Puff pastry can transform even the simplest ingredients into a dazzling meal or dessert. Sadly, there always seems to be useless scraps leftover. This precious, all-butter material is not cheap to buy, and certainly not easy to make. Instead of tossing out the odd ends of laminated pastry gold, use the excess for something else altogether.
I always have an instinct to save the scraps of larger components. Even if I don’t have plans exactly, I’ll throw scraps of all kinds in the freezer. After you’ve used the first cuttings of puff pastry sheets, either store-bought or homemade, always roll up the scraps in a sheet of parchment paper. (The store bought version usually comes rolled in un-waxed paper already, so just reuse that paper for rolling.) Fold the roll of scraps in half, for the sake of saving freezer space, and because you don’t need to preserve the scrap’s shape. Put them in an airtight bag or container, and pop it in the freezer until you decide to make one of these fantastic scrap-snacks.
I saved the best for first. This is my favourite way to use puff pastry scraps, and it’s one of the quickest. Put the pastry leftovers on a cutting surface. If the scraps are frozen, let them sit on the counter for five minutes; they’ll thaw quickly, but they should still be cold to the touch. Cut the scraps into about half-inch sized pieces. I use a pizza cutter and roll through them at odd angles until I have cut them all to size.
Throw the pieces into a medium bowl and drizzle about a teaspoon of oil over the top. If you have a spray bottle of oil, about five sprays will do. You don’t want them to be oily, just a little moist so the dry seasonings have something to stick to. Toss the puff pastry with a fork. Add any seasonings you like. I like to add salt, cayenne, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, and umami powder. Toss again until the pieces are evenly coated. Spread the scraps out onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper in an even layer so they don’t overlap. Bake in a preheated 200°C oven for 10-12 minutes. Add croutons to soups, salads, pastas, or nibble on them as a crunchy snack.
Cinnamon sugar monkey bread
Similar to the croutons above, monkey bread is made by tossing laminated pastry dough in dry stuff — except this time we make it sweet (and shape it differently). Prepare the dough in the same way, cut the thawed puff pastry scraps into small pieces, roughly a half inch to an inch. Put the scraps in a bowl and toss with a small amount of oil or melted butter, about a teaspoon or so. If you have two cups of scrap pieces, sprinkle about two tablespoons of white or brown sugar over the pieces, along with roughly two teaspoons of cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Toss the pieces to coat well in the dry ingredients.
Depending on how much scrap you’re working with, butter a loaf pan, or make individual monkey bread by buttering cupcake wells. Fill the baking vessel about halfway full of your scrap mixture. If you have leftover sugar at the bottom of the bowl, sprinkle it over the top. Bake in a preheated 200°C oven for 10-15 minutes depending on the baking dish you’re using. The monkey bread is finished when it’s toasted on top and well-risen. Unmold the bread while it’s still warm because cold caramel can stick to the pan.
If you have a lot of long scraps, you might want to consider rolling some cheese sticks. I find this works best with dry, aged cheeses because they don’t drastically melt out. Pour about half a cup of shredded parmesan, or other aged cheese, onto a work surface. Run a knife through the shredded cheese to create a mince. With thawed pastry scraps about two to five inches long, place one in the cheese and with an open palm, press and roll the pastry in the cheese. The cheese will stick and embed into the pastry. Do this with all of your puff pastry pieces. If you have very long pieces, fold them in half after rolling them in cheese, and twist for a nice design. Place the pieces on a parchment lined baking pan and bake in a preheated 200°C oven for 10-12 minutes.
Build up a large batch of puff pastry scraps in the freezer and turn any of these snacks into larger productions. The monkey bread makes an especially enticing centrepiece if built in a bundt pan.
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