One of my favorite things about the holidays is the prevalence of finger foods. I love visiting with friends at a party with a small plate of one-bite wonders, both savory and sweet, in my hand. It enhances conversation, I swear it. And one of my favorite vehicles for finger foods is puff pastry. If you're not already a fan of puff pastry, listen up. You can find it sold in sheets in the freezer section of any grocery store. Keep it in the freezer until you're ready to use it. You can thaw it on the countertop or in the fridge. This secret ingredient is perfect to keep on hand at all times, because you can transform it into a fabulous fancy-looking appetizer, entreé, or dessert in almost no time. I've used it three ways today to create these fabulous finger foods, Pineapple Jalepeño Star Bites, Veggie Pizza Tartlets, and Apple Pie on a Stick. Serve them all throughout the holidays to rave reviews.
Pineapple Jalepeño Star Bites
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed 1 can (8 ounce) crushed pineapple, drained 1 package (8 ounce) cream cheese 2 tablespoons pickled jalepeño peppers, diced 1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped 1 teaspoon season salt
Directions Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Unfold sheet of puff pastry and use a star-shaped cookie cutter to cut out multiple stars. Bake stars for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool. In a mixing bowl, add remaining ingredients together, stirring until well combined. Gently pry open each puffed star and fill with cream cheese mixture. Serve immediately or chill for up to 6 hours.
Veggie Pizza Tartlets
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed 1 plum tomato, finely sliced 1 green bell pepper, finely sliced 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese olive oil balsamic glaze
Directions Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Using a pizza cutter, slice puff pastry into bite sized squares and spread across a prepared baking sheet. Top each square with a couple of thin slices of tomato and pepper, topped with a dot of olive oil and a pinch of cheese. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and pastry has puffed. Remove to a serving tray and drizzle with balsamic glaze. HINT: Top these with any of your favorite pizza toppings, but avoid sauce. It will make you pastry soggy and keep it from puffing up.
Apple Pie on a Stick
1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed 1/2 cup of apple pie filling, finely chopped lollipop sticks
Directions Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Using a pizza cutter, slice puff pastry into 2-inch squares. Set one square on a prepared baking sheet and set a lollipop stick on top, about 3/4 of the length of the square. Put a small dab (about 1/2 teaspoon) of pie filling on the middle of the square, on top of the stick. Take another square of puff pastry and set it on top of the other, enclosing the filling and the stick. Work the edges of the dough to match each other and envelope the filling inside. Use the tines of a fork to press against the edges of the square, sealing the filling inside. Repeat until your baking sheet is full. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until pastry is puffed and golden brown.
HINT: To get a gorgeous, glossy, golden-brown finish, brush puff pastry with a simple egg wash (one egg whisked with 2 tablespoons water or milk) before baking.
HINT: Modify any of these recipes to incorporate your favorite holiday flavors, salty, savory and sweet. The sky is the limit, so be creative!