A Vol au Vent is a pastry case made from puff pastry, the
centre of which is hollow to accommodate a filling. The French name translates
to "fly with the wind" i.e. vol = Fly au = with + Vent =wind which
obviously alludes to their light and airy nature.
They can be any
size or shape (although round is the best known) and are traditionally
filled with a savoury cream sauce-based mixture, to which other ingredients are
added such as chicken, fish, meat or vegetables. They can also have
sweet fillings and non dairy based savoury fillings.
Once the pastry has been baked, the central part
of the top is removed and often served as a lid, and any soft pastry underneath
removed and discarded, leaving a shell.
The finished dish can be served as a canapé,
starter, main course or dessert depending on the size and filling.
What's the difference between a Vol au Vent and a
The name Bouchées is given to the very small versions of vol au vent which are
served as canapés with cocktails or at parties.Believed to have been
invented by the wife of Louis XV, Marie Leczinska who liked to serve a variety
as appetisers to her guests at court, these are small enough to be
eaten in one or two bites, so are generally no larger than 5cm/2" in diameter.
In France they are still sometimes referred to as Bouchées à la reine -
What type of pastry is used for vol au vent cases
Whatever the size of vol au vent, the pastry used
is puff pastry. Once baked, it rises considerably and has a very
light layered effect. Making puff pastry is a little time consuming but there
are now some very good ready made chilled or frozen types available. In general,
you need about 450g/1lb of pastry to make 12-16 small vol au vent cases
How to make vol au vent
Forming the vol au vent cases
The method of making the cases depends on the
size being made.
small Bouchées (party sized cases), the pastry is
rolled out to a minimum 6mm/¼" but no thicker than 1cm/½" and is then cut
into shapes no larger than 5cm/2" in diameter. A smaller shape is then scored
into the top of the cut pastry with the tip of a small sharp knife, without cutting all the way through and leaving
a 6mm/¼ " border.
Once baked, the middle section which was scored is easily
removed, and any soft pastry scooped out or simply pressed down firmly leaving
a cavity ready to be filled .
when making larger sizes, it is often preferable
to cut two
shapes for every vol au vent then cut the central part
out of one completely creating a ring, making sure to leave a larger border in proportion with the overall
size. The second piece of pastry which will form the base is scored as
above and pricked with a fork
several times to help it rise evenly and brushed with beaten egg.
The pastry ring is then placed on top of
the scored piece, which in effect, doubles the height of the
sides of the finished vol au vent. The middle part which was cut out can also be baked separately
and used as a lid.
Cooking the vol au vent cases
It is very important to preheat the oven to very hot before putting the unbaked
pastry cases into the oven. The temperature should be 200C, 400F, Gas Mark 4.
Place the cases on a flat baking tray and bake for 10 - 15 minutes until golden
brown, well risen and firm.
Once baked, remove from the oven and immediately either cut around the central
section and remove any excess soft pastry or, press the central section down
firmly using the base of a wooden spoon or similar. Place on a wire tray and
allow to cool completely before filling.
Assembly: Filling Vol au vent cases
Whether you are making hot or cold vol au vent, there are a few rules you
should follow to ensure the finished articles are successful:-
pre-bake the cases
attempt to place the filling into uncooked (raw) pastry cases
allow the cases to get cold before filling
using very runny liquids e.g. gravy except as a moistener
not over-fill - this is especially important with the smaller Bouchée types
which will be eaten with the fingers
making hot vol au vent, the cases can pre-filled and allowed to cool,
then re-heated in a
hot oven (180C, 350F, Gas Mark 4) for 10 - 15 minutes or as the recipe directs
making cold vol au vent, the pastry tastes and eats better at room temperature,
so if possible keep the unfilled cases at room temperature for half an hour
Vol au Vent Filling
Recipes and Ideas
Traditionally, fillings were savoury and made with a thick cream based sauce to
which other ingredients such as poultry, fish, meat and vegetables are added.
However there are many fillings which can be made without using a dairy based
sauce - both sweet and savoury.
Below are a few filling ideas and recipes for party vol au vent to help you on
your way, but do experiment and use your favourite ingredients.
Spinach and Camembert or Brie
Sautéed Wild Porcini Mushrooms
Caramelised Red Onion
Stilton & Onion
Sweet Vol au Vent Fillings Ideas
Fromage Frais or whipped double cream with berries such as
raspberries, redcurrants, strawberries and blueberries
Mincemeat - serve warm but not too hot
Stewed fruit such as apples, plums, peaches - cold topped with crème
fraîche, whipped cream of warm with very thick custard
Jam with whipped Cream