Tuesday, August 31, 2010

5 Recipes for Puff Pastry: #1 Cheese Straws

Parmesan Cheese Straws

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with a group of women about hospitality, living a life that says welcome to others.  At the end of the talk, they asked me to share a few practical tips for entertaining, with specific ways we can be prepared for unexpected guests.  Expecting the "unexpected" takes a little advanced planning and prepatation but frees you to enjoy spontaneous entertaining.  Some of the best moments arrive by accident and suprise us with their simplicity and lasting memories.  Maybe rootbeer floats with the neighbors or coffee with a friend.

I shared a few hints with the group including a list of staples that I like to have stocked in the pantry and freezer.  One of my freezer staples is puff pastry.  If you don't have any, you should go out tomorrow and buy some to stash in your freezer.  There are a million different things you can do with it, something for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert.  I thought I would share a few recipes for this versatile staple to start you on your way to spontaneous entertaining! 

Parmesan Cheese Straws

2 sheets (1 box) frozen puff pastry (such as Pepperidge Farm), defrosted overnight in the refrigerator
Flour, for dusting
1/4 cup butter, melted  
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup finely grated Gruyère cheese
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
sprinkle of paprika

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll out each sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured board until it is 10- by 12-inches. Brush the surface of the pastry with the butter. Sprinkle each sheet evenly (dividing the ingredients between the two sheets of pastry) with 1⁄4 cup of the Parmesan, 1⁄2 cup of the Gruyère, 1⁄2 teaspoon of the thyme, 1⁄2 teaspoon of the salt, and some paprika. With the rolling pin, lightly press the flavorings into both puff pastry sheets.

Cut each sheet crosswise with a floured knife or pizza wheel into 11 or 12 strips. Twist each strip and lay on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned and puffed. Turn each straw and bake for another 2 minutes. Don't over bake or the cheese will burn. Cool and serve at room temperature.

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