Vol-au-Vent

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

vol-au-vent a French term, recorded in its present form in print from 1800. It means ‘flying in the wind’, denoting a very light shell of puff pastry, usually with but sometimes without a lid, enclosing a filling of commensurate delicacy. That, anyway, is the idea. In the wrong hands, what emerges is a tough pastry case full of sticky goo with a few fragments of mushroom or whatever embedded in it.

A vol-au-vent case is made from two layers of puff pastry, cut into a circle or oval with a fluted pastry cutter. A smaller cutter of the same shape is used to remove the centre of one piece. The outer ring of this piece is placed on the other piece so that when the pastry rises during baking it forms a case with a base and a wall; while the removed centre is baked separately to make a lid. A very small vol-au-vent is a bouchée (mouthful). The filling is always bound with a sauce, e.g. velouté.