Saturday, February 24, 2018
Cooking

Five ideas for puff pastry, from savory to sweet

With a fold, wrap or a twist, puff pastry can be part of a savory appetizer or a sweet dessert — and sometimes both. My favorite? Puff pastry, jam and a wheel of Brie. Packages of puff pastry sheets should be a freezer staple. These five easy recipes all use the standard frozen 17.3-ounce package from Pepperidge Farm. I've never attempted to make my own puff pastry, and after watching a few seasons of The Great British Baking Show on Netflix, I'm not sure it's worth the struggle when the frozen ones are just so convenient.

Brittany Volk, Times staff writer

Puff Pastry Strawberry Tart

It's time to use up some of those Florida strawberries. To make, heat oven to 400 degrees. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, roll out 1 thawed puff pastry sheet. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 egg and 2 teaspoons water. Set aside. Use a knife to score a border ¾ of an inch from the edge of the puff pastry. Then, use a fork to pierce the part inside the border several times. Brush the pastry with the egg wash along the border. Sprinkle with sparkling sugar or regular sugar if desired. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown and cooked. Set aside to cool. While the puff pastry is cooking, slice 1 pint strawberries and prepare the topping: In a large bowl, stir together 4 ounces whipped cream, ½ cup white sugar and 4 ounces mascarpone cheese. In a separate bowl, mix together the strawberry slices, ¼ cup white sugar and ¼ cup strawberry jam. Once puff pastry is cooled, top with the cream and then the strawberries. Keep refrigerated until ready to slice and serve with vanilla ice cream. Makes 8 servings. Recipe from mybakingaddiction.com.

Cheese Straws

These highly addictive cheese straws will go fast at any party. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out two thawed puff pastry sheets on a lightly floured board until each measures 10 by 12 inches. Beat an egg with 1 tablespoon water and brush the surface of the pastries. Sprinkle each sheet evenly with ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, ½ cup finely grated Gruyere cheese, ½ teaspoon minced fresh thyme, ½ teaspoon salt and some pepper. With a rolling pin, lightly press the flavorings into the puff pastry. Cut each sheet crosswise with a floured knife or pizza wheel into 11 or 12 strips. Twist each strip and lay on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned and puffed. Turn each straw and bake for another 2 minutes. Don't overbake or the cheese will burn. Cool and serve at room temperature. Makes 22 to 24 straws. Recipe from Food Network.

Ham and Cheese Puffs

Here's a simple way to use Easter ham leftovers. Thaw two sheets puff pastry. Heat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon each onion powder and ground cloves, 1 teaspoon each dried thyme, ground allspice and ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons black pepper, 1 tablespoon chili powder and salt to taste. Set aside. Unfold puff pastry sheets and cut them into squares for a total of 12 squares. Lay slices of ham and Gruyere cheese in the center of each pastry square. Sprinkle with spice mixture. Fold opposite corners of each pastry square to make a pouch and press to seal. Pierce with a toothpick to increase likelihood that they stay sealed. Transfer to baking sheet. Brush pastry with egg wash (1 egg and 1 tablespoon water whisked together). Sprinkle with more spice mix. Bake 12 to 14 minutes. Remove, then let cool for 10 minutes. Makes 12 pastries. Recipe adapted from the Charlotte (N.C.) News & Observer.

Spinach Ricotta Bake

This cheese pie is similar to a Greek favorite of mine, spanakopita. To make, heat oven to 400 degrees. Unfold 2 thawed puff pastry sheets and roll out 1 sheet to an 11-inch square; set aside. Roll out remaining sheet to a 12-inch square and use it to line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan sprayed with cooking spray. Meanwhile, cook 6 slices of bacon, chop and set aside. Next, using your hands, squeeze 1 (10-ounce) package of thawed frozen chopped spinach, forcing out as much water as possible. (Too much water will make for a soggy filling.) You should have about ? cup well-drained spinach. Next, beat 6 eggs and reserve 1 tablespoon for an egg wash. Mix remaining eggs with 1 cup ricotta cheese, a dash of hot pepper sauce and the drained spinach. Now it's time to create the layers. Chop 1 red bell pepper and shred 1 ½ cups cheddar cheese. Layer half each of the bacon, peppers, cheddar cheese and ricotta mixture in the pan. Repeat layers one more time. Cover with remaining pastry sheet, tucking edges of pastry inside pan. Brush with reserved egg and cut slits in top crust. Bake 1 hour to 1 hour and 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 10 minutes. Run a small knife around edge of pan to loosen crust before serving. Serves 8. Recipe from jocooks.com.

S'mores Tarts

These are perfect for sleepovers and family movie nights, especially because the kids can help put them together. First, heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and unfold 2 thawed puff pastry sheets. Cut each sheet into 8 rectangles, making 16 total. Prick each one with a fork and place half of them onto the prepared baking sheet. Now, melt a little more than ½ cup semisweet chocolate and spread about 1 tablespoon of chocolate onto each pastry rectangle, leaving a ½-inch border all around. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the melted chocolate for topping. Place a large marshmallow in the center of each pastry and cover each one with the remaining pastries; use a fork to crimp the edges together. Add 1 tablespoon water to a beaten egg, then brush the egg wash over the tops of the tarts. Using a knife, cut three slits into the top of each tart. Bake until puffed and golden brown, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, 20 to 25 minutes. Melt a couple of tablespoons of white chocolate and drizzle the tarts with that and the remaining melted semisweet chocolate. Sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs and serve warm. Makes 8 tarts. Recipe from Real Simple.

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