Puff Pastry
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Puff Pastry

Puff Pastry

Seven inspired and convenient recipes for all occasions.

by

© Debby Segura

© 2002

Puff pastry is one of those true convenience ingredients that make tricky pastries possible and easy pastries downright presentable. But it always seemed too showy and too fattening for any meal I wanted to make. Always, that is, until I started feeding large groups of kids, teens and other assorted guests. I have since come to appreciate the ever predictable, always reliable, readily available-in-the-freezer-section puff pastry as the worthy, impressive and even pretty staple that it is.

Early on, I was introduced to borekas, a Mediterranean snack food with a huge extended family. Empanadas, gorditas, samosas and turnovers are the international ”To Go” order. Every culture has somehow managed to find a way to put filling into a pocket of dough and send it out the door in the morning.

Home made borekas, the Mediterranean version of turnovers, are usually made with an oil-based crust which is savory and crisp but does take some doing. Bakery borekas, on the other hand, are made with puff pastry, and a lot of it. At first, I was content to make small, bakery-style borekas and fill them with potato filling or spinach with feta cheese. I would cut each thawed roll of puff pastry into nine and make literally dozens of the little darlings. But then it occurred to me that I might simply rollout the entire piece of puff pastry at once. Filled with a mixture of spinach or potatoes like some long, savory stuffed coffee cake, it's borekas for a crowd!

There are two kinds of people when it comes to baked goods: the crust people and the filling people. Since I belong to the latter group, I could see the wisdom of this change right away. Either I could make eighteen hors d'oeuvres-size borekas, a high-fat lunch for six, or, with half the effort, I could use the same amount of puff pastry to make two long borekas, a lower fat lunch for ten. Each brilliantly puffed and bronzed boreka crust gave me more reason to branch out and see how else I might use puff pastry to my advantage.

I found my next inspiration on my counter top. Every summer, my kids fall in love with the new fruits. At first it's apricots, than it's plums, then it's peaches, and each one of these fruits has it's own growing season. When the fruit first comes onto the market, it may be a little costly and a little green, but novelty wins out and I buy it anyway. Later in the season, when it's cheap and plentiful, we buy and eat lots. But somewhere near the end of the season, we are still are buying lots of fruit and don't seem to notice that the quality is waning. Inevitably, I get left with three pounds of summer fruit on my counter and no takers.

At first, I used up my extra fruit making cobbler with biscuit dough, but I do like to save time when I can, especially in the summer, and puff pastry came to mind. I cleaned, pitted and halved or sliced whole baskets of fruits into my cobblers. I dropped in the berries whole. I added a little sugar, some flour and a pinch of cinnamon to my fruit and let the whole thing rest until the puff pastry had defrosted. I rolled it out just enough to iron out the creases, draped it over the casserole, brushed it with an egg wash and sprinkled it on top with turbinado sugar, cut some steam vents and baked it for an hour or so. Again, bronzed and gorgeous with a dramatic caramelized glaze, puff pastry ruled!

Pain Chocolat
(makes 8 pastries)

4 5" squares puff pastry, defrosted for 15 minutes
1 bar semi-sweet chocolate, 1.5 ounces, broken into squares
an egg wash: 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
turbinado sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Place a puff pastry square on a cutting surface and cut in half vertically with a pizza slicer. Using your fingertip, moisten the edges of the pastry rectangle. Place two square of chocolate to one side of the center of the rectangle and fold it in half, sealing the moistened edges. Place the pastry on the prepared pan and paint the top of the pastry with the egg wash, being careful not to get any of the egg wash on the cut edges of the pastry. Sprinkle with the turbinado sugar.

Bake in the center of the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until well-puffed and golden. Remove carefully from the pan and cool completely on a rack.

Pain Abricot
(makes 8 pastries)

2 5" squares puff pastry, defrosted for 15 minutes
1 15 ounce can pitted apricots, drained
an egg wash: see above
turbinado sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Place a puff pastry square on a cutting surface and cut in half vertically and then horizontally, to create four small squares. Paint each square lightly with an egg wash, being careful not to get any of the egg wash on the cut edges of the pastry. Place the pastry squares on the prepared cookie sheet and sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar. Place an apricot half on each of the pastry squares, tucking the cut edges of the apricot slightly to make sure the fruit does not touch the foil and is surrounded by a narrow margin or the pastry on all sides.

Bake in the center of the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until well-puffed and golden. Remove carefully from the pan and cool completely on a rack.

Pain Tartin
(makes 8 pastries)

4 5" squares puff pastry, defrosted for 15 minutes
2 medium fuji apples, cored carefully and cut into 12 slices each
an egg wash: see above
cinnamon sugar (2 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon)
apricot jelly

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Place a puff pastry square on a cutting surface and cut in half, vertically. Paint each half lightly with an egg wash, being careful not to get any of the egg wash on the cut edges of the pastry. Place the pastry rectangles on the prepared cookie sheet and sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar. Fan out three apple slices on each of the pastry rectangles, making sure the fruit does not touch the foil and is surrounded by a narrow margin of pastry on all sides.

Bake in the center of the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until will puffed and golden. In a microwave oven, heat the apricot jelly until liquid. Gently brush jelly over the apple slices to create a glazed finish. Remove from the pan and cool completely on a rack.

Potato Borekas
(makes 10 large borekas)

3 medium-sized russet potatoes and 5 cloves garlic, boiled in lightly salted water 20 minutes
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, divided
2 tablespoons margarine
Salt and pepper to taste
10 5" squares puff pastry
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mash the potatoes and the garlic together with two thirds of the egg mixture and the margarine, adding water if necessary, to create fluffy mashed potatoes. Spray a large cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Place a square of puff pastry on the work surface and place a tablespoon or so of the potato mixture in the center. With the index finger, dampen the edges of the puff pastry with water. Fold the puff pastry in half diagonally to enclose the potato filling, pressing gently with the fingertips to seal the edges. Repeat for the remaining puff pasty squares.

Paint the tops of the borekas with the remaining egg wash and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Bake the borekas in the center of the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until puffy and golden brown.

Spinach Boreka Filling
(Makes 10 large borekas)

1 16 ounce bag frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained in a colander
2 eggs, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, divided
1/4 pound feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon za'atar (a Middle Eastern spice mixture), optional

Combine all filling ingredients, reserving 1 tablespoon of the egg wash for the tops of the borekas. Form the borekas as in the recipe for potato borekas. Paint with the egg wash and sprinkle with the za'atar ( so people will be able to distinguish between the two flavors of borekas). Bake the borekas as in the recipe for potato borekas.

Borekas for a Crowd
(Serves 12 to 16)

1 16 ounce package of puff pastry, in two long rolls, thawed
1 recipe potato boreka filling
1 recipe spinach boreka filling
sesame or za'atar for sprinkling on top

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Unroll the first puff pastry sheet on a floured surface and roll out to the length of the cookie sheet. Place to one side of the cookie sheet and make a line of the first filling along the length of the puff pastry, leaving a 1" border empty at each end. Fold the two long sides of the boreka over the filling and roll the boreka to one side of the cookie sheet, leaving the seam side of the boreka down. Crimp both ends closed and fold underneath the boreka. Repeat for the second filling.

Paint the tops of the borekas with the egg wash and sprinkle each with it's topping. With a sharp knife, poke 12 holes on the top of the boreka to create steam vents.

Bake in the center of the preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the borekas are puffy and golden brown.

Summer Fruit Cobbler
(Serves 8-10)

8 cups of assorted ripe, sweet fruits such as peaches, plums, apricots, blueberries, etc.
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons instant tapioca or 2 tablespoons flour or cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
a pinch of nutmeg or allspice
1 large sheet of puff pastry, thawed and unfolded
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water
turbinado sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the fruit, sugar, tapioca, flour or cornstarch and cinnamon. Pour the fruit mixture into a deep rectangular baking pan, pretty enough to bring to the table. The filling should fill no more than 2/3's of the pan. Let the filling stand in the casserole for at least 15 minutes before baking.

Moisten the top edges of the pan. And place the puff pastry over the pan, sealing the edges of the pastry to the sides of the pan with your fingertips. Paint the top of the pastry with the egg wash and sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar.

Bake in the center of the preheated oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until the filling is bubbling and the puff pastry is puffy and golden brown.

Published: June 8, 2002


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Visitor Comments: 1

(1) Anonymous, August 9, 2002 12:00 AM

These recipes and tips are absolutly fabulous! Thanks so much for posting it

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