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May 28, 2009

Puff pastry (Recipe: asparagus and cheese tart)

I'm having fun updating some favorite posts from the archives, like this one, from the days when I didn't photograph the food I cooked. If you missed these posts the first time around, please enjoy them now. With photos and new links, too.

Asparagustart1

Pâte feuilletée.

POT FEH-YOU-TAY.

Just the thought of making something with such an elegant name scares the bedoodles out of me. If I hadn't watched Julia Child on television, smearing the butter and folding and turning and folding and turning again, making it all seem so utterly doable, I never would have tried to make puff pastry from scratch.

I did make it.

One time.

Then I discovered frozen puff pastry. Someone else does the smearing and folding and turning for you. Imagine that! Puff pastry any time, without devoting an entire day to making it.

Puffpastry

What makes puff pastry puff are the many layers of blobs of butter sandwiched between layers of dough that, when baked, rise to several times their original height without any yeast or leavening. When heated, the butter in the dough melts, causing the layers to separate. The water in the butter turns to steam, puffing up the pastry with air bubbles that become trapped to form air pockets. In the classical pâte feuilletée recipe, made by folding and turning the dough six times, the finished dough has close to 1500 layers of butter and flour.

The two most available brands of frozen puff pastry are definitely not alike. Dufours, sometimes available at Whole Foods markets, is made with all butter; Pepperidge Farm, always in the freezer case of my local supermarket, contains no butter. Yes, Dufours tastes better, and rises higher when baked. It's also twice as expensive, and much harder to find.

To thaw, remove as many pastry sheets as needed (wrap unused sheets in plastic wrap or foil and return them to the freezer) and thaw in the refrigerator (approximately 4 hours per sheet), which ensures that the pastry will thaw evenly. If you're in a hurry, unwrap and separate the pastry sheets and thaw at room temperature for 30-45 minutes.

Puff pastry makes wonderful savory dishes like chutney cheese puffs and puff pastry baskets with artichoke and pesto filling, or the topping for a chicken pot pie, as well as beautiful sweet desserts like palmiers. And, as in the recipe below, it can turn the ordinary into something truly elegant, as befits the name pâte feuilletée.

Asparagustart2

Asparagus and cheese tart

Adapted from Great Food Fast, a great little cookbook from the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living. Try to find asparagus spears that are straight, and of uniform width. Makes one tart that serves 4-6 people for lunch, with a side salad or bowl of soup.

Ingredients

1 sheet frozen puff pastry
1-1/2 cups gruyere, Emmental or swiss cheese, shredded
1 pound medium asparagus
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. On a floured surface, open the sheet of pastry into a square. Trim uneven edges. Place the pastry on a baking sheet. With a sharp knife score the dough one inch in from the edges on all four sides, to form a border. Using a fork, pierce the dough inside the markings at half-inch intervals. Bake until golden, about 12-13 minutes.

Remove the pastry from the oven, and sprinkle the cheese inside the border. Trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside the tart shell; arrange in a single layer over the cheese. Brush with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until spears are tender. Serve warm.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Mushrooms and peppers in puff pastry
Empanadas filled with chicken picadillo
Phyllo nests topped with sorbet

Comments

Oooh nice! Thank for this inspiration! : )

Looks pretty with all those asparagus spears lined up like soldiers :)
(And yes, i buy mine ready-rolled either from the chilled counter or from the freezer)..

Yum! I love asparagus & gruyere. Cheers!

Golly, that's a straightforward recipe. I love it! Great way to enjoy all the spring asparagus!

This is one of my all-time favorite recipes! I have made it many times, but actually did not make it this spring. There's still time, though, as the asparagus is at peak. Your photo is beautiful, and by-the-way, when I make this it rarely serves 4-6 - usually just one or two!

FRozen puff pastry is one of those essentials. It certainly makes a loovely asparagus and cheese tart:D

Ahhhh my fav, frozen puff pastry. I use this for making my favorite dessert, Tart Tatin. I also like to roll it out a little more, brush the surface with egg wash, sprinkle with blue cheese and ground walnuts. Then roll it up like into a log, chill it and slice 1/4 inch rounds. Bake them at 400 for 10 minutes or so....YUM They make a great little appetizer.

That looks wonderful. I love that you left the asparagus whole and lined them up regally. Very impressive.

looks great. question of theday is: did you give it a squirt of Sriracha sauce once plated??


yes the many wonders and creations with puff pastry.
I love how photogenic this dish is.

Dee..lish..ish, will do this weekend! Asparagus is still strong at my farmers market in Ojai.

best~*~kelley

This looks very very delicious, just by looking at it I feel hungry!

Pille, Joan: it was fun to go to the farm and choose the most uniform asparagus I could find.

TW, I have to confess that sometimes this serves just two in our house, too. But it's really perfect for 4, with a nice tangy green salad.

Cindy, thanks for the great idea. I'm always at a loss for easy appetizers, so I'll definitely try this one.

Milton, I hadn't thought of it, but a little bit of hot sauce might not be such a bad idea!

Kelley, we're still in asparagus season here, too, for a few more weeks.

This looks nice! Maybe I'll do a tart for the party...Saturday, I have no idea what I'm making!

Frozen puff pastry is wonderful. This looks like a perfect use for it. Will give it a try.

Lydia, I usually keep a package of frozen puff pastry at home - actually, there's one in the freezer that I need to use before June, 22. :)

Maris, this would be great for your brother's graduation party. It's classy, but really easy, and tastes fine at room temperature.

Patricia, if you don't have asparagus, try this with zucchini or mushrooms.

Holy Cats that is beautiful Lydia!! Love that asparagus in it!

Wow, Lydia you really know your stuff when it comes to Puff pastry. I've never dared to make it seeing as how I can barely manage to get a simple pie crust done (seriously - I think because I haven't found the right balance yet for using whole wheat flour). Anyways this Pate looks very delicious...just the name alone sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing.

Frozen puff pastry is so easy and convenient! I just made an asparagus and gruyere tart as well and really enjoyed it. So simple and yet so good! I also added some honey mustard beneath the cheese and asparagus layer for some extra flavour.

MyKitchen, thanks. Works well with other veggies, too.

Desmone, it's easier to make than it seems to be, but just takes time. Having some in the freezer makes everything so much easier.

Kevin, that sounds like a great addition -- the tartness of the mustard would be a great balance for the cheese. I'll try that next time.

I love the look of asparagus puff pastry tarts. So lovely, and so Spring.

I'm way late on this, but Trader Joe's puff pastry is very nice. I prefer it over the Pepperidge Farm. The TJ's pastry may be less than the PF, as well.

What a beautiful photo. I am having to keep myself from licking my screen. I've never tried puff pastry but this recipe is definitely going on my make list. I will go to Trader Joe's and get their pp.

Peabody, definitely Spring -- in a week or two, asparagus season will be finished here in Rhode Island. No more tarts until next year.

LeeLee, I haven't tried the TJ's puff pastry yet, but I will.

Candelaria, thank you. This tart is so easy and truly delicious.

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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