Monthly Archives: March 2016

7 Delicious New Ways to Use a Puff Pastry

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Ham and Cheese Pastry Puffs

Whether you DIY or buy a box from your grocery store's frozen aisle, the puff pastry is one of the most versatile and usable doughs for both savory and sweet treats. 

More: 50 Foods You Should Never Eat

These recipes, which you can make for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and beyond, will put your favorite pastry dough to good use. So stock up, roll it out, and get to work making these 7 puff pastry recipes

Tomato Tart

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The tomato was not widely accepted as a food until the 19th century; now 93 percent of American gardening households grow tomatoes.

More: 15 Soups That'll Keep You Warm All Winter Long

This tart recipe will help you make up for any lost time. Tomatoes and creamy ricotta: good in pasta, great on pizza, but perfect in a tart.

Tomato Tart
(Serves 6 to 8)

All-purpose flour, for rolling the pastry
1 sheet (7 to 8 ounces) frozen all-butter puff pastry, thawed but still cold
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup whole-milk ricotta, drained 4 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled
2 large eggs
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
3/4 teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt 1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound tomatoes, cored, halved, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

2. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the pastry out to a 10 x 15-inch rectangle and transfer it to the baking sheet. 

3. With a paring knife, score a border 1 inch in from the edge all around the rectangle, cutting into, but not through, the dough. With a fork, prick the dough inside the border all over (this is so the border will rise higher than the center that's been pricked). Brush the center with 1 tablespoon of the oil. 

4. In a large bowl, stir together the ricotta, goat cheese, eggs, basil, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper. Spread the mixture over the center of the puff pastry sheet. Top with the tomaties, overlapping slightly. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. 

5. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is set. 

Adapted from The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook

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Vanilla-Scented Palmiers

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With the exception of lemon pie, these are my father's all-time favorite dessert; he likes them without chocolate. I like them with. Or without. Either way, these are not the bready imposters found in many North American bakeries.

More: 6 Steps to the Perfect Chocolate-Covered Strawberry

Simple, flaky, sweet, and buttery, these are the shattery treats sold at tiny French patisseries that line cobblestone streets. One bite and you'll think you're in Paris.

Vanilla-Scented Palmiers
(Makes 24)

3/4 cup plain granulated sugar
1 roll commercial puff pastry
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (optional)

1. Sprinkle the work surface with half the sugar. Place the puff pastry on the sugar. Sprinkle with more sugar. Pressing the sugar into the dough, roll until you have an 8"x12" rectangle. If using homemade pastry, flip and turn the dough often to ensure lots of sugar gets worked into the surface of the dough.

2. Trim the dough so that the edges are even and set the trimmings aside for later. Fold the long sides of the pastry rectangle toward the center. Don't have these edges touch. Instead, leave 1/2" between where the folded edges would meet. This gap is crucial for the palmiers to keep their shape when cooking.

3. Fold the dough in half along this gap. You will now have a roll 4 layers thick and about 2" wide and 12" long. Flatten the dough gently with the palms of your hands, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours. Scrape the sugar off the work surface and save with the rest of the sugar for dipping later.

4. About 30 minutes before you are ready to bake the palmiers, preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper.

5. With a sharp knife, cut the dough crosswise 1/2"thick. Dip both cut sides in the sugar and place cut side down on the baking sheets. Be sure to leave at least 2" between palmiers. They will expand quite a bit sideways. They don't expand much up and down, so you might be able to get 6 rows of 4 if your sheet is big enough.

6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the palmiers are golden around the edges and the sugar has caramelized. Allow to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a rack to cool fully.

7. While the palmiers are baking, roll the reserved ends in sugar and cut into bite-size pieces. When the "real" palmiers are cooling, bake the ends for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden and caramelized. They will look odd but will taste just as good. Don't serve these. Reserve them for yourself as a treat for your hard work.

8. Optional chocolate dip: Melt the chocolate in the microwave oven in 30-second bursts or in a heatproof bowl over hot, not boiling, water, stirring gently until smooth. Tilting the bowl to pool the melted chocolate, dip half of a palmier into the liquid chocolate, then place on parchment paper or waxed paper to set. Repeat with the remaining palmiers and chocolate.

Note: Palmiers are best eaten the day they are made. Store left- overs in an airtight container. Do not freeze baked palmiers. Their sugar content is too high.

Tip: Ever wonder why some cookies freeze well and others don’t? Sugar softens once frozen, so cookies with a high sugar content or crispy caramelized surfaces will just get soggy. 

Adapted from Messy Baker


Mushroom, Leek & Gruyère Tart

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If vegetables were looking to elect a spokesperson, I'd nominate mushrooms. A bit of heat brings out the best in them. And when things get downright hot, they maintain their composure, refusing to dissolve into an incoherent mash.

More: 15 Simple Salad Dressings You Can Make at Home

They work graciously with almost any herb, are effusively complementary to dairy, and are as comfortable with fancy-dress pastry as they are with a Casual Friday slice of toast. With a support staff of herbs, cheese, and garlic, this recipe lets the earthiness of mushrooms shine.

Mushroom, Leek & Gruyère Tart
(Makes 4 to 6 servings)

1 sheet commercial puff pastry, defrosted
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only (see tip)
2 cups thinly sliced leeks, white parts only, sliced lengthwise and slivered into half moons
16 ounces cremini or portobello mushrooms, cut into 1" pieces
Ground black pepper (optional)
3 ounces grated Gruyère cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

2. On a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit a rimmed baking sheet, roll the puff pastry sheet out to a 10" square. Using a sharp knife, gently score the pastry an inch inside the outer edge, being careful not to cut all the way through. Place the parchment with the scored pastry onto a rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

3. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. When it bubbles, grate the garlic on a microplane into the pan. Add the thyme. Cook gently for 1 minute. Add the leeks and cook until they begin to soften. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are soft but not weeping juices. Place the mushroom filling into a strainer and let drain for a few minutes.

4. Spoon the mushroom filling onto the pastry, being careful to keep inside the score marks. Add a grinding of fresh black pepper, if using. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the tart from the oven and sprinkle with the cheese. Bake for 5 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the pastry is golden brown. Serve while hot.

Note: This tart is best eaten as soon as it is cool enough to handle. Leftovers can be wrapped and refrigerated, but the pastry will suffer. To reheat, pop under the broiler for a few minutes. Do not reheat in the microwave.

Tip: To strip the thyme leaves from the stem in seconds, simply grasp the top of the sprig between your thumb and index finger. Using your other hand, gently pull the stem through your pinched fingers. The leaves will strip right off, no chopping required. This also works for rosemary, although you might want to mince the rosemary leaves, depending on the use.

Adapted from Messy Baker


Banana & Peanut Stuffed Puff Pastry

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In the Mystery Box that contained duck and a banana, there were, among other things, mascarpone, peanuts, puff pastry, Fresno chile, and marjoram. Monti Carlo took a noticeably unorthodox approach to her ingredients by focusing on the banana. She quartered it, then sautéed it in butter flavored with Fresno chile. Then she slathered squares of unbaked puff pastry with a little mascarpone, sprinkled on peanuts, and rolled a piece of fried banana inside each square.

More: 5 Sweet & Savory Flavored Butter Recipes

Basted with an egg wash and baked till golden and puffy, sprinkled with diced Fresno chile and fresh marjoram leaves, it was… interesting looking. Pretty and golden, but with no indication what was inside. Don't worry, just take a bite while it's still warm.

The banana and mascarpone meld into a creamy filling, the Fresno chile adds a mildly fruity kick, and the peanuts add crunch and an earthier flavor. It's an unexpectedly good dessert from a jumble of Mystery Box ingredients, and no one was more surprised at its success than Monti herself!

Banana & Peanut Stuffed Puff Pastry With Sweet Mascarpone Cheese
(Makes 4 servings)

3/4 cup sugar
6 Tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 Fresno chile pepper, finely diced (wear plastic gloves when handling)
4 bananas
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of 17.3-ounce package), thawed and chilled 
all-purpose flour
3/4 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup shelled peanuts, toasted and finely chopped
3 teaspoons finely chopped fresh marjoram
1 large egg, beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper, then sprinkle 1/4 cup of the sugar evenly over the paper and bake until the sugar is melted and deep golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cool the sheet of caramelized sugar completely (it will become brittle when cooled). Leave the oven on, but increase the temperature to 425°F.

2. Meanwhile, combine the butter and half of the Fresno chile in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat until the butter melts but does not boil. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to infuse for 15 minutes. Strain the chile butter and set aside. Discard the chile.

3. Peel and quarter the bananas crosswise. Heat the chile butter in a large, heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the banana pieces and cook until they soften slightly and begin to brown but do not become mushy, about 2 minutes. Transfer the banana pieces to a plate and cool completely.

4. Roll out the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface to a 14-inch square. Cut the pastry into four 7-inch squares. Spread 3 tablespoons of mascarpone cheese over the center of each piece of pastry. Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Sprinkle the peanuts over each, then sprinkle each with 1/2 teaspoon of the marjoram. Arrange the bananas in the center. Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon of sugar. Roll up the bananas in the pastry, folding in the sides and pressing them to seal just before rolling up the pastry completely, as if making a burrito. Brush the egg over the seam and press to seal. Transfer the pastries to a baking sheet. Bake until the pastries are golden, about 25 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes.

5. Transfer the pastries to 4 plates. Crumble the sheet of caramelized sugar and sprinkle the pieces over the pastry. Sprinkle the remaining marjoram and chile over the pastry and serve immediately.

Adapted from MasterChef: The Ultimate Cookbook

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Ham & Cheese Pastry Puffs

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Griff’s unique spice and herb blend tastes exotic, elevating this simple breakfast pastry above the ordinary, but many of the spices are probably already sitting in your spice rack.

More: 11 Chicken Recipes That Are Anything But Boring

The spices give the pastry a bit of a kick, which can be a boost for early risers.

Ham & Cheese Pastry Puffs
(Makes 8 pastries)

For the spice blend: 
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Fine sea salt, to taste

For the pastries: 
One 17.3-ounce package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), defrosted for 20 to 30 minutes in the refrigerator
1/2 pound thinly sliced Black Forest ham
1/2 pound sharp white cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
1 egg, beaten with
1 Tablespoon water, for egg wash
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F line a baking sheet with parchment.

2. To make the spice blend: Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.

3. To make the pastries: Unfold the pastry sheets on a lightly floured surface cut each pastry sheet into 4 (about 5-inch) squares.

4. Arrange the sliced ham and cheese on the centers of the pastry squares, dividing them evenly sprinkle some of the spice blend lightly over each one. Fold two opposite corners of each square over the filling to make a pouch and press the edges to seal; transfer the pastries to the prepared baking sheet.

5. Brush each pastry evenly with the egg wash sprinkle the tops with more spice blend to taste sprinkle salt evenly over the pastries.

6. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the pastries are golden brown remove the pastries from the baking sheet and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes serve warm or at room temperature.

Adapted from Back in the Day Baking

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Guava–Sweet Cheese Turnovers

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A sweet breakfast alternative to our ham and cheese pastry puffs, these turnovers are Griff’s Savannah interpretation of Cuban pastelitos.

More: 14 Healthiest Cheese Varieties to Eat

Guava paste’s light sweetness falls in taste somewhere between that of a strawberry and a red grape and is nicely complemented by the tangy cheese.

Guava–Sweet Cheese Turnovers
(Makes 8 turnovers)

One 17.3-ounce package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), defrosted in the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes
One 8-ounce package Neufchâtel cheese, at room temperature
2 Tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 egg, beaten with 1 Tablespoon water, for egg wash
4 ounces guava paste, cut into eight 1/4-inch slices

1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F line a baking sheet with parchment. 

2. Unfold the pastry sheets on a lightly floured surface cut each pastry sheet into 4 (about 5-inch) squares.

3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cheese, milk, lemon juice, and sugar and beat with a handheld mixer until well blended. 

4. Brush the edges of each pastry square with egg wash and arrange one-eighth of the cheese mixture evenly on half of the square. Place a slice of guava paste on top. Fold the pastry diagonally over the filling and seal by pressing the edges with a fork cut a small x in the top of each pastry; this will allow steam to escape.

5. Transfer each square to the prepared baking sheet. Brush each pastry evenly with egg wash and sprinkle the tops evenly with sugar.

6. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the pastries are golden brown remove the pastries from the baking sheet and let cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes serve warm or at room temperature.

Adapted from Back in the Day Baking

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6 Healthy Eating Facts We Need to Clear Up

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Great meals don't happen by accident. They require inspiration, planning, and good ingredients, plus the tools and skills to prepare them right.

More: 7 Fat Loss Myths That Are Total Garbage

The first step is understanding what good food is and what healthier eating really means. After all, the advice seems to change with the weather, which results in a lot of confusion. Let's clear things up.

1. If you want to eat healthier (and lose some weight), eat less
You can eat really well and not have to worry about counting calories if you stick to a proper serving. Most of us don't understand portion control. We're eating double and even triple serving sizes, certainly at restaurants but even at home. Wait a couple of minutes before automatically reaching for seconds. The craving will likely pass.

2. Not all calories are created equal
Your body's fuel comes from three sources: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Your body metabolizes each of these macronutrients differently. For example, for every 100 carbohydrate calories you consume, your body expends only 5 to 10 in the process of digestion. This is officially called the thermic effect of food. By contrast, protein is the calorie-burn champ: For every 100 protein calories you consume, your body uses up 20 to 30 calories just to break that protein down. So, by eating protein instead of carbs, your body will end up with fewer calories to store after digestion is done. Fat is another story: Metabolizing fat requires even fewer calories than carbohydrates, about 3 for every 100 calories. But fat is more satiating than carbohydrates are. This nutrient stays in the gut longer, so it keeps you feeling full so you can say no to seconds. Protein keeps you full longer, too, and since it burns the most calories during digestion, it should figure into most of your meals.

More: 5 Simple Ingredient Hacks to Burn Fat

As a general target, shoot for 20 to 40 grams of protein at each meal. Protein is a muscle builder. If you're looking to bulk up, your protein goal should be higher— about 1 gram of protein for each pound of target body weight you want to reach. It also matters what kind of protein you're eating. Many foods can provide a good dose of protein. Nuts and beans are good sources of protein, but the best sources are dairy products, eggs, meat, and fish. Animal protein is complete—it contains the right proportions of the essential amino acids your body can't synthesize on its own.

3. Fat is not your foe
It's unfortunate that dietary fat and the fat rolling over a fat man's belt are called the same thing. Many people still believe that eating fat will make you fat. It's a fat loss myth, caused by the demonizing of dietary fat by researchers who connected it to high cholesterol and heart disease. Unfortunately, the low-fat craze this thinking spawned substituted more sugar and refined grains for fats in our diets. Since 1971, intake of these unhealthy foods has expanded our daily calorie total by 168— and by extension, our waistlines. 

More: 7 'Healthy' Foods Making You Gain Weight

Dietary fat is essential to good health. Omega-3 fats from oily fish are good for the heart and the brain. Monounsaturated fats, like those found in avocados and olive oil, will help improve your cholesterol profile and ease inflammation and arthritis symptoms. Even saturated fats, such as those found in steak, dark meat chicken, bacon, and butter, are important for good health. Research shows that saturated fat does not raise bad cholesterol levels. Plus, don’t forget that fat makes foods taste great!

4. Sugar is deadly
If you want to point a finger at the true type 2 diabetes culprit, it's sugar, sweet beverages like soda and juice, high-fructose corn syrup, white bread and other refined grains, and baked goods. Here's the problem with these foods: Their sugars enter your bloodstream very rapidly. When you drink a can of soda, all of its sugar—all 12 to 20 teaspoons—goes directly into your blood, and those calories that you don't use immediately for energy will be stored as fat. This can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes, as the sugar overload overwhelms your body's ability to bring your blood sugar levels back to normal.

More: 6 Effortless Ways to Boot Mindless Eating

5. Fiber makes sugar safe
Kidney beans contain sugar. But if you eat a soda's worth of sugar in kidney beans, it won't have the same dangerous effect as the liquid. That's because the sugar from kidney beans enters your blood slowly, thanks to the fiber content in those beans. Because it passes through your body undigested, fiber slows the absorption of sugar and other nutrients and makes you feel fuller longer, according to a study by researchers at the University of Minnesota. You don't need to eat bowls of beans and bran flakes every day to achieve this effect—just aim for 25 to 35 grams of fiber daily. Favor whole, unprocessed foods like most fruits and vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.

6. Salt isn't always evil
Actually, salt is essential to your health. Your body can't make it, and your cells need it to function. The sodium in salt is an electrolyte, a humble member of that hyped class of minerals that help maintain muscle function and hydration; that's why sports drinks contain sodium. You're constantly losing sodium through sweat and urine, and if you don't replenish that sodium and water, your blood pressure may drop far enough to make you dizzy and light-headed. If you have high blood pressure, you've probably been advised to cut back on salt.

More: 15 Foods That Help You Lose Weight

The mechanism seems clear: Sodium causes your blood to hold more water, so your heart has to pump harder, making your blood pressure rise. But what if you're a healthy guy? Tossing some salt into your pasta water isn't likely to send your blood pressure soaring. That's because 77 percent of the sodium in the average diet comes from processed and restaurant foods, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Just think about how thirsty you feel about an hour after a fast-food meal.) Only 12 percent of sodium is naturally occurring in foods, and just 5 percent comes from home cooking. Compliments to the chef.

Adapted from Guy Gourmet

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