I wish I knew how to make puff pastry. Well, I do know, theoretically, how to make puff pastry.
Puff pastry is very technical, really — some people say that baking is an art, but if there’s anything out there that better demonstrates the science of how proper baking requires time, temperature, precision, and delicacy than puff pastry does, I’d have no idea what that could be.
There are only a couple rules for handling puff pastry: keep everything cold, cold, cold!
It’s the moisture in the liquid and fat that’s sandwiched between the layers of flour that give puff pastry its amazing puff, so you want to make sure you don’t over-handle the dough and melt the butter trapped inside the pastry.
Anyways! These cheddar, apple, and fennel twists are a great little way to enjoy buttery, flaky puff pastry.
The sweet apple goes nicely with the sharp cheddar, and the crushed fennel adds an interesting depth of flavour to these twists. Make sure you sugar and salt everything in this recipe sufficiently, though — puff pastry itself tastes a little bit flat, so you need to make sure that all the other ingredients have a strong presence.
Firstly, you should know that this recipe is a little time-consuming, but not in an entirely bad way.
There’s plenty of opportunity to take a break between steps and come back hours later to pick up where you left off. I just took it one step at a time and took about two days to finish these!
Ha — yes, I know: two days to finish one recipe.
But I have lots of school and studying and reading and movie watching and loafing about to do, too. Y’know, important stuff.
Cheddar Apple Fennel Twists
*from Fine Cooking magazine
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 large apples, peeled and chopped
- white sugar, to taste
- squeeze of lemon juice, to taste
- 1 package puff pastry
- 1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing pastry
- 1/2 tablespoon crushed fennel seed
- 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, finely grated
- salt, to taste
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the apples, sprinkle with sugar, salt, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Cover and cook, stirring often, for about 12 ~ 15 minutes, or until the apples are soft and start to caramelize. By the time you’re done, any extra liquid in the pan should be evaporated.
Transfer the apples to a food processor and blend into a puree. Take a taste — add more lemon juice or sugar if you’d like. The apple puree should be sweet, but not overly so.
Now, chill the puree in the fridge until it’s very cold.
Thaw out your puff pastry. When it’s warm enough to work with, roll the puff pastry out into a 12 x 14 inch (or 30 x 34 cm) rectangle.
Spread the chilled apple puree in a very thin layer over half the rolled out puff pastry. Fold the bare half of the dough over the half with apple puree, and trim the edges so they’re nice, straight, and even.
Transfer the folded puff pastry back into the freezer to firm up for at least 30 minutes.
Remove your folded puff pastry from the freezer and transfer it to a cutting board. Brush the surface with lightly beaten egg, then sprinkle generously with salt and crushed fennel seed. Sprinkle over the fennel with the grated cheddar cheese.
Carefully use a rolling pin and roll over the cheese covered puff pastry once, gently pressing the fennel and cheese into the surface of the pastry.
Now, cut the puff pastry into strips a little under 1/2 an inch (1 cm) in width — cut long strips or short strips, whatever you’d prefer.
Hold each end firmly and give each strip of puff pastry a few twists. Place the twists on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper about 1 & 1/2 inches (3 cm) apart and transfer the baking sheet to the refrigerator to chill for about 10 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F (or 220°C).
Once chilled, slide the twists into the oven, close the door, and immediately turn the heat down to 375°F (or 190°C).
Bake for 25 ~ 30 minutes, or until the twists are golden all over and dark around the edges. Once done, turn the oven off, open the door, and let the twists sit in the oven for the next 30 minutes so that they dry out a little.
These cheddar, apple, fennel twists are best eaten on the same day that they’re made — but they freeze really well, so you can make them in advance and freeze them for several days before baking them straight from the freezer. Yum!