frozen puff pastry, thawed
Beaten egg, for glazing
Preheat oven to 220°C. Line 2 flat baking trays with baking paper. Lay 4 sheets puff pastry on a work surface. Using a 10cm-round cutter, cut 4 circles out of each sheet of pastry. Transfer 8 circles to the baking trays. Use a 6.5cm-round cutter to cut the centres out of the remaining 8 circles. Discard or save for another use.
Brush circles with beaten egg and place rings on top of each. Brush tops of rings with egg. With the dull edge of paring knife, make shallow, angled cuts along outside edges to aerate dough so it puffs when cooked. (If making savoury vol-au-vents, see below for variation.)
Carve shallow circles into the bases along inside edges of the rings. Chill trays for 20 minutes. Bake until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Repeat with remaining 4 sheets of pastry.
Spoon in the filling as listed below.
For Savoury Vol-au-vents
Before cooking, brush the top ring with beaten egg. Sprinkle on finely chopped chilli spiced almonds, sesame seeds, walnuts or pistachios. Once cooked, cool on wire rack and fill with savoury fillings:
Add shredded smoked chicken or cooked turkey thigh meat. Spoon in freshly made mayonnaise and finely chopped French tarragon.
Top with sliced celery stalks and garnish with herbs and celery leaves.
Add 2-3 sliced peaches marinated in Grand Marnier or brandy and chunks of creamy blue cheese such as gorgonzola. Drizzle over a spoonful of honey and garnish with fresh micro mint leaves.
Spoon in béchamel sauce flavoured with white wine, and top with flaked hot smoked salmon. Garnish with a pan-fried scallop, fresh dill and lemon zest.
For Sweet Vol-au-vents
Once cooked, dip the top ring of the vol-au-vent into caramel and then sprinkle with a little pink sea salt or chopped nuts or leave plain. Then fill with sweet fillings:
Spoon ready-made custard into each case. Top with fresh fig halves marinated in maple syrup and freshly grated nutmeg. Garnish with toasted flaked almonds.
Mix crème fraîche with a dash of vanilla extract. Spoon into cases and garnish with fresh raspberries, slices of pawpaw and micro mint leaves.
Fill with ready-made chocolate mousse mixed with Grand Marnier and whipped cream. Top with hulled fresh strawberries and dust with icing sugar.