THE MIXING BOWL
By Renee Zarate
When I was first learning how to cook I thought I had to make everything from scratch. Puff Pastry scared me to death and took me almost the entire day to make. With age comes wisdom and I found out that some shortcuts are quite acceptable. Puff Pastry is definitely one of them! If you have not already tried frozen puff pastry sheets now is your chance. It takes all the fear out of preparing a beautiful and delicious dessert that looks like you spent all day in the kitchen when in reality it can be made in less than an hour.
Puff Pastry with cream and fruit filling
½ pkg of a 17.3 oz. Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets (1 sheet)
Remove one sheet of puff pastry from the box and thaw at room temperature for about an hour before using. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly spray it with Pam. Gently unfold the pastry sheet and place in on a lightly floured surface. Cut the sheet into three pieces using the fold lines as a guide. Be careful not to drag your knife, just cut straight down on the pastry, this way you will get the maximum “puff” or height out of the pastry dough. Place on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until it is golden brown. Cool on a rack and then split each of the three pastry “logs” in half lengthwise. You will have three tops and three bottoms. You can fill these buttery, flaky pastries with all kinds of fillings such as: ice cream, chocolate pudding, whipped cream, fruit, etc. The following is one of my favorites.
Vanilla cream and fruit filling
2 pkgs (3.4 oz each) of Jello instant pudding and pie filling
2 cups of milk or Half and Half
1 teaspoon of good quality vanilla extract
1 cup whipped cream or 1 cup of frozen whipped topping (Coolwhip)
1 quart of strawberries or mixed fresh berries cut and sweetened with 1 Tbl of sugar
(Or if you prefer several fresh, ripe bananas cut up instead of berries or fresh peaches when they are in season)
In a medium sized bowl, mix the two boxes of pudding together and blend in 2 cups of milk along with the vanilla, beat for 2 minutes. After it has set up for about 5 minutes in the refrigerator fold in the whipped cream or the thawed Coolwhip. (You can add more whipped cream or Coolwhip if you desire.) Cover this mixture and refrigerate it until you are ready to assemble the dessert.
Place all three of the “bottom” crusts of the pastry logs on the serving tray. Divide the cream filling into three portions and spread each portion on one of the pastry bottoms. Ladle your choice of fruit on top of the cream filling then top each with the remaining pastry “tops”. Sift powdered sugar across the top of the entire dessert tray and you are ready to serve it.
You can refrigerate this completed dessert for up to four hours or serve immediately. Use a serrated knife for easier slicing, just wipe off the knife after each cut with a wet towel. It will serve 12 or more.