© Denzil Green
A Vol-au-vent is a French baked puff pastry casing, hollow inside and with a lid. It's served with a savoury filling (usually creamy) in it; it's not always served with its lid.
It is made from rolled-out puff pastry. You cut two circles of the same size, and then cut a hole out of the centre of one.
You then put that one with the hole out of it on top of the whole one, and pinch the edges a bit so they'll stay together.
Bake that, along with the pastry that was cut out off to the side.
The way the joined pieces rise in the oven forms a bowl with edges on it.
Vols-au-vent can vary in size from appetizer size to meal size. In French, the small appetizer-sized ones are called "bouchées", the most well-known recipe perhaps being "Les Bouchées à la Reine", or perhaps "Bouchées Financières."
You can buy Vol-au-vent cutter sets, which are a set of solid rings made of aluminum of different sizes, generally ranging from 4 inches (10 cm) to 9 inches (23 cm) wide. Each has a hole in the middle to help guide the centre cut you have to make. They are quite pricey, though, about $80.00 US (2005 prices.)
You can just buy Vols-au-vent already made at some stores.
Baking Vols-au-vent on a doubled-tray may help prevent the bottoms from becoming too brown.
In French, "Vol-au-vent" means "flight in the wind." The correct plural actually is "vols-au-vent", not "vol-au-vents."