Let's talk about food: Savory pastries for brunch

I love going out for brunch — crab Benedict is my usual order if it’s on the menu. But with the onset of the pandemic, I’ve been making a concerted effort to cook more. I’ve perfected French toast with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, just as the season is ending. It was time to try something new.

My friend, Cindy, shared some beautiful tomatoes from her garden with me. I often roast small tomatoes and serve them with pasta or fresh bread, but I decided to try to make a savory pastry for Sunday brunch last weekend. 

Even the venerable magazine Bon Appétit gives a nod to pre-made puff pastries, calling the frozen squares of dough their favorite baking hack. Available in the frozen section of the grocery store, the magazine posts a guide to buying and preparing the boxed, frozen pastry at www.bonappetit.com/story/guide-to-buying-prepping-baking-frozen-puff-pastry.

Bon Appétit recommends Dufour frozen puff pastry, declaring it the best because it uses only butter. I used Pepperidge Farm’s version, which contains vegetable oil. It was what was available at the grocery stores I frequent. But on my next trip to the valley, I will try to pick up the more expensive, but healthier version to keep in my freezer.

Bon Appétit says that thawing the pastry overnight in the refrigerator is essential. I did so, then simply rolled it out and baked it as the package recommends. I spread cheese on top, then added the sliced tomatoes.

Several easy recipes online called for cream cheese. I opted for a mix of ricotta and shredded mozzarella, mixing in a bit of yogurt as one recipe recommended. I would omit that, and keep my cheese mix drier in the future.

Short of time, I think Boursin, a spreadable cheese, would make a great layer under the tomatoes. A little pricey, $6.99 at my grocery store, it’s an easy option. I’d like to try just shredded cheese — parmesan, mozzarella and maybe some pepper jack and cheddar. You can make breadsticks, sprinkling cheese on twisted sticks of dough. Spinach pie would be easy with the pastry. Bon Appétit suggests using the dough to make chicken pot pie or even pigs in a blanket. 

The sweet possibilities are endless. The pastry on the box looks delicious. I imagine fresh whipped cream and strawberries, or even the marionberries in my freezer, between pastry layers. I also saw a recipe for a chocolate and hazelnut croissant-like pastry I’d like to try, with a homemade version of Nutella. Maybe it’s possible to make a healthy (or healthier) version? I’ll let you know how that goes. If you have a favorite recipe using puff pastries, please share it.


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