Easy pastries, savory and sweet
FoodCheese pastry; chocolate pastry

Easy pastries, savory and sweet

A basic recipe with endless possibilities

Cheese and olive pastry (Photo by Jessica Grann)
Cheese and olive pastry (Photo by Jessica Grann)

I love sharing recipes like this because they offer a basic instruction, but the possibilities of what you can create are endless.

Here are recipes for both a cheese and olive pastry and a chocolate pastry — two different options using store-bought puff pastry dough. These take 5-10 minutes to prepare, so on a half-hour’s notice you can make a sumptuous savory or sweet pastry to serve with coffee or a glass of wine.

The braid design looks more intricate than it is and can be completed in fewer than 5 minutes. The amount of filling affects the appearance of the pastry when baked, but it’s pretty either way.

Cheese pastry
1 piece of pareve frozen puff pastry (they typically come two to a box)

For the cheese filling:
1½ cups shredded Muenster cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg
A pinch of salt and pepper of your choice
2 tablespoons green olives, sliced or halved (optional)
1 tablespoon finely diced parsley
1 egg plus 1 teaspoon of water whisked together for egg wash
Sesame seeds for topping (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl using a fork. Set aside.

Remove the pastry from the freezer and line a small baking pan with parchment paper.

About 25 minutes before preparation, set the oven to 425 F and place the wire rack in the top third of the oven. (When baking, it’s important that the oven has time to preheat. After setting the oven’s temperature, allow it to rest empty for at least 10 minutes before baking.)

While most pastry packages say it takes a half-hour to thaw, I find it usually takes 45 minutes unless your kitchen is hot. There is a sweet spot between frozen and room temperature. You should be able to unfold the pastry and not have the seam crack and separate completely. If it is too warm, the dough will not retain its shape. The pastry can feel very cold and firm to the touch but when it’s ready to use you will be able to gently unfold it onto the baking sheet and discard the center piece of paper that came between the pastry layers.

Cheese pastry, step by step (Photo by Jessica Grann)

Using a sharp knife or kitchen shears, cut from the outside edge into the first seam while avoiding cutting into the main center section.

Repeat this step and cut 9 or 10 times up each side of the pastry so that it looks like both side edges have a fringe.

Cut away the outer two pieces of fringe on each end so that the middle portion notches out about an inch on each end.

Gently scoop the cheese mixture onto the center panel and pat it down over the rectangular center. You can use the back of the spoon to push any bits that fall into the fringed pastry back toward the center.

If you want to add olives, scatter them on top of the filling.

Starting at one end, turn the end piece up into the center, which will seal the end of the pastry.

Cross the first piece of pastry on the left side over and up to the right, which will partially cover part of the bottom end piece, then cross the first piece on the right-hand side up and to the left, tucking the edge around the filling.

Repeat the braid all the way to the top. Before you cross over the last two pieces, tuck the top notched-out area down and in to cover the edge of the pastry, then cross over the last two pieces and gently pinch them.

If you have a bit of extra pastry, tuck it under the bottom.

Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired.

Bake for 28-30 minutes.

Allow the pastry to cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes before serving. This also can be served at room temperature, but I prefer it warm. This recipe makes 5 small slices.

Chocolate pastry (Photo by Jessica Grann)

Chocolate pastry
1 package of pareve frozen puff pastry
2-3 ounces of a chocolate bar of your choice
Egg wash as noted above
Powdered sugar for dusting, optional

Follow the instructions above for thawing and preparing the puff pastry sheet. The oven temperature, technique and egg are all the same.

I use chocolate that comes in a bar with a grid of squares, with three squares per row. I break the chocolate into 5-6 rows and arrange it in the center of the pastry. You may need to buy two chocolate bars depending on their size.

Roll up the end edge and braid the pastry as noted above, brush it with the egg wash, and bake at 425 F for 26-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Chocolate pastry, step by step (Photo by Jessica Grann)

Remove from the oven and cool for 20-25 minutes before serving.

If you use dark, bittersweet chocolate, this pastry will have little sugar in it because the pastry dough does not contain sugar. You can sprinkle a little on top of the chocolate before braiding the pastry dough. You can also sprinkle the pastry with powdered sugar to add a little sweetness to the dessert.

This is the perfect treat to whip up if you have someone special coming over for a cup of coffee.

I’ve also filled the pastry with cream cheese mixed with sugar and fresh fruit or jam, which comes out like a Danish.

I hope that these recipes bring you joy. Enjoy and bless your hands! PJC

Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.

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