September 27, 2011

Savory hand pies and chocolate croissants

There are so many things you can do with puff pastry, whether it be savory or sweet.  You can basically lay things on top or stuff it inside, then pop it in the oven and watch it puff up into buttery and flaky goodness.  I've had this extra sheet of puff pastry in the freezer for a while - puff pastry is delicious but not something I use often.  But today, I decided to make some savory hand pies with my extra sheet of puff pastry.  This one is stuffed with mashed sweet potatoes and chicken.  It made a nice change for a Fall dinner.
One sheet of puff pastry can make 4 of these hand pies.  I made three and with the last square of puff pastry, I made 2 little chocolate croissants.  Well, these look a bit more like chocolate "crabs" than croissants but homemade things have a way of coming out funny (in my kitchen anyway).  All the same, it was a tasty little treat. 

Savory Chicken and Sweet Potato Hand Pies

I found the recipe for these hand pies from Martha Stewart and adapted it slightly.  These particular hand pies appealed to me because my six-year old likes sweet potatoes and chicken so I thought he might enjoy these.  But you could really stuff these with many different savory ingredients.  Think empanadas or calzones.  You could also turn these hand pies on to the sweet side with some fruit filling and sprinkle the top with some sugar before baking.  There are many possibilities. 

But for these hand pies, you need about 1 1/2 cups of chicken, cut into bite size pieces.  I reserved some leftover chicken for this.  The other ingredient for the filling is the mashed sweet potatoes.  To make 4 hand pies, you'll need 2 medium-size sweet potatoes (the recipe didn't specify so I did a little guess work when I first made them).  Wrap them tightly in foil and bake them in a 350 degree oven in a foil lined baking sheet for about an hour until they are completely soft.  Mash the sweet potatoes with a fork.  I added some nutmeg (as opposed to ground coriander and cumin in the original recipe) and milk (instead of cream), along with salt and pepper.
On to the pastry department.  Defrost one sheet of puff pastry overnight in the refrigerator.  When you're ready to assemble the hand pies, roll the pastry sheet out to about a 12-inch square.
Cut the sheet into 4 squares.  Each square makes one hand pie.
To assemble the pie, take one pastry square, with a corner facing you.  Leaving about a 1/2 to 3/4 inch border, fill it first with the mashed sweet potato mixture, then add chicken.
Fold the top half over the filling, creating a triangle.  Crimp the edges with a fork and cut a couple of vents on top of the pastry with a knife so steam can escape when it bakes.
Place the completed hand pies onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Beat an egg lightly with a fork and brush the pies before baking. 
They take about 30 minutes in the oven.  Then, dinner is ready!  This was a really fun way to eat our usual sweet potato and chicken.

Chocolate croissants

I had one extra square of puff pastry left and decided to use that to make two chocolate "croissants."  I've made mini chocolate croissants before using a  recipe from Nigella Lawson.  And by the way, I love love Nigella!  I love to read her cooking books and watch her cooking shows, and I really think it's her unabashed love and appreciation for food that I adore (she's witty and so pretty too).  So I basically followed what I learned from that recipe here.  The only difference is I'm working with 2 larger triangles than she does.  

To begin, take the square of puff pastry remaining from the hand pies and cut it diagonally to make 2 triangles.
For the chocolate filling, you can use what you like.  For one, I used some 70% dark chocolate.  For the other, I put in about 1 1/2 teaspoons of semi-sweet miniature chocolate chips.

Roll the wide part of the pastry over the chocolate and towards the point of the triangle.  Pinch the seams with your fingers and curl it into a crescent looking shape and pinch all the seams tight again. 
Brush with some beaten egg and bake for about 15 minutes.  Then your croissants are ready.  As you can see, the filling popped out of one and they kind of look more like crabs than croissants this time.  I think they would've been more croissant-like shaped if the pastry triangles were a bit smaller (that's how I remembered my last batch).  But they were flaky and yummy all the same.


Chicken and Sweet Potato Hand Pies
Adapted from Martha Stewart

- Makes 4 -

1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite size pieces
2 sweet potatoes, roasted
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 (or less) cup milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed overnight in the refrigerator
Flour, for rolling
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a bowl, mash the roasted sweet potato with a fork.  Stir in milk (use enough to make the mash sweet potatoes creamy), nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.

Dust work surface with some flour, roll puff pastry into a 12-inch square.  Divide into 4 even size squares.  For each, take a piece of square pastry and lay it with a point facing you so you are looking at a diamond shape.  Place mash sweet potatoes on the bottom half of the diamond shape, leaving about a 1/2 inch border.  Add some chopped chicken.  Fold the top half over the filling and crimp with a fork.  Cut 2 vents on the pastry with a knife to allow steam to escape when baking.  Repeat with the others and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Brush the hand pies with the beaten egg and bake for about 30 minutes, until the hand pies are puffed and golden brown. 

Chocolate Croissants

A recipe for chocolate croissants can be found here.  This recipe makes 12 miniature chocolate croissants.  They won't all be perfectly croissant-shaped but they'll be close enough.

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