The vol-au-vent was invented by the great chef Carême (d. 1833), who replaced the earlier, heavy pastry cases with a pâte feuilletée casing so light that it might ‘fly away in the wind,’ or vol au vent.
Originally they were big enough to feed several people. The first ones were made for desserts, until the Queen of France came up with the idea of tidier, individual cases, and the classic savoury bouchée à la reine.
Today supermarkets sell individual ones and tiny ones for petit fours.
Classic fillings are mushrooms, or crayfish, eggs, or salmon or even crêtes et rognons de coq (cockeral crests and kidneys).
Image by Hautbois