Fast, easy to work with and versatile. Puff pastry’s delicious buttery taste and flaky-crisp texture goes with most everything savory or sweet. Wanting to include a savory item in a recent class I taught on Pies & Tarts, I remembered a puff pastry hors d’oeuvre from my catering days in Los Angeles. Then we delighted the guests with a Tomato and Pesto Puff Pastry Tart served hot from the oven.
Improvising on the details, I created a new recipe during the Pies & Tarts class. It’s now even better than I remember with the addition of the Slow-Roasted Tomatoes. What a perfect holiday coincidence—Roasted Tomato and Pesto Puff Pastry Tart just happens to be red and green. Add this recipe to your repertoire for preparing and enjoying now and for special occasions throughout the year.
Gather together some sweet-tasting tomatoes, flavorful Pesto Genovese, soft goat cheese and defrosted puff pastry and you’re ready to go.
To make things easier the day of your party, you can prepare Slow-Roasted Tomatoes up to a few days in advance. Their concentrated flavor and juiciness make for a most succulent filling. A perfect contrast to the flaky puff pastry.
Multi-layers of butter and flour folded together perform an incredible feat in the oven. They puff up perhaps 4-6 times their original height. Rather miraculous how the steam from the melting butter puffs up the layers of flour. Ever since my first batch of puff pastry at the Cordon Bleu, I’ve been fascinated with it. Often times I still turn on the oven light while the pastry bakes so I can watch the action through the window on the oven door.
Most puff pastry recipes call for quite high baking temperatures. I feel a steady 375 degree oven works best. The pastry becomes gorgeously golden-brown in the same amount of time required to puff and thoroughly cook. With higher temperatures the pastry often gets overly brown around the edges before the center ingredients cook.
Frozen Puff Pastry
For this tart, commercially made puff pastry works well. Find Pepperidge Farm puff pastry in the freezer section of most grocery stores. As a once a year treat its fine. Just don’t look at the longer than necessary list of ingredients. The best option for all butter puff pastry, when you can find it, comes from Dufour Pastry Kitchens. I understand Whole Foods carries their puff pastry. As does a small independent market here in Bozeman.
Fast and Easy
Easy does it for this Roasted Tomato and Pesto Puff Pastry Tart. First scallop the edges as explained in the recipe below. Then with a sharp paring knife, score the inside of the pastry about 1/3-inch in from the edge all around. Next use the tines of a fork to “dock”—put holes in the center of the pastry (inside the scoring). This allows the steam to escape and keeps the pastry from randomly puffing up in the center of the tart.
The day after the Pies & Tarts Class, I made an even quicker Tomato and Puff Pastry Tart using up the leftover puff pastry and pesto. Thick, overlapping slices of fresh ripe tomatoes replaced the slow-roasted tomatoes. Made for a light and luscious dinner.
Other hors d’oeuvres for holiday entertaining
Healthier hors d’oeuvres seem difficult to come by this time of year. Consider serving any of these vegetable-rich appetizers:
Makes 25 1½–inch squares as an hors d’oeuvre; and six 3 x 4½-inch rectangles to serve 2-3 as a light meal
Active time: 15 minutes
Total time: 40-45 minutes
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, defrosted overnight in the fridge (or 40 minutes at room temperature)
1/3 cup pesto, i.e. Pesto Genovese, Arugula Pesto or other pesto of your choice
1 recipe Slow Roasted Tomatoes, or 6-8 fresh tomatoes, such as Campari tomatoes
¼ – 1/3 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese, feta, or shaved Parmesan or Pecorino
¼ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves if using fresh tomatoes
Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Unroll the defrosted sheet of pastry and place it on a parchment paper-lined baking pan.
Here’s the classic way to finish the edges of puff pastry. Use the little finger of your left hand and the back side of a paring knife (held in your right hand) to scallop the outer edge all around the pastry.
Use a paring knife to lightly score the inside of the tart 1/3 inch all around.
Use the tines of a fork to dock the inside of the tart.
Alternatively, core the fresh tomatoes and cut ¼ inch thick slices (about 5 slices per tomato depending upon their size). Overlap these slices as the tomatoes will shrink while they cook in the oven. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Dot with the goat cheese and the fresh thyme leaves.
Refrigerate the tart until you are ready to bake it.
Remove the tart from the oven and let it cool slightly before cutting with a serrated knife. Serve hot or at room temperature.
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