Right now, at the peak of the holiday party season, there are three things the well-prepared host ought to have at the ready: a swanky outfit, a festive playlist — and a package of puff pastry. But honestly, you could don your ugly reindeer sweater and blast Alvin and the Chipmunks, and the puff pastry, baked into golden, flaky nibbles, would still make your party feel like a lavish catered affair.
Store-bought puff pastry is frozen food pushed to the most elegant degree. Readily found in most supermarkets, it’s a breeze to work with, and, with minimal effort, the dough can be baked into an array of impressive treats. It’s also economical compared with what you would spend on the same kind of elaborate pastries at a bakery, let alone bringing a professional into your kitchen.
You can make burnished, salty cheese pinwheels by simply sprinkling the dough with Parmesan and an herb mix like za’atar, and letting it bake into piquant, crisp-edged coins.
Or, for a sophisticated take on pigs in blankets, roll chopped figs and prosciutto into a pastry log, slice it into pieces and bake them until bronzed, savory and very fancy.
And for something sweet with a sense of humor, crunchy coconut twists look nearly identical to cheese straws. But instead of Cheddar, you get toasted, shredded coconut, which caramelizes throughout the buttery, flaky wands, dissolving into sugary shards when you take a bite.
Working with puff pastry is straightforward and easy, but a few smart moves will help you achieve stellar results.
First, try to find a dough made with butter rather than hydrogenated oils. Dufour is one high-quality brand that comes in an all-butter version as well as a very good vegan version made with palm fruit oil. But whatever you can find will still be magnificent as long as you take care when rolling it out.
Then, be sure to keep the dough cold while you work. This gives you more control and helps your puff gain some real altitude. If the dough starts to soften, throw it back in the fridge until it firms up again.
All of these recipes are at their flaky best still slightly warm from the oven. But they keep very well overnight if you want to bake ahead — which will give you more time for outfit-choosing and playlist-making — important preparations for the best holiday party ever.
Recipes: Za’atar Parmesan Pinwheels | Figs and Pigs in a Blanket | Crunchy Coconut Twists
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