Puff Piece

Making puff pastry at home is a tedious procedure, requiring at least half a day. The dough begins like pie crust with cold butter or margarine mixed into the flour to a crumbly consistency. Once it comes together is when the work begins. The dough is rolled out and wrapped around a thick slab of fat—margarine, butter or shortening. Through a process of folding, turning and rolling, the fat is dispersed throughout the dough, creating hundreds of very thin layers of dough separated by a film of fat.

The puff pastry dough must be kept at a temperature of approximately 60°F to keep the shortening from melting runny, and must rest a few times during the process to promote the layering. All in all, it’s not something most of us have time for at home. Thankfully, kosher frozen puff pastry dough is available in your grocer’s freezer.

When we think of puff pastry it usually brings to mind dessert. It is most often used for sweet, baked goods and served at the end of a meal. But this modern convenience has many other uses and can make perfect appetizers as well as tasty side dishes.

Spinach & Cheese Swirls

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 scallion, chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons flour

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained

 

Heat the oven to 400°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Beat the egg and water in a small bowl with a fork.

Stir the mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, scallion and garlic in a medium bowl.

Sprinkle the flour on the work surface. Unfold the pastry sheet on the work surface. Roll out to a 12”x18” rectangle. Brush the pastry sheet with the egg mixture. Top with the cheese mixture and spinach. Starting at a short side, roll up like a jelly roll. Cut into about 20 (1/2-inch) slices. Place the slices, cut-side down, onto two baking sheets. Brush the slices with the egg mixture.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown. Remove the pastries from the baking sheets and let cool on wire racks for 10 minutes.

For best results, make sure to remove as much liquid as you can from the spinach before adding it to the pastry. If it’s too wet, it may make the pastry soggy.

Pastrami and Potato Palmiers

2 Idaho potatoes

1 medium onion, diced

Canola oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 pound sliced pastrami (purchased)

1 sheet puff pastry

Peel and boil the potatoes until soft; drain. Mash the potatoes with 1–2 tablespoons canola oil.

Over medium flame, heat 1–2 tablespoons oil in a fry pan. Sauté the diced onion until soft and translucent. Add to the mashed potatoes.

Spread the puff pastry sheet on your work surface and roll out to a 12”x18” rectangle. Spread potato and onion mixture over the sheet, stopping 1 inch from the edge.

Slice or shred the pastrami into small, thin strips. Sprinkle over potato mixture.

Take one of the longer sides of the rectangle, and roll it inwards until it reaches the halfway point of the puff pastry sheet. Roll the other long side of the rectangle in as well, so that the two rolls meet in the middle. Put the rolled pastry in the fridge for about 5 minutes so it chills and is easier to slice.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Using a sharp knife with a straight (not serrated) blade, slice the roll into 1” pieces. Lay the slices on the lined pan and bake 20–30 minutes or until palmiers are puffed and golden. Remove from oven and serve warm or at room temperature.


 

Readers may submit questions to the Culinary Connoisseur, c/o Hamodia, 207 Foster Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11230 or via e-mail to peppermill@hamodia.com. This weekly column has been brought to you by The Peppermill, the world’s first kosher kitchenware store, located at 5015 16th Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. (718) 871-4022. You can also read a selection of previous columns in their comprehensive cookbook, The Culinary Connoisseur, available now at your local Judaica and kitchenware stores. Jam-packed with delicious recipes, insightful food information and helpful cooking tips, this book is certain to become your constant companion in the kitchen.