Puff pastry is my new nemesis.
This was supposed to be a ridiculously easy recipe — based on the “fake instead of really bake” principle of entertaining. I don’t believe in cheating, but I do believe that sometimes simplifying is a good way to go … especially when hosting a party. And this had all the things I like assembled together: puff pastry, goat cheese, roasted asparagus.
And yet, not a triumph.
I had my suspicions this wasn’t going to go right from the point of attempting to roll out the thawed pastry. Instead of a nice oblong rectangle, I got a wiggly-edged square that was about half the size of the crust in the photo ripped out of the magazine. No problem, I thought, I’ll make two tarts. It will be daintier, I figured.
After my wiggly-edged oblong was rolled out, I placed it on the parchment-paper-lined pan and docked the hell out of it with a fork. Theoretically, that should have made the centre of the tart not puff quite so much. Emphasis on theoretically.
After 10 minutes of baking, I took a peek into the oven only to be horrified by the mound of pastry puffing up into a golden pillow. NO! I docked you! I prickled your pastry skin with my four-tined fork! Get down! Actually, in reality, I’m pretty sure I just swore, then pulled the damn thing out of the oven and de-puffed it with the aforementioned fork, shattering the pastry.
Then came the attempt to smear on the layer of softened goat cheese. A bit more complicated now that the outer crust was in shards. On the upside, once I managed to successfully get the cheese on, no one could sense the puff pastry disaster that lay underneath. I added the lovely green spears of asparagus, some lemon zest and put it back on the oven, at the same time retrieving the second wobbly oblong that had also grown into a big puffed pillow. And repeat.
As I assembled the second tart, I felt the urge to check the progress on the first only to discover the edges were starting to move beyond golden and into burnt territory. Gah! The asparagus still hadn’t fully roasted, but the pastry was cooking much too fast. I turned the temperature down and adjusted the rack higher and hoped for the best.
However, for all the fuss puff pastry involves, there is one undeniable benefit. Because it’s all thin layers, a solution for the slightly-burnt-bottom-problem was immediately apparent. With a little careful knife work, I pried off the blackened bottom layer. And, lo, all was right.
I don’t think I’ll be attempting this one again. At least not until I get better practiced with the puff pastry. But I would suggest more lemon zest. Also, I squeezed over some lemon juice when the tarts had just come out of the oven, which I think helped add some zing and slightly cut the richness of the goat cheese.
The recipe comes courtesy from Real Simple magazine.
- 1 sheet frozen puff-pastry, thawed (apparently overnight in the fridge is best)
- 1 10-ounce log goat cheese
- 1 1/2 pounds asparagus, ends trimmed
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- zest of 1/2 lemon
- freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 400. Roll out the pastry into a 10″x18″ rectangle. Leaving a one-inch border, prick the surface of the pastry all over with a fork. (If this works for anyone else out there, please let me know.) Bake about 15 minutes or until golden, then remove from oven. Spread the cheese over the pastry. Lay the asparagus on top of the cheese. Brush with the oil and sprinkle with the zest salt and pepper. Bake an additional 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool before serving.