Whenever I think of puff pastry, I wonder how anything that should be so heavy could ever be so light. It is that lightness that gives meaning to vol-au-vent, literally "flying in the wind." But in my family, we always translated them as "gone with the wind" because they fly off into people's stomachs so quickly.
There are a million and one ways to make vol-au-vent, and even though the classic lidded nest in this recipe is the classic shape, I often just make little triangles or squares and call them by the same name, stuffed with anything from goat cheese and jam to brie and brown sugar. They really are blank canvases. This vol-au-vent is well grounded in tradition: a bite-size canapé made from bought puff pastry and stuffed with a creamy mushroom duxelles. The puff pastry is flaky and crispy, ready to crumble and collapse layer by layer at the very hint of a bite. And the mushroom filling is earthy and woodsy from mushrooms and thyme, and smooth from the crème fraîche.
I've always promised to show how to make classic French dishes easy with a little help from the store. This is how you do it.
- 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed but very cold
- 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 8 ounces wild mixed mushrooms, chopped to a rubble
- 1 whole, smashed garlic clove
- 2 stems fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons crème fraîche
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Lightly flour a cutting board, and place the pastry on it. Cut out 9 circles from the pastry using a 2.5-inch biscuit cutter. Use a 1.5-inch biscuit cutter to make an indent (not all the way through) in the center of each pastry circle.
Bake the puff pastry for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the mushroom filling mixture. Melt the butter in a wide sauté pan. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and thyme. Sauté the mixture over medium heat for about 4 minutes, until the mushrooms have greatly shrunk in size and the pan has dried out. Season with salt and pepper, and add the wine. Allow to reduce. Remove the garlic and thyme stems from the pan, and take the pan off the heat. Stir in the crème fraîche.
Use a paring knife to gently remove the center disc from each puff pastry shell. Reserve. Fill the cavity with the mushroom mixture, and replace the pastry disc.