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December 1, 2009

Puff pastry (Recipe: puff pastry cups filled with sweet potato, apple and nuts)

Puff pastry cups

If I hadn't watched Julia Child on television all those years ago, smearing the butter and folding and turning and folding and turning again, making it all seem so utterly doable, I never would have had the courage to make puff pastry from scratch.

I did make it, and it was rich and buttery, and it puffed.

And it took all day to make.

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.

Puff pastry

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 classic pâte feuilletée (pot fay yoo TAY) recipe, made by folding and turning the dough six times, the finished dough has close to 1500 layers of butter and flour. When I made it from scratch, I didn't count. And I've never counted when I bake with frozen puff pastry, either; I take it on faith, and the dough seems to have enough layers for me.

Pepperidge Farm is the most widely available brand in the United States; the little supermarket in my town carries it. Each package contains two sheets, and each sheet comes folded in thirds.

Before you use it, roll the pastry to uniform thickness. If it cracks, as it often does along the fold lines, pinch it together with your fingertips and patch with a tiny drop of water.

To thaw frozen puff pastry, 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.

It can turn the ordinary into something truly extraordinary.

Puff pastry cup 

Sweet potato puff 

Puff pastry cups filled with sweet potato, apple and nuts

Have fun fitting these pastry squares into the round holes of a muffin tin; the pastry cups can be refined or playful. Serves 8; can be halved.

Ingredients

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 apple, diced
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts, walnuts or pecans
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Zest of one lemon
1 package Pepperidge Farm puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp of water

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Set out two 12-muffin tins.

Place sweet potato cubes in a small sauce pan, covered by a few inches of cold water. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook for 8-10 minutes, until potato is quite soft.

While the potato is cooking, combine apple, nuts, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon zest in a mixing bowl. Drain the cooked potato and add while hot to the bowl, stirring to combine. The heat of the potatoes will begin to soften the sugar, which is exactly what you want to happen. Let the mixture cool to room temperature while you prepare the pastry cups.

Roll out each sheet of puff pastry, and trim 1/2 inch off the edges all the way around. With a sharp knife, cut each sheet into 4 squares. Fit 4 pastry squares into each muffin tin, being sure to space them out so each has room to expand. Divide sweet potato mixture among the 8 muffin cups.

Using a paint brush, paint the pastry with the beaten egg. Place in the upper third of the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes, until the pastry releases easily from the muffin tin. Serve warm.


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Asparagus and cheese tart
Dulce de leche milhojas
Potato and broccoli samosas
Mushrooms and peppers in puff pastry

Comments

I love anything and everything made with puff pastry! These cups sound wonderful!

These are gorgeous! Perfect appetizers.

what a great entertaining idea! I love puff pastry as well - although my waistline doesn't.
I usually make calzones with it - just unfold the sheet, smooth the seams - layer sauce, cheese and meat or broccoli or whatever and flap edges in and seal along top and bake!
Cool and slice for party servings. An easy hit to bring to a party.

I've only made puff pastry twice.... (and I've been to culinary school!!) so you should be proud of yourself.

My friend Dina makes a "quick" puff... let me see if I can get the recipe from her.

You appetizers look great! And I hate to say this, but... these are probably a great way to recycle leftovers, too....

You had me at puff pastry. :) This looks great!

Delicious!
While I do love homemade puff pastry, having some store-bought good quality puff pastry in the freezer is a wonderful thing!

I love that you didn't mash the potatoes but left them with some bite -- and suggested adding nuts which to me compliment everything! A very elegant serving. Yes, Pepperidge Farms, is something to be thankful for at the holidays.

That's brave of you to try making it on your own! I love using puff pastry, it seems like there are endless uses for it. I like what you've done!

Love the photos! This is one case where store bought really makes more sense!

I always wanted to make strudel dough like my grandmother did -- I never saw her do it, but I heard it covered a round table. So I use phyllo. Could that be used as a puff paste too?

Popped in to say hi! These look wonderful!! I'm so impressed!

Long time since I grab a box of puffed pastry....hmmm....maybe time for puffed pastry soup?

Hi Lydia,
I actually still make a recipe of puff pastry and freeze it but there is a store near my home that for the life of me I cannot figure out why they have three freezers filled with all types of puff pastry. I've tried to figure out which brand will work the best but frankly I still have no idea.
I still have some sweet potatoes left from turkey day so this will work pretty darn good

I made puff pastry in New Mexico with questionable results. Then I discovered the frozen kind. I'm with you on this one!

Love this way of using the pastry with seasonal veggies.

Pam, Alta, Amanda, Natashya, Michele, Blond Duck: puff pastry is such a great way to dress up ordinary leftovers or vegetables; I always have some in the freezer.

Carol, that's a great idea for the many potlucks that happen around the holidays. Thanks so much.

Julia, I got inspired to make puff pastry by watching Julia Child do it on TV. But after I did it once, I didn't get inspired again.

Joan, you surely could make this with mashed potatoes or parsnips, but I like the no-mashed vegetables.

Michele, I felt very brave at the time!

Kalyn, it was fun to photograph these odd forms of the puff pastry.

Susan, you can make pastry cups out of phyllo, but the texture will be completely different from these. Delicious, but more delicate and crunchy.

Tigerfish, puff pastry soup? Sounds intriguing.

Kim, there's no substitute for the taste test!

Toni, you really can use any kind of cooked veggies or leftovers in these pastry cups.

I'm with you - I've done the from scratch version a couple of times, but let's face it - who really has time? I've still got some sweet potatoes, and these sweet potato pastry cups look like so much fun!

I also love anything made with puff pastry and am awed that you can make it from scratch. I bet it is even more delicious.

Now that is something I have always wanted to make (but never have) from scratch: puff pastry.

This recipe sounds delightful, and with impeccable timing---after seeing a beautiful shot of brie wrapped in puff pastry (magazine ad), I've had puff pastry on my mind. Fortunately, there's a couple of boxes waiting to be used in the freezer!

I also wanted to learn how to make puff pastry, which my kind friend down the street demonstrated for me. It was time consuming, although fascinating to think about how the butter and flour meld together through the turning and rolling. And you are right, much easier to use the frozen kind! We have a all-natural whole grain version available out here, very French, and it is lovely to use in a quick apple tart....

Yay! Thank you, Lydia! I'm a puffed-pastry-phobe, so this is just what I need. :)

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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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