Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Blue Cheese and Candied Walnut Puff Pastry Bites

Unless I'm planning an appetizer and cocktails get-together (which I sometimes think is more involved than throwing together a dinner party for eight or more), the little nibbles I serve before a dinner party are oftentimes an afterthought...though not purposely so. Usually I've got my dinner menu planned and everything prepped and ready to go so there's minimal time spent running around once our guests arrive. And then...oops...that final thought hits me...what should I serve as a simple appetizer to nibble with a pre-dinner cocktail or glass of wine? I often resort to a simple, yet tasty, olive-veggie-cheese plate. A good cheese always seems to fit the bill (remember...potato-cheese-bread girl here). Perhaps a Manchego, some fig spread, a great cracker, and some dried or fresh fruit? Yum! Or, a creamy French Brie? Or, maybe my newest favorite, Cambozola? The only prerequisite is that it be a simple effort...a simple spread...a little nibble before the main attraction.

Out to dinner recently at one of our favorite restaurants, we were perusing the menu when just such a nibble arrived. As a welcoming gesture, our server brought us a complimentary appetizer...three little (itty bitty) squares of puffed pastry on a small white plate...each nibble just a tad larger than a postage stamp.

Well...these little bits may have been small but they were packed with flavor...crisp, buttery, puffed pastry; creamy, tart blue cheese; and sweet, crunchy candied walnuts. They were the perfect, simple bite. Just what a nibble should be! 

And...making them for ourselves this go-around allowed us to enjoy just a bit more than our initial 44-cent-sized portion.

Blue Cheese and Candied Walnut Puff Pastry Bites
makes approximately 20 to 24 individual, bite-sized appetizers


1 sheet frozen puffed pastry, defrosted (from 1-pound, 2-sheet box)
6 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
1 cup candied walnuts, coarsely chopped (see instructions following recipe)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Place defrosted puffed pastry onto a lightly-floured work surface. Gently roll pastry to an approximate 12-inch square. Fold up a half-inch edge on all four sides. Press edges with the tines of a fork (to seal and apply decorative mark). Lightly brush edges with water to seal. Prick entire interior surface of pastry square with fork. 

3. Transfer puffed pastry square to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle blue cheese over surface (to edge of folded border.)

Place in 400 degree F. oven for approximately 15 minutes, or until golden brown. When ready, remove from oven, prick puffed portions to release any "bubbles," sprinkle walnuts over square and return to oven for another 5 minutes.

4. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes. To serve as an appetizer, cut pastry into bite-sized pieces. (To serve as a tart -- with a salad -- cut into larger squares.)

Candied Walnuts
(for above appetizer portion)

2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

1. Melt sugar in skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently. It will begin to clump and then melt to a golden caramel color. As soon as it is completely melted, turn heat off and add chopped walnuts, stirring thoroughly to coat.

2. Turn walnuts out onto parchment paper and move around a bit to ensure that it doesn't stick as it cools. Once cooled, lightly chop to break walnut mound up into bits. Place in a zip-lock baggie, once cooled (to store if not using immediately). 

Note: I usually heat a kettle of water while doing this so that I can add hot water to the "candied" skillet...this helps loads with clean-up.

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