Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Puff Pastry Pinwheels - Easy to Make, Hard to Resist!

With the holiday season sneaking up on us, it's always a good idea to have a few quick entertaining ideas up our sleeves. I love to host parties at my house and I also enjoy impromptu get-togethers, when my friends decide to just "stop by" for a bit either to exchange gifts or because they "happen to be in the neighborhood". It doesn't matter to me WHY they are at my house, I always like to treat them well and offer up some food and beverages. The pinwheels that I'm about to share with you are something that I've been making for years. They are super versatile, can be made with whatever you have in the house, and can be ready in about 30 minutes. I like to prepare a few different types in advance, stick them in the freezer and then, when needed, just pull them out, slice and bake. In the time that it takes to chill some wine or make a round of cocktails, you can have a nice warm nibble ready to go! They also work well for larger gatherings, as they are inexpensive and can be enjoyed at room temperature or warm. This is basically a method rather than a recipe, but I experimented with some nuts from Truly Good Foods and they really made a difference in the outcome. The sweetness of the nuts (I used both the Praline Pecans and the Butter Toffee Peanuts) really kicked the flavors up from good to great. This is definitely an idea to keep in mind when you are short on time, but want to impress!

I like to make a large batch of these all at once, freeze, and have on hand for when I need them. I usually use 4 sheets of puff pastry (2 boxes with 2 sheets each) and mix and match the fillings. You will get approximately 12 pinwheels out of each sheet of pastry, so 48 in total if you use 4 sheets. It is a great way to use up leftovers that you might have hiding in your fridge or pantry. Just make each sheet a little (or a lot) different, and you will have something to please everyone! You can go savory or sweet. I prefer to walk the line and mix preserves/jams, meats, cheeses, and nuts. You could also use veggies, spices, seasonings, or whatever else inspires you. Three tips: If using veggies or diced fruits (or leftover meats), be sure and get as much moisture out of them as possible before adding to the rolls. Also, make sure that any fruits, vegetables, or meats are cut into a finer dice, not left in large chunks (they won't roll up correctly). Lastly, do NOT overfill the rolls. I know that you want maximum flavor, but if you overfill, all you will get is burnt, icky overflowing fillings. Not a good look or a good taste. Just trust me on this one. This is how to make ONE pinwheel roll. It will make 12 appetizers. More details are included below on how to alter or expand on the recipe.

Puff Pastry Pinwheels
by Chris
Adapted from a much-used old "family" recipe

1 sheet of frozen puff pastry (such as Pepperidge Farms), defrosted according to package directions
1/2 cup of fruit preserves or jam, your choice
1/2 cup meat or veggies of your choice, either finely diced or thinly sliced (crumbled bacon, sliced turkey/ham, diced sun dried tomatoes, etc. If using sliced meat, it should be very thin and just enough to cover - less than 1/2 a pound) - OPTIONAL
Any additional spices or herbs, such as dried mustard, rosemary, basil, cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper, etc. - OPTIONAL
1/2 cup of cheese (if something spreadable, such as cream cheese, goat cheese or Brie, soften it enough to dollop over the fruit and spread gently. If shredded, temperature doesn't matter)
1/4 cup Truly Good Foods Nuts (I used both the Praline Pecans and the Butter Toffee Peanuts), individually, crushed (I placed each in a separate zip lock bag and hit with a meat mallet until I had a course grind)

Once the sheet of puff pastry is defrosted, lightly flour your working surface and roll into a thin rectangular shape. As you place your toppings onto the pastry, be sure and leave about a 1/2-inch border on all sides that you do NOT put anything on. For the first layer of filling, use the fruit preserve/jam of your choice. Spread a thin layer evenly over the pastry sheet, using at least 1/4 cup, up to 1/2 cup, but no more. For the next layer, add your meat or vegetable IF USING, (which has been dried as well as possible), again thinly, as to make rolling the pinwheels easy (and again, no more than the recommended amount. Less is okay as well.) If you'd like to add additional spices or seasonings, gently sprinkle them over the top now (to taste). Top this layer with the cheese of your choice, either sprinkled lightly or dolloped evenly over the other toppings. And finally, lightly sprinkle the Truly Good Foods nuts of your choice over it all!

Now that the pastry is ready, take one of the long edges and tightly roll it towards the other long edge, creating a "log" of pastry which resembles a tube of cinnamon rolls or store bought biscuits. Seal the ending edge well, pinching to close completely. Also pinch together both of the short ends, so that no filling is visible at all. Cut a piece of plastic cling wrap and gently put the log in the center of the plastic. Wrap the roll tightly so that it will hold its shape. If you are going to bake the pinwheels soon, place the wrapped log in the refrigerator for at least an hour in order for it to firm up. If you are saving the roll to use at a later time, tightly wrap the plastic-wrapped roll in aluminum foil, label it, and place it in the freezer.

When ready to bake, remove the roll from the refrigerator or freezer, unwrap it, and slice into 12-14 rounds using a large, sharp knife. Preheat your oven to 325°F (use the convection setting if you have one - if not, you may need to add a few minutes to your cooking time, but just watch them closely). I usually slice off and discard the very ends of the roll, which are mainly dough and not very attractive. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the rolls near to one another, but not touching. When the oven is heated, put the pinwheels in to bake for about 20 minutes (time will vary depending on the ingredients used and whether or not you use the convection setting - watch them closely after about 12 minutes). When the pastry is cooked through and the filling is bubbling/melted, remove the pinwheels from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. When cool to the touch, use a spatula to place on a platter and serve immediately if possible. If you are taking them to another location, let them cool completely and gently stack them in a container that will allow a bit of air. This will allow them to remain crispy (if you put into a zip-top bag, they will get mushy). Now, here are the combinations of flavors that I chose for my Truly Good Foods Nutty Pinwheels:

Pastry Sheet 1:
Fig Preserves, Brie cheese, crumbled bacon, Truly Good Foods Praline Pecans (crushed)

Pastry Sheet 2:
Mixed Berry Spread, Gouda cheese, Truly Good Foods Praline Pecans (crushed)

Pastry Sheet 3:
Apricot Preserves, Monterey jack cheese, shredded grilled pork, Truly Good Foods Butter Toffee Peanuts (crushed)

Pastry Sheet 4:
Peach Preserves, Manchego cheese, crumbled bacon, Truly Good Foods Butter Toffee Peanuts (crushed)

They all got rave reviews and I didn't even get to bring any home! This is definitely a recipe that you should try. Always a crowd pleaser, but the Truly Good Foods Nuts were the icing on the cake!

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