When I first saw these little gems in La Cucina Italiana, the Italian kitchen magazine, I knew I was destined to try them in my own kitchen. French for “windblown,” a vol-au-vent is a small, very light and hollow pastry. They’re essentially made by cutting puff pastry into shapes, then cutting a hole in one of them before stacking the one with the hole (circle cut-out) on top of the other. Vol-au-vents can be filled and made into savory appetizers or sweet desserts. Here, these airy and flaky sweet pastries are filled with gianduia (Italian hazelnut chocolate) cream and prunes bathed warmly in red wine.
Vol-au-vent con crema gianduia e prugne sciroppate
Gianduia Cream and Prunes in Syrup
6 pitted prunes
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons Marsala wine
¼ cup water
2½ ounces gianduia or milk chocolate, finely chopped
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup whole milk
1 (17.3-ounce) package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed
Confectioners sugar for dusting
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: parchment paper; a 3-inch flower-shaped or round cutter; a 1¼-inch round cutter.
Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit with rack in middle. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small saucepan, combine prunes, 2 tablespoons sugar, Marsala and ¼ cup water. Bring to a gentle simmer; cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is syrupy and prunes are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat; set aside.
Meanwhile, place gianduia in a medium bowl, whisk together remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, egg yolks, flour, vanilla and salt. In a small saucepan, heat milk just to a simmer, then, whisking vigorously, in a slow and steady stream add milk to egg yolk mixture. Return mixture to saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking occasionally, until smooth and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, then force mixture through a medium-mesh sieve into bowl with chopped gianduia. Stir together to form smooth chocolate cram; set aside.
Using 3-inch cutter, cut out 12 rounds from puff pastry sheets. Using 1¼-inch cutter, cut out center from 6 of the rounds; discard center pieces. Transfer pastry rounds without cutouts to prepared baking sheet, placing them about ¾-inch apart, then stack rounds with cutouts on top. Bake until puffed and golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool on wire rack for 2 minutes, then transfer to serving platter. Gently push down center of the pastries to create an indent, then fill with chocolate cream and prunes. Dust with confectioners sugar. Serve immediately.
Martine’s Notes: As I did not have Marsala wine, I used a Pinot Noir as a substitute.
Recipe Source: La Cucina Italiana, January/February 2014
As a reminder we’ll be having our first book club discussion in March on Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way by Dan Buettner. I hope you’ll join us.