Three Cheese Puff Pastry
If you’re looking for party-friendly snacks that are rich and delicious and sure to dazzle your family and friends, then look no further. These cheese sticks have it all. We mixed three different types of cheese to create a bite that’s nutty, salty, and tangy, with a creamy feel, then cut the cheesiness with a bit of butter. These cheese sticks fairly sparkle with the addition of Ground Grains of Paradise, a peppery African spice that brings some heat along with hints of cardamom and clove.
The key to successful execution of this dish lies in taking the time to let the ingredients work together, and making the ingredients small and/or easily blendable. Grate hard Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses with a fine grater or Microplane, so they integrate into the dough. Use finely-ground Grains of Paradise to prevent odd, potentially unpleasant peppery bites. Let the butter and soft goat cheese warm up to room temperature, so they whip together into one smooth, fluffy pillow. When adding the cheese and flour mixture to the butter and goat cheese, add in increments and stir to fully incorporate before adding more. The rule of thumb is to add 1/3 of the total dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, combine, and then add more.
It’s important to let the dough rest once the cheeses, flour, and butter have been fully mixed. It will allow the flour to hydrate, which will cause the proteins in the flour to relax, creating a texturally softer cookie. Give it a few hours or even overnight. When you remove the dough from the refrigerator it will be a solid ball, so give it some time to come to room temperature. This will make rolling it out so much easier. It may crack a little while you’re rolling it out, but that’s no problem. You can smoosh the dough back together to re-seal it, and dampen your fingertip and run it along the broken dough edge to help the re-seal stick more firmly. Cover the top of the cheese puffs with an egg wash, then top with more Grains of Paradise and whatever spice you prefer. We wanted to counter the peppery Grains with the gentle smoke of Sweet Smoked Paprika, but herbaceous Mediterranean Thyme or Fennel Seed would also be welcome additions to this treat.
Roll the dough to about 1/4 inch in thickness, then cut them into rectangles. You can use a knife, but if you’ve got a steady hand and a sense of flair you can use a pizza cutter. Don’t cut the rectangles too long, though; you don’t want the puffs to break under their own gravity, and you don’t want them to take so long to cook in the middle that they burn along the edges. They should puff slightly and turn golden, with browning in some spots. They will still be soft when you take them out of the oven so let them firm up in the baking pan for five minutes before moving them to a cooling rack. When they are cool to the touch and can be picked up without putting finger marks on the side of the puff, they are ready to eat.
We served this with Awaze Sauce, a spicy Ethiopian dipping sauce made from Berbere Seasoning and gin. Bright, spicy, and boasting gin’s bold berry and floral notes, this sauce will soon become a go-to recipe when you want to dazzle your neighbors and bring something a little “extra” to the potluck. If you want to try something other than Awaze, we recommend our Simple Red Sauce, a rich, tomato-ey marinara that goes with anything rich and packed with cheese. These are wonderful as holiday finger foods or gifts, wrapped in parchment and a big, bright ribbon. Or enjoy these as an adult dessert, with a nice, crisp glass of white wine at your side.
- 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup finely grated Pecorino cheese
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Ground Grains of Paradise, divided
- 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 4 oz goat cheese, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons Sweet Smoked Paprika
- 1 egg, beaten
1. Combine Parmesan, Pecorino, flour, 1 Tablespoon Grains of Paradise, and Kosher Salt. Stir.
2. Using a stand or hand mixer, blend butter and goat cheese on medium speed for 2 or 3 minutes.
3. Gradually work the cheese and flour mixture into the whipped butter using your hands. Form a ball of dough and then cut it in half and form into 2 balls.
4. Wrap the two balls of dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
5. Preheat oven to 400°F. Allow the dough to rise to room temperature (30 minutes) and use a rolling pin to work the dough into an oblong shape that is ¼ inch thick. Trim off the edges of the dough to create a rectangle.
6. Cut dough into rectangles that are 1 inch wide by 3 or 4 inches long. Arrange on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Make sure there is a little space between the cheese puffs, so they cook evenly and do not stick together.
7. Brush the cheese puffs with the beaten egg and sprinkle on the remaining teaspoon of Grains of Paradise and the Smoked Sweet Paprika.
8. Bake in a 400°F oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until slightly puffed up and golden brown.
9. Rest on a cooling rack for 10 minutes before serving.