Puff pastry, a little jam, some egg white and icing sugar: sweet puff pastry straws inspired by Italian sfogliatine biscuits but so much easier.
Another cooking myth vanquished: the one that puff pastry is impossible to make at home.
Admittedly it’s a shortcut: rough puff, similar to my easy Danish. The trick is to roughly mix the diced (and iced) butter into flour and add water to combine. Then it folds and rolls and folds and rolls and folds and rolls, which obviously doesn't do itself but it’s incomparably easier than pressing layers of butter into layers of pastry, by the book.
So I proudly produced a quantity of thoroughly decent, albeit rough, puff pastry. Now what?
How to use puff pastry?
The only way I’d not recommend is raw. That’s a joke, but seriously puff pastry is so versatile, it’s difficult to know where to start about its uses. Especially if you don’t mind how calorific it is, the possibilities are endless.
Savoury puff pastry recipes
Pies, pies, pies. I have recently used my rough puff to make beef burger wellingtons and it was a roaring success. Sausage rolls are certainly worth a mention, as are those little savoury tartlets filled with prawns or cheese, which so unfairly have gone out of fashion.
Plus you can make all kinds of tarts and mock-pizzas with puff pastry. From the simplest, a rectangle adorned with bits of ham and a sprinkling of cheese, to the most elaborate onion and olive pissaladière-style tarts.
Wrap asparagus spears into rolled out sheets of puff pastry and you’re in for a treat. Fill it with cheese or salmon and you’ll create an en croute dish. Or simply cut into straws and bake, sprinkled with coarse salt.
Sweet puff pastry recipes
There are some classic puff pastry standards, most of them French: millefeuille, palmier biscuits, turnovers and galette des rois. But this time I fancied small. Little, dainty biscuits to nibble with a cup of coffee. Glazed but not too sweet pastry straws – precisely that.
I was inspired by Italian sfogliatine biscuits but they are very elaborate confections. Piping geometric patterns in jam onto small cookies is not my forte. But the idea of delicate puff pastry glazed with jam and sugar glaze certainly appealed to me. And such an easy biscuit fix! Brush, cut and bake!
How to make easy puff biscuits
Whether you make it with shop-bought pastry or homemade quick puff, it may well come from the freezer. It needs to be fully thawed so it’s pliable and rolls out nicely. Not too thin; if you use ready-made pastry sheet, it’s ready to go.
I score diagonal lines over the pastry sheet as a nod towards sfogliatine – that’s as much as I can muster in the direction of perfect diamond patterns piped in jam on the original articles. But even that isn’t necessary – you can just go ahead and brush it with jam as is, then cut into straws.
I like them to be thin and dainty, it is after all the shockingly rich puff pastry, about one centimetre by five long. It’s necessary to chill the biscuits well before baking, otherwise all the butter the pastry contains will leak out in sad pools in the oven, instead of magically flaking and raising the pastry.
Twice baked puff straws
They are proper ‘biscuits’ – twice baked, because as they come out of the oven, pale golden, some collapsed on their sides, I brush them liberally all over with egg white and sugar paste and return to the oven for the second bake. The glaze doesn’t set dry but makes the straws wonderfully sticky.
They keep well: up to a week in an airtight container. But they never usually get a chance to last so long in my house…