Meet my nemesis; appetizers.
Ask me to bring something to a party and I panic.
Finger food? Dip? Bruschetta? What the heck do I make?! For some reason, my mind goes completely blank.
To remedy this, I started experimenting with this ham and cheese pastry by Ina Garten. It’s just like making a sandwich, but a classy one filled with black forest ham and Gruyère. It’s baked until puffed and golden, and then cut into squares (brilliant, if you ask me). Served warm, these scrumptious bites need nothing more than a cold cocktail in hand.
It is my go-to dish for the holiday season.
Start with good quality puff pastry. If you’re going to indulge, go for the real thing; all butter. Some brands contain hydrogenated oils (+ other scary ingredients you cannot pronounce) so all natural is best. Defrost overnight in the fridge before you begin.
You can also buy puff pastry in pre-rolled sheets.
To assemble, smear one half with Dijon mustard leaving a 1-inch border around the edge (yes, that is a ruler).
Add the ham and sprinkle with cheese.
Brush the border with egg wash to create a seal. My pastry brush went rogue, so I used a scrunched up paper towel instead- works totally fine. Place the remaining sheet of dough on top.
Using a sharp knife, trim the dough so that the edges line up and the square is even. It’s just like cutting the crust off of a sandwich. Make sure to cut the dough in a swift downward motion (think paper slicer). If you drag your knife, it will not rise properly.
Brush with more egg wash.
Make 3 small slits in the top so that the steam can escape while baking.
25 minutes later…
Welcome to appetizer bliss.
What I like about this recipe, is that when you cut the pastry into squares the cheese doesn’t ooze out all over the place. Gruyère doesn’t melt like mozzarella so everything stays pretty much in tact. There’s nothing worse than people standing around with cheese hanging out of their mouth! The trick is to not overstuff the pastry and to keep the ingredients in proportion. Enjoy!
- Puff pastry sheets are available in the frozen section of most grocery stores. If you cannot find them, you can use a whole block of dough instead. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough and cut it into two sheets measuring approximately 10 x 12 inches (use a ruler if necessary). Transfer to a piece of parchment paper and proceed with the rest of the recipe.
- 1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted*
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- ¼ pound black forest ham, thinly sliced
- ½ pound Gruyère cheese, grated
- 1 egg
- flour for dusting
- Preheat your oven to 450 F.
- To make the egg wash, lightly beat an egg with 1 tbsp. of water. Set aside.
- Place a piece of parchment paper onto your work surface and dust lightly with flour.
- Lay one sheet of puff pastry on top of the paper.
- Using the back of a teaspoon, brush the dough with mustard leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Use a ruler if necessary.
- Staying within the border, add the sliced ham in overlapping layers.
- Add the cheese.
- Brush the border with some of the egg wash to create a seal.
- Place the second sheet of puff pastry on top of the filled pastry lining up the edges.
- Using a sharp knife, trim the dough so that the edges line up and the square is even. It’s just like cutting the crust off of a sandwich. Make sure to cut the dough in a swift downward motion (think paper slicer). If you drag your knife, it will not rise properly. Press down lightly.
- Brush the top with more egg wash and cut a few slits in the top to allow steam to escape.
- Transfer the dough to a baking sheet by lifting up the parchment paper.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until puffed and golden brown.
- Allow to cool for a few minutes and cut into squares (about 12-16 depending how large you want them).
- Serve hot.