Pretty as a Pastry

The dough is your creative canvas with these beautiful puff pastries topped with spring veggies, local ham, fresh cheeses, herbs and more

by | Mar 1, 2022

Premade puff pastry dough is one of those small miracles for the modern home cook. It tastes delicious. It’s endlessly versatile for everything from elegant appetizers to dainty desserts. Best of all, you don’t have to spend hours and days delicately rolling, folding, chilling and re-chilling the dough to get great results.

Here, local cooking instructor Jacqui Renager of Fun in the Kitchen with Jacqui offers us two beautiful ideas for puff pastry “pizzas” that can be topped and artfully designed to your heart’s content. Incorporate colorful spring veggies from your local farm market, Edwards or Smithfield ham, your choice of light cheeses, herbs and more. Just try not to eat the whole pastry in one sitting. Happy spring.

 All Recipes and Tips by Jacqui Renager of Fun in the Kitchen with Jacqui

Learn more at CookingwithJacqui.com.

Spring Vegetable Puff Pastry

  • 1 sheet puff pastry dough (thaw per package instructions)
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • ¾ cup goat cheese, divided (at room temperature)
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3-4 asparagus spears (cut in half vertically)
  • 1 yellow squash sliced thin*
  • ½ red onion sliced thin*
  • Watermelon radish sliced thin*
  • Mix one egg and 1 tbsp milk for the egg wash
  • *use a mandolin to slice, if possible

Preheat oven to 400 degrees or 375 for convection.

Unfold puff pastry over a floured surface. Sprinkle a small amount of flour on top of the dough. Gently roll to smooth it out. Not too much, just enough to make the surface smooth. Transfer to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Using a paring knife, score the edges ¼ inch from the edge. Use a fork or a dough docker to create little holes throughout the surface of the dough. Brush the edges with the egg wash.

Mix the ricotta, ¼ cup of the goat cheese, honey and salt. Spread the mixtures within the score lines on the dough. Toss the asparagus, squash and red onion with a drizzle of olive oil and then arrange them artistically on top of the ricotta mixture. Place the entire baking sheet into the freezer for 15 minutes.

Transfer the baking sheet straight from the freezer to the oven. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and scatter the remaining goat cheese on top and cook until the goat cheese is melted, and the edges are a shiny golden brown. Place your watermelon radish slices on top for color and presentation.

Country Ham and Caramelized Onion Puff Pastry

  • 1 sheet puff pastry dough (thaw per package instructions)
  • ¼ cup whole cranberry sauce (canned or fresh)
  • 1 onion, caramelized, sliced thin (and cook slowly over medium heat with 2 tbsp olive oil for about 25 minutes)
  • 2 cups Smithfield or Edwards Biscuit Sliced Country Ham, diced into ½ inch pieces, cooked until lightly browned
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • Cheese for topping (we chose ½ shaved parmesan and ½ blue cheese crumbles—get creative!)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, 375 for convection.

Unfold puff pastry over a floured surface. Sprinkle a small amount of flour on top of the dough. Gently roll to smooth it out. Not too much, just enough to make the surface smooth. Transfer to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Using a paring knife, score the edges ¼ inch from the edge. Use a fork or a dough docker to create little holes throughout the surface of the dough. Brush the edges with the egg wash.

Spread the cranberry sauce within the scored edges of the dough. Scatter the caramelized onions and diced ham over the top of the dough. Sprinkle with fresh chopped rosemary.  Put the baking sheet in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Transfer the baking sheet straight from the freezer to the oven. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and scatter cheese of choice on top and cook until the cheese is melted, and the edges are a shiny golden brown. Lay fresh rosemary across the top of the pastry for presentation.

Tips for the Perfect Puff

Working with premade puff pastry sheets (such Pepperidge Farm brand) isn’t difficult, but there are a few tips and tricks to help you get a beautiful and delicious result with this recipe and others, says Renager:

  • Get that Oven Hot: Puff pastry needs to be baked in a very hot oven of about 400 degrees. This high heat is necessary to create enough steam in the oven so that the dough rises.
  • Poke Holes in the Dough: Use a dough docker or a fork to poke holes in the dough before topping so the steam that is needed for it to rise can penetrate the surface of the dough.
  • Remember the Egg Wash: Brush the edges of the puff pastry with egg wash to give them that golden shiny crust around the outside.
  • Hit that Freezer First: Freeze the entire topped pastry for 15 minutes and put it straight from the freezer into the hot oven. This gives the butter in the pastry a chance to re-solidify and deliver that delightful crispy texture you want.
  • Get Creative with Toppings: Be creative with your toppings. For the country ham pastry in this article, try topping it with fried or poached eggs right before serving. Your pastry is your canvas. Have fun!

 

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