Puff pastry has layers upon layers of dough separated by thin layers of butter, making it a crispy, rich pastry when cooked. It is suitable for use with savory and sweet fillings and works well with meat pot pies, turnovers, Napoleons and appetizers. Appetizers made from puff pastry are a hit at any party or get-together, and can be fashioned in several styles.
To make pinwheel appetizers, also called spirals, spread filling onto a rectangle of puff pastry and roll it up jellyroll style. Refrigerate or freeze for about one hour before slicing and baking. Parmesan cheese and herbs, such as thyme or rosemary, make a savory filling. Add gorgonzola cheese and some garlic for a slightly different taste. For sweet pinwheels, consider mixing berries with sweetened cream cheese and spreading on the pastry. Finely diced apples, brown sugar and cinnamon create a sweet filling,and, once cooked, can be glazed with a caramel sauce.
Puff pastry purses begin as squares of dough onto which a little filling is placed in the center and the corners drawn up and pinched to create a seal. The resulting package looks like a little purse. Meat or poultry fillings make hearty purse appetizers. For a flavor burst, brush on a bit of tomato sauce, then use a filling of pizza toppings including diced pepperoni, mushrooms and chopped peppers. A more sophisticated filling might contain any number of ingredients, such as sauteed shallots, chopped portobello mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes or baby spinach. Fill sweet purses with sweetened fruit mixtures. Chocolate chips added to a raspberry filling make a tasty purse appetizer.
Tassies are miniature pies, or pastries that form a cup for holding fillings. The most common tassie is the pecan tassie, a sweet hors d'oeuvre made with ingredients similar to a pecan pie. Form these tiny pies by pressing puff pastry into mini muffin cups. Spoon small amounts of cheesecake batter into the shells and top with a fruit mixture after baking. A mix of Swiss cheese, chopped spinach, onion and bacon make a savory tassie filling and if a savory custard is added, you will have mini-quiches. Make spicy meat tassies using taco-flavored hamburger meat and cheddar cheese. Try lobster or shrimp bits along with gruyere cheese for a thermidor flavor or press a crab-cake mixture into the tassie cups.
Wrap your filling in dough and it becomes a fancy en croute hors d'oeuvre. Cooked chicken breast that has been chopped fine, mixed with cream cheese and minced mushrooms and flavored with thyme makes a savory filling. Enclose a small dab of the mixture in a square of puff pastry in the size you desire, then pinch and roll between your palms until the filling is sealed inside. Brie en croute is a favorite dish that is usually served with the brie wheel intact. Turn this delicacy into an appetizer by mixing softened brie with chopped walnuts, brown sugar and cinnamon and enclosing it in a square of puff pastry. For a savory version, add caramelized onions, garlic or shallots.
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