Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Return of the Puff Pastry

While I'm pretty bad about buying random ingredients that I only use infrequently, I'm equally bad about using up their leftovers whenever I'm through with that one recipe (an entire bag of dry kidney beans when I only need a single stupid bean for a King Cake, for example). I think I'm just bad at planning ahead and forget until it's too late that I should plan several menu items in advance instead of just getting overexcited about that one exotic recipe I can't wait to try. Too many times have I washed reserved egg yolks down the drain only to curse myself later for not planning a single custard, cream sauce, or carbonara instead.

But not this time! With a decent amount of puff pastry and almond paste left from the aforementioned King Cake, I was excited to try out the two main ingredients in a new way.

If you do decide to try out last week's recipe for King Cake, don't despair at the lonely scraps of puff pastry and sad looking half can of almond paste left over on the countertop--there are ENDLESS possibilities to use these up. Particularly since one can of almond paste cost me $6.99 I wasn't about to see that one go to waste.

Puff pastry is particularly versatile; equally suited to sweet or savory dishes, this stuff is a blank canvas limited only by your imagination. For a quick treat, dust with cinnamon sugar, cut into strips with a pizza slicer and twist for cookie-like spirals (just bake according to package directions). Equally, roll out and cut with a large biscuit slicer and fill with your favorite stew for mini pot pies. Seriously, this stuff is great for anything you can think of.

In order to use up both the pastry and the almond paste, I essentially made some miniature King Cake cookies. To add more almond flavor I first rolled some of the paste into the dough before cutting it out into small rounds. For the filling I blended the almond paste with cream cheese and mixed with cinnamon sugar before sandwiching a dollop between two rounds, ravioli-style. If you try this out, all amounts are approximate so feel free to experiment!

Almond Puff Daddies
1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed, or leftover scraps
1/2 can almond paste
2-4 oz cream cheese, soft style or softened
2 Tbs cinnamon sugar
Splash of almond or vanilla extract optional

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a small bowl cream together almond paste and cream cheese. Stir in cinnamon sugar and extract, if using.
3. Roll out puff pastry on a floured surface. Break 1/4 cup of the almond paste into small pieces and dot over half of the pastry. Fold uncovered portion of the pastry over the covered portion and roll into a rectangle until incorporated.
4. Sprinkle sugar over dough and, using a glass or biscuit cutter, cut out an even number of circles. These will shrink while baking so use a larger cutter than you think you will need.

5. Place a spoonful of filling onto half of the rounds, cover with the remaining rounds and seal tightly. Brush tops with egg or milk if desired.

6. Bake 12-15 minutes.

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