails
4 fine whole lambs’ brains, boiled and chopped
1 French loaf
2 spoonfuls chicken jelly
2 spoonfuls velouté sauce
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped mushrooms
4 egg yolks
2 chickens, boned
2 calves’ udders
2 pints cream
sauce Allemande
salt, nutmeg


Crumb a whole French loaf. Add two spoonfuls of poultry jelly, one of velouté, one tablespoon of chopped parsley, two of mushrooms, chopped. Boil and stir as it thickens to a ball. Add two egg yolks. Pound the flesh of two boned chickens through a sieve. Boil two calves’ udders — once cold, pound and pass through a sieve.

Then, mix six ounces of the breadcrumbs panada to ten ounces of the chicken meat, and ten of the calves’ udders and combine and pound for 15 minutes. Add five drams of salt, some nutmeg and the yolks of two more eggs and a spoonful of cold velouté or béchamel. Pound for a further ten minutes. Test by poaching a ball in boiling water — it should form soft, smooth balls.

Make some balls of poultry forcemeat in small coffee spoons, dip them in jelly broth and after draining on a napkin, place them regularly in the vol-au-vent, already half filled with:

a good ragout of cocks-combs and stones (testicles)
lambs’ sweetbreads (thymus and pancreatic glands, washed in water for five hours, until the liquid runs clear)
lobster tails
four fine whole brains

Cover all with an extra thick sauce Allemande.

Here’s a simpler, more modern version which uses substantially fewer ingredients along with store-bought frozen puff pastry. You can fill the pastry shell with anything you like, sweet or savory. Ice cream and berries make a good sweet choice. For savory, I have used a scallop sauce adapted from Julia Child’s recipe for coquilles St. Jacques à la Parisienne, but creamed chicken would be another good choice.  Another tip: you don’t really need the specialized cutters. You can just use the rim of a jelly glass or biscuit cutters of two different sizes. Finally, although I thought my end result tasted good, it certainly did not win any awards for appearance. The puff pastry burned around the edges where it was not covered by sauce. The lesson is to watch for burning and remove from the broiler before that happens.


Vol-au-Vent with Scallops and Mushroom Sauce

For the Pastry


  • 1 package (2 sheets) packaged puff pastry, thawed according to instructions
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon water


  1. Place the thawed sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface. Roll it gently to flatten the dough and remove creases.
  2. Using your vol-au-vent cutter or improvised cookie cutters, cut out your preferred shapes and sizes.
  3. transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment
  4. Beat the egg yolk and water together. With a pastry brush, brush the egg mixture onto the pastry shapes, being careful not to let the egg mixture drip onto the parchment as that may prevent even rising.
  5. Bake according to package instructions. Mine called for 10 minutes in a 400°F oven. I baked them for a few minutes longer to make sure the insides were done.
  6. Cool in a rack, and remove the “lid”. Hollow out the center with a paring knife and teaspoon to form a little “bowl” for the filling.

For the filling


  • 1 cup white wine
  • bay leaf
  • 2 scallions, including green tops, minced
  • 1 pound scallops, rinsed and patted dry
  • ½pound Crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • water
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter + 1 tablespoon for top
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ½ cup cream
  • few drops of lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 tablespoons Swiss cheese


  1. In a small saucepan, combine the wine, bay leaf, and scallions. Bring to the simmer. Add the scallops and mushrooms with enough water to cover them. Return to the boil and then simmer until the scallops are cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  2. Remove the scallops and mushrooms to a plate. Bring the liquid back to the boil and continue to boil until it has been reduced about half to 1 cup.
  3. In another saucepan over medium heat, stir the flour and butter together and cook for a few minutes to remove the raw taste of the flour.
  4. Off the heat, stir in the hot liquid from cooking the scallops along with the milk. Return to the heat and boil for 1 minute.
  5. Blend the egg yolks and cream in a small bowl. Gradually drizzle the sauce mixture into the egg/cream mixture, stirring constantly to prevent the egg yolks from scrambling.
  6. Return the sauce to the pan and boil for one minute. Adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. If the sauce is too thick, add more cream as needed.
  7. Combine 2/3 of the sauce with the reserved scallops and mushrooms. Spoon into four prepared puff pastry shells. Top with the remaining sauce,  sprinkle with grated Swiss cheese, and dot with butter.
  8. Place the filled shells under a hot broiler just long enough to melt and lightly brown the Swiss cheese. Serve immediately


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The other evening we were invited to a dinner party. It was a little bit of a pot luck, and we were asked to bring a light appetizer. I decided to use some puff pastry from the freezer to make empanadas, but that seemed a little bland, so I also made some mayonnaise as a dipping sauce.

Mayonnaise is so easy to make, and it tastes so much better than the bottled kind, that it seems crazy not to make your own. Especially when you have a fool-proof recipe (so far at least) from one of the world’s greatest chefs. Michel Roux of the Michelin-starred, much-honored Waterside Inn in England, has written a beautiful little book simply called “eggs” (John Wiley and Sons, 2005) filled with amazingly creative, not-so-classic and classic egg recipes including, of course, mayonnaise.

I doctored up the basic recipe using some tricks from Sarah and Evan. The additions of freshly grated horseradish and finely chopped chives or green scallion tops make a great dip that perks up the empanadas.

I filled the empanadas with hearts of palm, parsley, and grated Parmesan, but you can let your imagination run wild: tiny button mushrooms, little shrimp (is that redundant?), water chestnuts, olives (seed removed, of course), cubes of cheese, dolma filling, etc., etc., would all be good. I don’t know, but maybe a little oyster would work.

This recipe makes 20-24 appetizers depending upon how big you make the empanadas


Horseradish Mayonnaise


  • 2 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup peanut oil, room temperature
  • juice of ½ lemon, more if needed
  • ¼ cup freshly grated horseradish
  • ¼ cup chopped chives or green tops of scallions


  1. Put the egg yolks, mustard, salt and pepper in a small mixing bowl with handles and/or on a towel or other non-slip surface. Combine with a balloon whisk until smooth.
  2. Whisking continuously, add a few drops of oil. When the oil is completely incorporated, add more oil, repeating the process  until the mayonnaise thickens. You may then add the oil in a more continuous stream, but pause occasionally to make sure the oil is fully incorporated before adding more.
  3. When all of the oil has been incorporated, whisk for another minute or so until the mayonnaise is smooth. Then add the lemon juice. The mayonnaise will become visibly less yellow. Adjust with more lemon juice, salt, and pepper to suit your taste.
  4. Stir in the horseradish and chives or scallions. Add more of either to suit your taste.
  5. Refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, until ready to use. This should hold for several hours.

Puff Pastry Empanadas


  • ¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly and finely grated
  • 1 sheet commercial frozen puff pastry, thawed according to directions
  • 1 14½ ounce can hearts of palm, drained and cut into ½ inch coins
  • 1 egg, beaten well with 2 tablespoons water


  1. In a small bowl, combine the parsley and Parmesan cheese. Set aside
  2. On a lightly floured work surface, open the thawed sheet of puff pastry. With a lightly floured rolling pin, flatten the pastry to about 1/16 inch thick
  3. Using a 3 inch circular cookie cutter (a 2½ inch biscuit cutter will do) cut circles in the flattened pastry dough. Working quickly, place a palm coin and about ¼ teaspoon of the parsley/Parmesan mixture in the center of each circle.  Paint the edges of the circles with the egg mixture, using a small pastry brush.
  4. One by one and using your hands, stretch the dough gently to cover the palm disk. Pinch the edges of the half-moon empanada closed with your finger and then seal with the tines of a dinner fork
  5. Arrange the empanadas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper
  6. Paint the tops of the empanadas with the egg mixture, trying not to let it drip onto the parchment.
  7. Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 400°F for 15 minutes or until puffed and lightly browned.
  8. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack to cool.
  9. Serve with the dipping mayonnaise either at room temperature or gently rewarmed.


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I’m still learning to use my new Lytro light field camera. It has several features that make it absolutely unique. Most importantly you can focus any part of the image while it is still in the viewfinder, and unbelievably you can focus again once you upload the image to your computer (As long as you have the provided software installed). You can make images of something very close to the lens and something in the background. Then you decide which you want to emphasize or bring everything into focus. The camera is especially useful for ultra-close-ups.

I decided to play around with the camera for images of a dish to go with the shrimp, mushroom and artichoke mac and cheese from my most recent post. Actually, I had some fresh asparagus in the fridge and some puff pastry I needed to use up. I added a little pesto from the freezer, and I wound up with something easy and  a little different. The way I did things, I was only able to make three servings, but very easily – and undoubtedly better – you can make six servings by just cutting more of the stem off of the asparagus spears. The crowns are the better parts anyway.

When basil is in season and plentiful. you can make fresh pesto, but we often make extra and store it in the freezer for later use. It is also readily available in jars or frozen so that you don’t need to take the somewhat laborious extra step of making fresh pesto.


Asparagus and Pesto Bundles in Puff Pastry


  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed according to directions
  • 9-12 fresh asparagus spears, trimmed of the woody ends
  • 1 cup fresh, frozen, or bottled pesto
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, lightly browned in a dry skillet
  • 1 whole egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water


  1. On a lightly floured surface, carefully unfold the thawed puff pastry and roll with a lightly floured rolling pin until it is about 1/16 inch thick
  2. Divide the rolled dough into three strips along the fold lines.
  3. Place 3 or 4 asparagus spears in the center of each strip ( If you wish, you can divide the dough into 6 strips and use only enough of the asparagus crowns to fit the strip.)
  4. Spread a generous tablespoon of pesto over each of the asparagus bundles.
  5. Sprinkle the toasted pine nuts on top of the pesto.
  6. Paint the edges of the dough strips with some of the egg and water mixture. Fold the dough over the asparagus and pesto. With your fingers, seal the edges of the envelope. Then finish sealing, using the tines of a dinner fork and gentle pressure.
  7. Arrange the bundles on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Paint the tops of the bundles with egg and water mixture, trying not to let the mixture run down onto the parchment where it is likely to burn and may stick the baked bundles to the parchment
  8. Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 400°F for 15 minutes or until the bundles are golden brown.
  9. Serve while still warm. A little Hollandaise couldn’t hurt if you like.

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We had two of our grandchildren visit us for a few days before their parents came to take them back home. The kids wanted to do some cooking while they were here, so I tried to think of recipes that would be not only easy but also tasty. The latter is sometimes a bit of a challenge with kids who are in the process of forming their own likes and dislikes.

I remembered a leftover sheet of puff pastry in the freezer. What could be easier and tastier than a batch of palmiers, the crisp sugary  French cookies? Problem one solved.

The kids and I prepared dinner for their first evening with us. Palmiers would be the dessert, and nachos would be the main dish. All of that seemed simple enough.

We made the palmiers first so that they would be ready as soon as we finished eating the nachos.

We used a recipe from The Fanny Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1984, p 262). The only ingredients are puff pastry and sugar. That made it fun for the kids to roll out the pastry dough on a bed of sugar, fold them up, slice them, flatten them a bit with the rolling-pin, and bake them for only a few minutes. The hardest part of the process was resisting eating them before we made the nachos.




  • 1 sheet puff pastry dough, thawed
  • granulated sugar (about one cup)


  1. Thaw frozen puff pastry over night in the refrigerator according to package instructions
  2. Sprinkle a generous layer of granulated sugar on the work surface. The sugar should be spread to a larger size than the sheet of puff pastry
  3. Unfold the thawed puff pastry on the sugar. Roll out the pastry to a thickness of 1/8 inch thick using a rolling-pin and being careful to maintain the rectangular shape of the pastry.
  4. Sprinkle the top generously with more sugar.
  5. Fold the two long sides of the pastry sheet so that they meet in the middle of the sheet. Then fold one side onto the other.
  6. With a very sharp knife, using a sawing motion, cut the pastry roll into ½ inch slices. Then place each slice on one of its cut sides, flatten with the rolling-pin, and arrange on a cookie sheet lined with a Silpat cooking mat.
  7. Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 400°F for 15 minutes or until the cookies are crisp and lightly browned and the sugar is caramelized.
  8. When the cookies are baked, remove from the oven, and transfer to a cooling rack.


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A few weeks ago I had what I thought was a wonderful opportunity. I was invited to show some of my photographs in a nearby artists’ cooperative gallery. I put together about  half a dozen of my favorite images, framed, and matted them. Along with oils, watercolors, pottery, and jewelry from other artists, the photos were arranged for a show.

As is the local tradition, the new show was inaugurated with a Friday evening opening complete with sparking water, wine, and appetizers. Each artist was asked to bring some kind of food, so that set off a perpetual struggle in my mind – what to serve? I found a recipe for chorizo tapas that sounded delicious, but I worried that gallery visitors might get grease on one of the oil paintings. Then I thought of empanadas filled with hearts of palm. I had first tasted them forty years ago at a party held by one of our Brazilian friends.

The bonus that moved me toward this option  was that I had a can of hearts of palm in the pantry. At the same time, making the dough for empanadas seemed like more effort than I wanted so I decided to use frozen puff pastry. The end result turned out to be these heart of palm puffs.

Heart of palm, also called palm heart or palmito, can be harvested from the growing tips of nearly all palms, but  this may destroy the palm. The commercial variety comes from the peach palm, a plant from the Amazon that now is grown throughout Central and South America. It is sustainable without destroying the palm for future growth.  Supposedly you can find fresh palm hearts in gourmet grocery stores, but I have only seen the canned variety.

The gallery opening was crowded, and the puffs disappeared. So did the gallery. What the reader needs to know is that nearly every person who lives in Santa Fe considers himself/herself to be an artist. The other factor is that there may be more galleries than residents. That is a certain formula to assure that many galleries disappear quickly amidst the competition. That was the fate of our co-operative, and my first show did not survive for this post.


Heart of Palm Puffs


  • 1 can (14 ounces) hearts of palm
  • Old Bay seasoning
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup parsley, minced
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water


  1. Drain the hearts of palm, slice them into ½ inch coins, and marinate them, covered, in the refrigerator, with a little of the liquid from the can, a good sprinkle of Old Bay seasoning, salt, and pepper
  2. Combine the parsley and Parmesan cheese. Set aside.
  3. Thaw the puff pastry according to package instructions. Then on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough so that it is about 1/16 inch thick. It should be large enough that you can cut 40 2 inch squares.
  4. Working quickly so that the pastry does not dry out, place a heart of palm disc in the middle of half of the pastry squares. Top with a ¼ teaspoon of parsley and Parmesan cheese mixture.
  5. Dab the edges of the square with the egg yolk mixture, top with another square, and press the edges together with a fork.
  6. Place the puffs on a Silpat-lined baking tray. Brush the tops with the egg white mixture.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes in the middle of an oven preheated to 400° F.
  8. When golden brown, remove the puffs from the oven, and cool them on a cooling rack.


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Back to Europe. One of our favorite visits during our recent Mediterranean cruise was a beautiful little city just north of Marseilles. Aix-en-Provence is about the same size as Santa Fe but a lot older. We think that Santa Fe is old and it is for the USA, going back to 1510. But Aix-en-Provence dates back at least to 300 BCE and was a Roman outpost in 150 BCE. The main part of the “old” town, though,  dates to the sixteenth,  seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, while the “new” city is filled with modern buildings and young students from the several universities and colleges located there.

We spent a too-short-day strolling up the Cours Mirabeau from the elegant fountain set in the center of la Rotonde to the statue of the “Good King” René at the head of the street before turning into narrow streets lined with beautiful old houses and interesting shops. The Cours Mirabeau is a narrow street set between two wide sidewalks under palisades of towering plane trees. Moss-covered fountains sit in roundabouts in the narrow street. Banks line one side of the boulevard, and there are several cafés on the other side. The cafés include the Deux Garçons famous for hosting Cézanne, Zola, and other famous artists and writers.

Instead of stopping in one of those cafés, we chose to continue our stroll through the old town. One of our stops was a farmers’ market in the place de l’Hotel de Ville. There were rows and rows of stalls filled with fresh fish and shellfish, meats, sausages, eggs, vegetables of all sorts, jellies, soaps, and even a smiling bronze boar peeking from behind a refrigerator truck. The market stood under the shadow of a sixteenth century clock tower and flags of the European Union, France, and Provence.

Enticed by a windowful of elegant pastries, we took a break at La Boutique du Glacier with tea and coffee and pastries including a delicious napoleon.

We walked past the carousel before boarding our tour bus to end a most enjoyable day that we would like someday to repeat.



Inspired by our visit to Aix, this is an effort to make a simple napoleon with absolutely no pretenses of duplicating the wonderful pastry we enjoyed in France.

First task is to make the pastry cream. This is a cousin to the three sibling creams I wrote about a while back: creme anglaise, creme brulee, and crema catalana. The main difference with this cousin is the addition of flour which enables you to boil the sauce without worrying about scrambling the egg yolks. It is actually fairly easy to make..

Puff pastry is beyond most home cooks – at least this one – so frozen sheets of pastry become the ticket to making an easy, quick, but tasty “home-made” napoleon.



  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter


  • In a medium, heavy saucepan, heat the milk just to boiling
  • In a medium bowl, mix the sugar, flour, and salt. Then pour in the heated milk gradually, stirring to eliminate lumps. Then return the mixture to the saucepan and bring to a gentle boil, stirring continually until the mixture is thickened and smooth.
  • Remove from the heat and cool just slightly before beating in the egg yolks. Stir constantly while returning to a boil. The eggs will not curdle with the added flour.
  • Cook for about 1 minute. Then remove from the heat and, beating constantly, let it cool for about another minute before adding the vanilla and butter.
  • Continue to beat until the butter is completely  melted and incorporated into the sauce.
  • Transfer the sauce to a small bowl. Cover with plastic film directly on top of the sauce to prevent the formation of a skin, and cool in the refrigerator for an hour or mor



  • 1 sheet commercial frozen puff pastry
  • 1 batch creme patissiere
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons confectioner’s sugar


  • Remove one sheet of frozen puff pastry from the package and thaw according to package instructions
  • Place the thawed pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface and roll very lightly with a rolling-pin to smooth the folds in the pastry.
  • With a sharp knife, cut the sheet in half and then each half into 6 equally-sized bar shapes.
  • Transfer the shaped pastries onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  • Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until the tops are lightly browned
  • Cool the baked pastries on a rack. Then split each in half so that you have 24 individual layers
  • Spread pastry cream between layers, stacking them so that each pastry has four layers. You will probably need to flatten the top of the bottom pastry by slicing a thin layer off the top with a very sharp knife.
  • Brush the tops of the assembled pastries with milk and then sprinkle with a mixture of the cocoa and confectioner’s sugar using a tea strainer.

Makes six napoleons


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