Over the past couple of weeks Iíve been experimenting with puff pastry.† This is the crispy, flaky dough that turnovers and croissants are made of.† Puff pastry is a lot of fun to work with and can really dress up an otherwise plain dish.†

Iíve recently used the pastry as tops for my homemade chicken pot pies and for some really terrific cheesy bread sticks that my kids devowered.† My next project is a peach tart, which Iíll make as soon as my oven is repaired, which is entirely another story.† Letís just say, overzealous husband with tools and leave it at that.††

Puff pastry is a beautiful, layered dough that has very basic ingredients consisting of flour, butter, salt and water.†† The layers are achieved by rolling butter into the dough and folding the dough over upon itself envelope style several times.† It is quite a process and can take several hours, or a couple of days.† During baking, itís the process of the butter melting between the layers of dough that causes steam which makes the dough become puffy.† Puff pastry can rise as much as 6 Ė 8 times its pre-baked height.† Since thereís no sugar in the dough it can be used in sweet or savory applications.† As you can imagine, making puff pastry is quite a trick, but it can be done.

Since I donít have a couple of days to finish my baking projects, I like to buy frozen puff pastry at the grocery store.† Pepperidge Farm has a really nice one that Iíve had good luck with.† It keeps for quite a while in the freezer, so itís easy to have some on hand.† The directions on the box say to defrost overnight in the refrigerator, but it works just fine letting it sit out on the counter for a couple of hours.

Hereís a little puff pastry lesson from about.com.† Puff pastry is called the king of pastries.† In French it is called P‚te Feuilletťe or leafed pastry because of its many leaves or layers.†† It is believed to have originated in 1645 in France by a French pastrycookís apprentice named Claudius Gele.† About.com has several great articles on puff pastry, how to make it, history and many recipes that would be a delight to make and eat. I also found some on baking911.com, too.

From experience Iíve come up with a little technical advice for working with puff pastry.† Be sure to lightly flour your work surface as the dough can become a little sticky as it warms up.† The dough will come folded, so when thawed, gently unfold it, lightly sprinkle it with flour and use a rolling pin to flatten it out.† Be sure to work quickly because if the dough gets too warm the thin layers of butter will start to melt and your pastry wonít puff up as it should.† Also, when cutting the pastry be sure to use a sharp knife or pizza cutter.† A sharp edge will ensure that the cuts are not mashing the layers together which would hinder the puff.† I like to brush my pastry with a little egg wash, just be sure not to get too close to the edges though as it could cause the layers to stick together and not puff up as much as you would like.

Below is my puff pastry bread stick recipe.† Sometimes I change it up.† For Italian bread sticks, use Italian seasoning, for a Mexican flavor, use cheddar and a Mexican herb blend, itís also fun to make them sweet using cinnamon and sugar.† Use your imagination Ė itís easy.

Puff Pastry Bread Sticks

Makes 24

Heat oven to 375í

1 box puff pastry, thawed

1 egg beaten with 1

†† Tablespoon of water

1/2 cup grated

†† Parmesan cheese

1 cup grated Swiss cheese

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Several sprinkles of

†† fresh crushed pepper

Roll out puff pastry to 10x12 rectangle on lightly floured surface.† Brush dough with egg wash, sprinkle with half of the remaining ingredients and mash down with your hands or use a rolling pin so that the toppings will stick.† Using a pizza cutter, slice into 12 - 1Ē ribbons.† Twist ribbons a couple of times and place on a greased sheet pan.† Repeat process for second pastry.† Bake for 15 minutes or until golden.

† Jenean Perryman is the Culinary Arts Instructor at Northeast Technology Center Afton Campus.† Email Jenean at