Sometimes I wonder if TikTok is just a collection of food “hacks” that aren’t hacking anything, or if it’s some great conspiracy to get me to do silly things, like drink lots of balsamic vinegar. It’s probably both. I decided to get fooled again and try out the upside-down puff pastry hack. I can’t say it’s solving any puff pastry problems I have, but I’m ok with admitting that it’s actually pretty tasty.
The classic way to make a small puff pastry bite would be to lay down a piece of thawed puff pastry on a sheet tray. Load it up with a few tasty ingredients, like asparagus and cheese, or sliced sausage and peppers, egg wash it, and bake it. The puff pastry on the bottom puffs up elegantly and the ingredients in the middle cook until soft. The upside-down version builds it in reverse. The “toppings” go directly on the sheet tray, and you drape the puff pastry over the toppings. Egg wash it for aesthetics, and bake. The puff pastry bakes up tall, and once it browns, you flip it over to reveal the toppings.
I can’t say that this version is easier, the amount of work is the same but in a different order. However, it does open up the door to caramelization and Maillard browning, as the toppings are in direct contact with the hot metal sheet pan. I had the best results when I used this to my advantage by first laying down ingredients prone to browning, like cheese or sugar. I made a parmesan, asparagus, and dijon pastry that was true perfection. I used an unlined, dark sheet tray so I could get the most colour and crisp on my cheese. I was going for a frico layer. I sprayed it with some oil, scattered on a layer of cheese, and placed a few cuts of raw asparagus down on top. I topped the green guys with a dab of dijon mustard and a bit more cheese.
Finally I put a rectangle of puff pastry over the whole thing and pressed it around the edges like I was tucking it in for a sleep. In the last picture, there are score marks on the pastry, but this is just decorative. If you’d like, you can do them after the egg wash. I egg washed the top (soon to be bottom), and baked it in a 400°F oven for about 15 minutes.
The puff pastry baked-up taller than it would have if it had been on the bottom. The ingredients weren’t weighing it down, so it rose untethered. Visually, this pleased me. I flipped it over to behold the perfect, toasty-brown frico cap protecting my asparagus spears. After letting it cool I bit into the shattering applause of a thousand crispy pastry flakes. It immediately deflates when you bite it, of course. That’s just the nature of puff pastry, not TikTok’s fault.
Toppings that did not perform as well were ones that didn’t capitalise on the sheet pan contact, like peppers and onions, or a meatball without cheese. The puff pastry functioned more like a lid, and the ingredients became steamy and separated from the pastry shell. Not appealing and not flavorful. To get the most out of your upside-down puff pastry bite, make the first ingredient something that will brown well, like parmesan, cheddar, or low-moisture mozzarella cheese. I highly suggest doing sweet ones too, and scattering white or brown sugar down first with a few tiny chunks of butter. Not only will these ingredients add delicious flavour, but they’ll sear and caramelize to create new, complex flavours and textures.
When it comes time to flip your pastries, use a fish spatula. The ultra-thin spatula blade will slide under the puff pastry without tearing it up. If you use your hands, you’ll likely lose some of your filling. I used an oiled sheet pan, but you can use a sheet of parchment paper if you’re worried about the fillings sticking.
The following recipe is for the asparagus pastries (they happen to be in season in my area). The combination of crisp and chewy cheese, earthy, slightly sweet asparagus, and a smidge of sharp Dijon mustard is a total winner. And it tastes great paired with a hard boiled egg.
Upside-Down Asparagus Parmesan Dijon Bites
- 8-10 spears of small asparagus, cut to be about 3-inches long
- ½ cup to 1 cup of grated parmesan
- ½ cup shredded low-moisture mozzarella
- 1-2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 sheet of thawed puff pastry, cut into 6 rectangles
- Egg wash (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Coat a metal sheet tray with a small amount of oil and spread it around evenly with your fingertips. Sprinkle about a teaspoonful of parmesan in 6 spots evenly spaced on the sheet tray. Make them about the same length of your asparagus and puff pastry rectangles. Top with a pinch of mozzarella.
Nestle 3 or 4 pieces of asparagus on the cheese piles. Dab the asparagus with a small amount of Dijon, to taste. I used about a half teaspoon for each pastry. Top with another pinch of mozzarella. Cover each of the asparagus heaps with a rectangle of puff pastry and press the pastry down and around the toppings. Brush the tops with egg wash and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the puff pastry is fully puffed, nicely browned, and any cheese peeking out is dark brown. Let them cool for a couple minutes, and flip them over with a spatula.
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