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The vol-au-vent

It’s a party-food classic. In the 1970s, no buffet was complete without one of these puff pastry canapés. But did you know that the vol-au-vent was already gracing dinner tables in the 1800s?

Along with the familiar creamy chicken filling (white fricassée of chickens), this nineteenth-century recipe for vol-au-vent suggests fillings of rabbit ragout or sweetbreads:

Recipe for vol au vent from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Recipe for vol au vent from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Vol au Vent

Roll off tart paste till about the eighth of an inch thick. Then, with a tin cutter, (about the size of the bottom of the dish you intend sending to table) cut out the shape and lay it on a baking plate with paper. Rub it over with yolk of egg. Roll out puff paste an inch thick. Stamp it with the same cutter and lay it on the tart paste. Then, take a cutter two sizes smaller and press it in the centre nearly through the puff paste. Rub the top with yolk of egg and bake it in a quick oven about twenty minutes. When done, take out the paste inside the centre mark, preserving the top. Put it on a dish in a warm place and, when wanted, fill it with a white fricassée of chickens, rabbit ragout or sweet bread or any other entrée you wish.


3 thoughts on “The vol-au-vent

  1. Interesting. My impression reading about cookery in the European colonies is that vol.au-vents were widely disseminated outside Europe even though the pastry is tricky. Have you run into this at all?

  2. They were certainly a pretty standard recipe for the era. The pastry is time consuming but not hard if you have patience and a really cold pastry making space (which makes it a bugger for the hotter climes), and I’ve made them with a fair degree of success. Given that so many English books were simply reprinted and exported, I’m not surprised you’ve come across them so widely.

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