Vol Au Vent means "vessel" in French. This beautiful dessert is simply a vessel made from puff pastry dough and filled with vanilla bean pastry cream. It's served with a raspberry coulis that has been infused with lemon and thyme.
Step 1: Make the Pastry Cream
We start with the ingredients for the pastry cream: 4 egg yolks, 1/2 C sugar, 1 1/2 C whole milk, 1/4 C corn starch, 1 vanilla bean, and 2 Tbs unsalted butter.
Step 2: Whisk the Cream Base
Whisk together the yolks, sugar, and corn starch. Whisk vigorously until the stiff mixture loosens up and turns pale yellow. Then simmer the milk, and very slowly whisk the hot milk into the bowl with the egg mixture. Stir constantly until well combined.
Step 3: Heat the Cream
Pour the mixture into a medium sauce pan and place on the stovetop over medium heat. Whisk this mixture vigorously and constantly. As it comes to a boil, it will start to thicken. Remove it from the heat as soon as you feel it tighten. Slice open the vanilla bean, remove the caviar, and add it to the cream along with the butter and whisk to combine. Place the cream into a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap, placing the wrap so it touches the cream. This will prevent a skin from forming.
Step 4: Make the Vessels
Take one thawed piece of puff pastry dough (one sheet from a standard package of frozen dough). Cut eight ten centimeter circles with a cookie cutter. Take a smaller cookie cutter and cut the insides from four of the eight circles, to form four rings.
Step 5: Build the Vol Au Vents
Place the four circles on a greased sheet pan. Brush them with egg wash (1 egg mixed with one Tbs of water). Place the rings on top of each circle and brush those with egg wash too. Let these rest on the counter for about 15 minutes while you preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake them for 20 minutes on the center rack.
Step 6: Make the Coulis
While the Vol au Vents bake, make the coulis. A coulis is just a fruit puree that's used as a sauce. To make it, heat a pint of fresh raspberries (reserve four berries for garnish) in a small saucepan. Add 1/3 cup sugar, the zest of one lemon, and the juice of half of a lemon. Use a fork to smash the berries. Add a sprig of thyme, leaving it whole. Remove the sauce from the heat and let the thyme infuse it as is cools. Then remove the thyme and discard. Place the sauce in the refrigerator until you need it.
Step 7: Assemble the Dessert
Pull a bit of pastry gently from the middle of each vol au vent so you have space for the cream. Spoon the cream into a freezer bag and snip a 1/2 inch opening into one of the tips with scissors. Pipe the filling into the pastries. Garnish each of four plates with some of the coulis. Add a raspberry and some fresh thyme leaves. Serve and enjoy!