Frozen Puff Pastry Recipes and Tips for Your Oscar Party

Learn how to turn this supermarket staple into party-ready hors d'oeuvres, easy main courses, and festive desserts
by Lauren Salkeld, Epicurious

Puff PastryPuff Pastry With its decadent layers of butter, light and airy good looks, and endless versatility, puff pastry is a regular on the party circuit. But because of all the folding and rolling of dough, not to mention the serious time commitment required to make it from scratch, homemade puff pastry makes very few appearances outside restaurants and banquet halls.

The good news is that frozen puff pastry delivers all the specialness of puff pastry without all the hours and elbow grease. This freezer-aisle favorite can be dressed up in myriad sweet and savory ways to create quick and easy hors d'oeuvres, main courses, and desserts. And there's absolutely no shame in using frozen puff pastry: We always keep a package on hand to make palmiers, cheese straws, turnovers, pot pies, pizzas, and tarts. And frozen puff pastry is especially great for home entertaining, as most recipes can be assembled ahead and baked just before the party starts.

If you're new to frozen puff pastry or looking for creative ways to cook and bake with it, read on for shopping and prep tips, plus our best recipes for this supermarket staple. For even more inspiration, see our slideshows of sweet and savory puff pastry recipes.

Be a Savvy Shopper
There are three main brands of puff pastry: Dufour and Trader Joe's make all-butter pastry, while Pepperidge Farm's version contains vegetable shortening. Some cooks prefer the flavor of all-butter pastry, and think the shortening leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. We find that both options taste best hot out of the oven, but all-butter versions keep their fresh flavor longer than those with shortening.

Packages vary in weight, but most are in the 1-pound range and contain either one or two sheets of pastry. Your recipe will indicate how much to use, but a general rule of thumb is that one sheet will make a sweet or savory tart to serve four to six, or about eight to ten hors d'oeuvre servings. If your box comes with one large sheet and your recipe calls for a single sheet, simply halve the large sheet crosswise and roll it out to the desired thickness; wrap tightly and freeze any leftovers to use later.

When shopping, make sure you buy puff pastry and not phyllo dough, which may be in the same freezer case and in similar packaging. The phyllo will likely work in some puff pastry recipes, but instead of one thick sheet of pastry, it consists of many very thin, fragile pieces, so it's more delicate and won't hold its shape nearly as well.

Prep Your Pastry
Most frozen puff pastry comes in folded sheets. Let the pastry thaw completely, either overnight in the refrigerator or for 45 minutes at room temperature, before using it. Unfold the pastry gently, and if you see any tears or holes, use your fingers--and a little water if necessary--to gently squeeze the pastry back together.

To prevent sticking, roll puff pastry out on a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin. Afterward, gently brush off any excess flour. If you're making a sweet recipe, you can use sugar or cinnamon sugar in lieu of flour, and for recipes made with cheese, you can use finely grated cheese.

Be careful not to roll puff pastry too thin, especially if making any kind of pizza or tart--the pastry needs to be sturdy enough to support the toppings and stay crisp.

Keep Cool
Puff pastry is easiest to work with when it's cold, so stow whatever you're not using in the refrigerator, and if the pastry gets too soft while you're rolling or cutting it, simply return it to the fridge or freezer to firm it up. If you're trying to create a specific shape, keep the pastry as cold as possible and it will be easier to make precise cuts. Use a sharp knife, a pizza wheel, a pastry cutter, or simple cookie cutters, and if you're after really straight lines, pull out a ruler or use a straight-edged baking sheet as a guide.

Customize Your Puff
If you're blind-baking a pie or tart shell and want to keep the inside from rising as much as the edges, use a fork to prick the surface of the dough (like you would a regular pie crust). The pastry will still be light and flaky--it just won't have as many layers. If you need straight, even sheets of puff pastry for making a napoleon, bake the puff pastry between two baking sheets so it bakes into completely flat pieces.

Finesse Your Fillings
Puff pastry is delicate, so be careful not to weigh it down with excessive toppings or ingredients that could release a lot of liquid and make the pastry soggy. Be particularly cautious with sticky fillings or ones that could overflow and make a mess of your baking sheets. And no matter what you're baking, line your baking sheets with parchment or a silicone baking mat, such as a Silpat, to prevent sticking.

Make It Shine
Just before baking, brush your puff pastry with an egg glaze (one large egg lightly beaten with about 1 teaspoon water) to give it an attractive sheen. An egg glaze can also be used like an edible glue to seal the pastry edges for turnovers, empanadas, or any stuffed pocket-style pastry; just brush a thin layer along the edges and press them together gently.

Bake Now or Later
Puff pastry is at its best fresh out of the oven, so if possible, bake it in small batches and serve immediately. If you like to entertain, note that most recipes can be assembled and kept in the fridge for a couple of hours and then baked just before the party. Some recipes can even be prepped but not baked, wrapped well, and frozen for a week or two. (Check your recipe for specific baking and defrosting instructions.) If you want to avoid last-minute prep and don't mind sacrificing some of puff pastry's signature lightness, bake your puff pastry then cool it completely and keep it in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple of hours. And if your pastry gets too soggy, simply pop it into the oven briefly to bring it back to life.

Save Your Scraps
If you have any pieces of puff pastry left over, combine them and roll them out to make palmiers (below) or cheese straws. Leftover pastry won't puff up quite as much and it may be a little uneven, but that's less important with smaller shapes.

all by Gourmet

Alsatian Cheese Tart
Gourmet/Yanes,Romulo AGourmet/Yanes,Romulo Ayield: Makes 36 hors d'oeuvres
active time: 20 min
total time: 50 min

1 puff pastry sheet (from a 17 1/4-oz package), thawed
1/2 cup whole-milk cottage cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
6 bacon slices (6 oz), cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 cup packed thinly sliced onion
1 tablespoon freshly grated parmesan

* Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F.
* Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 12-inch square, then transfer to a large baking sheet.
* Blend cottage cheese, sour cream, salt, and pepper in a blender until smooth.
* Cook bacon in a 10-inch skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until it just begins to brown, about 5 minutes. (Bacon should be tender, not crisp.) Remove from heat.
* Spread cheese mixture evenly over pastry, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Scatter bacon and onion on top, then sprinkle with parmesan. Bake until pastry is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Cut into 36 pieces and serve warm.

Apple "Pizza"
Gourmet/Yanes,Romulo AGourmet/Yanes,Romulo Ayield: Makes 6 to 8 dessert servings
active time: 20 min
total time: 1 1/2 hr

1 frozen puff pastry sheet (from a 17 1/4-oz package), thawed
2 tablespoons fine dry bread crumbs
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 lb Golden Delicious apples (3 medium), peeled, halved lengthwise, cored, and thinly sliced crosswise
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup grated sharp or extra-sharp white Cheddar (3 oz)

special equipment
parchment paper

* Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F.
* Roll out pastry sheet into a 15- by 12-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, then prick pastry all over with a fork. Sprinkle bread crumbs over pastry.
* Heat butter in a small saucepan over moderate heat, swirling pan, until golden brown, about 1 minute. Pour butter over apples in a bowl, then add sugar and salt and toss to coat. Spread apples evenly over pastry, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides. Fold in edges over apples, pressing down firmly on corners and sides. Bake until apples are tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Sprinkle cheese over apples and bake until cheese is golden and bubbling, 5 to 9 minutes more. Serve warm.

Sweet Palmiers
Gourmet/Yanes,Romulo AGourmet/Yanes,Romulo Ayield: Makes about 64 palmiers

4 sheets puff pastry
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 400°F.
* Sprinkle some sugar on a work surface and cover it with a puff pastry square sheet. Then sprinkle more sugar evenly over pastry sheet and roll it out into a 10-inch square with a rolling pin. Fold in two opposite sides of the pastry sheet square so that they the sides meet in the center. Fold in same sides of the pastry again.
* Fold one half of the pastry over the other. Cut pastry crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Dip cut sides of each piece in sugar and arrange, cut side down, on an ungreased baking sheet. Repeat with three remaining pastry sheets.
* Bake palmiers in batches in middle of oven until golden on bottom, about 12 minutes. Turn over and bake until golden on bottom, 5 to 7 minutes more, then transfer to a rack to cool completely."

Chocolate Raspberry Turnovers
Gourmet/Yanes,Romulo AGourmet/Yanes,Romulo Ayield: Makes 32 small pastries
active time: 20 min
total time: 45 min

1 (17 1/4-oz) package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
1 large egg
1/3 cup raspberry jam
3 1/2 oz fine-quality milk chocolate, finely chopped

special equipment
parchment paper

* Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 425°F.
* Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
* Roll out 1 puff pastry sheet into a 12-inch square on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin, then brush off excess flour from both sides. Cut into 16 squares.
* Whisk together egg and a pinch of salt. Place 1/2 teaspoon jam and 1 teaspoon chocolate in center of each square, then brush edges of squares with some of beaten egg. Fold each square in half to form a triangle, pressing edges to seal. Brush tops of pastries with some of remaining egg and transfer to a lined baking sheet. Chill on sheet while making 16 more pastries in same manner, transferring to second baking sheet.
* Bake pastries, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until golden and cooked through, about 20 minutes. Cool on sheets on racks 5 minutes. Serve warm.

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