Making the puff pastry was not difficult at all. I had two sticks of butter in, so I just halved the recipe. The real key as others have remarked is keeping the butter cool and contained within the dough. Working quickly is the key and then chilling the dough between alternate turns.
Making the vols-au-vents was more problematic. Again, the dough needs to be kept chilled. Our refrigerator seems to be stuffed with all manner of left-overs, so finding room for a baking sheet with the cut disks of dough was impossible. Also, when I put the slipat on the disks to inhibit rising, the vols-au-vents ended up sticking to the slipat. As a result, my first batch came out less than ideal. I then decided to make a second batch, which I cooled on a small piece of parchment paper that I was able to fit into the meat drawer. I baked the second batch in a jelly-roll pan with a piece of parchment paper laid over the top and the slipat on top of that. The edges of the pan kept the slipat from weighing down on the disks and the sticking was minimal.
I filled the baked vols-au-vent with a simple smoked salmon salad of quartered cherry tomatoes, diced red onion, avocado, homemade smoked sockeye salmon, alfalfa sprouts, salt, olive oil, dill and lemon juice. I thought the lightness of the salad was a nice balance to the richness of the vols-au-vent.
I guess I'm more a chicken and dumplings person, than a vols-au-vent filled with creamed chicken guy. I like puff pastry when used with a dish like Beef Wellington, but don't know that I would go to the trouble of making it for vols-au-vent unless I really wanted to impress someone. It's essentially a container for the dish you are presenting, and I think it runs the risk of drawing the focus away from your main dish.
The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.
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