Meet Our New "Best Friend"
I'm talking puff pastry. This amazing product could easily become one of your culinary best friends, so you'll want to always have some tucked away in your freezer. Keep a package on hand; its possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
For instance, how about making a savory palmier or a sweet palmier? (A palmier is a traditional French cookie known as an elephant ear, but like all good things, folks have taken tradition to new heights.)
Lay out a sheet of puff pastry, add a little filling of some kind (Nutella, a fruit pie filling, fruit preserves, chopped turkey or ground beef fillings, a mixture of grated cheese and chopped basil, etc.) and you'll be serving palmiers in 30 minutes.
And besides palmiers, you can also make last-minute appetizers, desserts, breakfast pastries, or even use it to top pot pies. On the beautiful blog, www.theitaliandishblog.com, I found all sorts of ideas for puff pastry use. Here's a picture of how the blogger, Elaine McCardel, used it as a pizza base. She says to just lay out a sheet of the pastry, top it with cheese and a vegetable and bake. What could be easier?
You'll need to plan into your preparations enough time for the pastry to thaw out. It can be thawed overnight in the fridge, but counter-top thawing for about 30 minutes will work as well. I've used the microwave to thaw it - only 5 or 6 seconds is needed to do it this way. It's not the recommended method, though, because it's so easy to over-nuke it. But however you choose to thaw it, this doesn't take much time. You just want to be able to work with the dough easily - to be able to open the sheet without breaking it.
This pastry truly is easy to use, but there are a couple things to remember that all puff pastry masters agree on:1. Never let the puff pastry reach room temperature. It should always be slightly cold and defrosted only enough so it opens easily. 2. Whatever you are making with this dough, after you've prepped it, let it sit in the fridge a few minutes before baking. You'll kill the "puff quality" of the pastry if it becomes too warm; it simply will not puff up in the oven.
When looking for puff pastry, you'll likely find Pepperidge Farms in your grocer's freezer case. The pastry chefs I studied all agree it's a great standard puff pastry. But if you're super picky - on the gourmet side of cooking - then you'll want to hunt around for Dufour Puff Pastry. The pros all say it's superior.
Let's conclude with Elaine's tips on success baking with this new "best friend:"
An overnight thaw in the fridge is best.
Don't try to unfold frozen pastry - it'll crack along seems, so make sure it's defrosted enough to unfold easily (but don't let it get to room temperature).
Line your baking sheet with baking parchment paper or a Silpat.
And to repeat (because this is so important): Don't let puff pastry come to room temperature - it will stick together and you won't be able to unfold it