Today’s recipe is inspired by the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. This is my fourth and final post on Food Blog Forum 2014. The food, the networking, and the forum sessions were all wonderful; however, for me, the stand-out was the city of Asheville itself and the wonderful hospitality that was shown to our group by the Biltmore and Explore Asheville Foodtopia personnel.
So what does puff pastry have to do with the Biltmore Estate? After our sessions we were treated to a tour of the Biltmore Estate with a focus on food. The house is everything you could imagine, i.e., drop-dead gorgeous. Those Vanderbilts knew what they were doing. But, more important, we were allowed to photograph anything in the estate; a huge opportunity, as photography is not normally allowed. As I was looking over my collection of photos from the tour, I realized many of them focused on places where you could enjoy a snack, with perhaps a cup of tea or a glass of sherry…
Perhaps while while enjoying the view of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the loggia.
I love libraries, and this one is no exception. I could see nibbling on some cheese straws, while cozied up on the sofa with a book.
Guests were often offered a cup of tea and a snack while waiting in the winter garden.
Or for a more formal high tea, I can imagine sitting here with a tray of palmiers.
Party season is approaching, and both of these appetizers are great with cocktails. They go nicely along side a hot bowl of soup as well.
Do not fear puff pastry. If you can use a rolling pin you can make this pastry. The one thing you must remember is to keep your dough cold. Chill the counter if possible (see recipe note below), and keep the space as cool as you can. This is not a recipe for a hot summer day, without a good air conditioner. If the dough gets too warm, you’ll know because it will become a little greasy and sticky. No worries, just pop it into the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to cool it back down. This recipe does take some time, but the taste of puff pastry made by hand with real butter is so satisfying.
Puff Pastry (Pate Feuillete)
Yield: 2 Pounds
This recipe makes 2 pounds of puff pastry. Store-bought puff generally comes in 14-ounce to 1-pound boxes. If you prefer to use store bought puff pastry, skip ahead to the cheese straw and palmier recipes. Use 1 box pastry for each appetizer or half of this recipe. The pastry can be frozen. Thaw thoroughly in the refrigerator before using. Before starting chill a section of counter space with a sheet pan with some ice in it on top of a towel. This step is not completely necessary but it will help keep the dough chilled while you work with it.
1 pound butter, cut into large chunks
1 pound flour, plus extra for work surface
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup cold water
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
Place the flour, butter and salt in the mixer bowl. Mix together a little by hand, then pulse the mixer with the paddle to coat the butter chunks with flour.
Add the water and the lemon juice all at once then pulse the machine until a sticky dough forms. Flour the work surface with enough flour to keep the dough from sticking. Place the contents of the mixer bowl onto the chilled work surface.
Use your knuckles to push the dough into a large rectangle. Make sure the rectangle can be moved with a pastry scraper.
Roll out the dough into a large rectangle, then fold into thirds. This is called a turn. Turn the dough 90 degrees so the short edges of the rectangle are to your right and left and roll the dough and fold again. Continue rolling and folding until you have completed four complete turns. If you work fast you can probably complete all the turns at once. But, if you are doing something else (like photographing the process for this post), you will need to refrigerate the dough between turns. You must keep the dough cold while doing the turns to create the layers in the pastry.
Chill the dough until ready to use. When you are ready to continue, roll out the dough into a large rectangle about 1/4-inch thick.
The wonderful thing about this recipe is its versatility. The sky is the limit on how much or what type of seasoning you use. You can prepare the cheese dough ahead of time. After coating with toppings roll up like a jelly dough and freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator 12 hours or overnight before cutting and baking. If making both recipes I prepare the cheese straws first, then raise the oven temperature to 400 for the palmiers.
1/2 recipe or 1 box puff pastry, chilled
1 egg, beaten
4 ounces parmesan cheese, finely grated
4 tablespoons sesame seeds, optional
1 teaspoon paprika or cayenne, or to taste
Preheat the oven to 350. If you have not already done so, roll out your puff pastry dough. Brush the surface with egg, then sprinkle with half the cheese, sesame seeds and paprika. Turn the dough over and repeat.
Cut the dough into 1/4 or 1/2-inch strips and twist before placing on a sheet pan or cookie sheet covered with parchment. Push the ends of the strips flat agains the pan to hold them in place. For shorter, fatter cheese sticks, fold the strips in half before twisting. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack before serving. Good warm or at room temperature.
1/2 recipe or 1 box puff pastry, chilled
6 tablespoons honey mustard
8 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced
4 ounces parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2 eggs, beaten
Preheat the oven to 400. If you have not already done so, roll out your puff pastry dough. Spread the mustard over the dough. Arrange the prosciutto over the mustard so that it covers the pastry completely. Sprinkle with the parmesan and lightly press it into the prosciutto with a rolling pin.
Starting at one long edge, roll up the pastry like a jelly roll just to the middle of the rectangle. Then repeat on the other side. It should look like this:
Chill the roll for 30 minutes before slicing the rolls crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Place on parchment-covered sheet pans or cookie sheets and press with your hands to flatten. Brush with egg. Bake 15-20 minutes until puffed and golden. Cool on a wire rack. Can be served warm or at room temperature.
Palmier recipe adapted from The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook by Sheila Lukins, Julee Rosso, and Sarah Leah Chase