If you ever have a meltdown over cheese, you may be like me and needing to take a breather. Or two. Have some chocolate nearby, that sort of thing. I bought the required feta cheese for the original recipe and it must have fallen out of my grocery bag during the rather uneventful trip home from the store. Because it was still in the back of the car two days later when I woke up and realized it wasn’t in the fridge. Where I needed it to be right then so I could use it. I usually forget to even buy the special something at the store, despite it being on my list. So, crisis in the kitchen that particular Sunday morning. Yes, there were underlying issues at play, but this is about puff pastry, people. (Welcome back to the All Things Puff Pastry edition of the blog!) Not issues. Go away, issues!
It’s a good thing I do occasionally buy a block of yummy cheese just because I see it and Oh, yummy cheeeese! goes through my brain and in the cart it goes. That’s why I was able to take the hug Sis Blogging Partner offered and realize she was right – just substitute the stupid dead, now warm-for-two-days feta cheese.
And so we used fresh mozzarella and Parm I had on hand! Not bad, as substitutes go. Grate the parm, cube up the mozzarella into small pieces and the cheese is set! This is an easy recipe – change out the cheeses if you like and experiment with your own ideas.
The recipe also originally called for the more traditional frozen spinach, but I bought kale to use for another recipe and thought, why not just use kale for this, too? Granted, it needed to be cooked down, and this perhaps adds a little more time to the recipe, but you won’t need to squeeze endless amounts of water from it and either use a ton of paper towels in the process or clean some really green dish towels later.
Bonus points – fresh kale is cheaper, too (at my grocery store anyway)! For this recipe, one “bunch” of kale worked great and that was with us doubling the recipe. It’s a much more robust green than spinach, too, and it tends to look a little on the uncooked side when it’s done sautéing, but trust us, it’s much more tender now.
Once the kale is cooked down, it’s pretty simple to finish assembling the filling. Just combine those lovely cheeses, the cooked and cooled kale, fresh herbs of your choice, garlic, a little olive oil and an egg. We did agree after tasting these that a more tart cheese, like the feta I let die in the car, would add some pop to these, but if you really love a milder cheese, it will work just fine here, too.
Since we just know you were a good cook and defrosted your puff pastry in the fridge overnight, get one piece out now and cut it into three even rows. The folded lines already on the pastry are somewhat of a good guide. You may have to adjust your cut a little from said lines. Cut each of those strips into three even-as-possible squares.
We didn’t prep the nonstick pan with any ind of nonstick spray, but next time I will spray a little in the bottom of each muffin cup. With all the butter in puff pastry, you would think they wouldn’t stick, but a few did. It’s not a huge deal, but since we want do actually take these out and consume them later, go ahead and make it easier on yourself and do a little spraying.
We did a pretty hefty cereal-spoon-sized portion in each cup, filling them up almost all the way to the top of the muffin cup. Just guage what you feel is the best amount and if you have to take some out and put it in another well, no big.
Now, when I make this kind of stuff, I almost always seem to have filling leftover. We ended up making a good 24 or so puffs, but we could have probably made about a half dozen more. If you tend to be like me with the filling ingredients, have some extra pastry on hand just in case. You could always refrigerate the extra filling and make more the next day, too.
The close the puffs, simply gently pull the pastry corners towards one another and pinch them together. We were able to kind of wedge our fingertips under the pastry as we did this to get the first three corners firmly pinched, then the last corner we just gently mashed down on top of that. However you do it, they will still come apart a little as they puff up, and that’s okay! It’s part of what makes them a cute appetizer, like a gift that’s giving you a sneak peek.
According to the original recipe, the puffs can be assembled ahead a few hours and then refrigerated, covered, at this point. Yay! Get the hard part out of the way before people show up, then bake once folks arrive. So they can pig out and wolf them down in less then half the time! Ah, the joys of food.
Look, Infrequent Miniature Cooking Assistant even stopped in to tell us what a good job we were doing! Thanks, kiddo!
Oh hey – one more step. Brush on some egg to give the puffs just a bit more of a gold-kissed glow.
Kind of like these gold-kissed glowing things!
First of all, it’s puff pastry, so yummmmm. Second, kale works pretty great in these small puffed up treats that can work as side or an appetizer. I do love spinach, but have come to appreciate greens that can hold a little more of their inherent texture once cooked down. They still have a little bite to them. And, of course, we cannot go wrong with the timeless flavors of melty cheese or fresh herbs. These even reheated pretty nicely in the oven when hubby and I had a few with our dinner a few days later. So make ’em and enjoy right away, make ’em for guests (and get some of the work out of the way early) or make ’em for later! What more could you need?
adapted from Spinach Puffs by the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen, BonAppetit.com
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 35 minutes Level: Easy Makes: 18 or more puffs
- 1 bunch of fresh kale (about 4-5 cups chopped or torn into pieces)
- 1 small white or sweet onion, small diced
- 3/4 cup small-cubed fresh part-skim mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon chopped herbs, such as thyme, dill or rosemary
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 large eggs
- 2 sheets frozen puff pastry (from a 17.3-ounce package), thawed
Remove the thicker, tougher pieces of stem from each kale leaf and tear or chop the leaves into pieces. Cook in a large pan over medium heat for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally until the leaves have begun to wilt and are tender. Allow to cool, off the heat, for about ten minutes. In a large bowl, combine the kale, onion, cheeses, olive oil, fresh minced herbs and a little salt and pepper. Set aside.
Cut puff pastry into 3 equal strips. Cut each of those into 3 squares for a total of 9. Repeat with second sheet of pastry. Lightly spray the bottoms and sides of your muffin pan wells with nonstick cooking spray. Place a square in each muffin cup, pressing into bottom and up sides and leaving corners pointing up. Divide filling among cups. Bring the corners of the pastry together, pinching them together over the filling. If making these early the same day, you can cover the muffin pans and refrigerate till ready to bake.
Preheat oven to 400°. Beat remaining egg in a small bowl and brush over the pastries. Bake until the puffs are golden brown and have puffed up, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let puffs cool in pan for 10 minutes. Use a sharp knife to loosen the puffs from the edges and turn onto to rack to finish cooling.
These are best the first time they’re baked, but they will reheat fairly well in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.