Among the many reasons I love puff pastry (long before I ever wrote a cookbook on the subject or became a puff pastry spokesperson) is that one basic sheet can be transformed—with ease—into so many different and dramatic shapes.
For example, you can cut it into strips and twist it to make elegant and easy cheese straws or dessert sticks, wind it around a poached pear, or push it into mini muffin tins to make petite, blooming appetizers.
But because I am at heart a lazy baker, one of my top tricks is to take a sheet of thawed pastry out of the package, unfold it, and dock it.
Docking means to pierce lightly with a fork, or a docker (looks like a spiked paint roller), to make small holes in dough that will let steam escape during baking. This helps the dough to remain flat and even.
You can dock an entire sheet of dough, cut it into squares or rectangles for stacked napoleons, or use the method to make a pretty tart with a raised edge, which is what I did for this 4-ingredient dinner tart.
Making the raised edge couldn’t be easier: use a small sharp knife to score a 1-inch border all around the edge (I do this free-hand for dinner at home, but when I want to be more precise I grab a ruler), then dock the interior. The un-docked border will rise at least twice as high as the interior, giving the crust a dramatic raised rim. When I want to make the rim look even more special, I brush it with an egg wash (1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water—this gives the dough a lacquered finish). If the tart is sweet, I might also add a sprinkle of turbinado sugar, and if savory, a bit of sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.
This particular combination is one of my no-fail dinners; if I have a bit of roast chicken in the refrigerator, I’ll toss it on, too. And if the Roma tomatoes are looking a bit sad (as they often do this time of year), no worries: the roasting brings out their natural sweetness. But for a further boost, give them a sprinkle of sugar and a drizzle of olive oil to enhance their flavor.
So-Easy Goat Cheese, Pesto & Tomato Tart
If you have the time and inclination, it helps to freeze the goat cheese slightly in order to slice it thin. Or you can follow my lazy woman’s alternative and simply crumble it.
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (1/2 of a 17.3-ounce package), thawed according to package instructions
2 tablespoons jarred pesto
1/2 of a 3.5-ounce log goat cheese, cut into thin slices (or just crumbled)
6-8 vine tomatoes , depending on size, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 425F. Unfold pastry on a lightly floured work surface; roll out to a 12-by-14-inch rectangle. Trim edges to make even.
Place pastry on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using a small, sharp knife, lightly score dough to form a 1-inch border. Using a fork, prick dough inside the border every 1/2 inch (this is the “docking”). Refrigerate until slightly firm, about 10 minutes (or up to 1 day, covered with plastic wrap).
Bake chilled dough until puffed and golden brown, 12-15 minutes. With a fork, press dough inside border to make level; spread with pesto, arrange cheese slices on top, then arrange tomato slices in rows on top (or just pile tomato slices on top and then spread evenly). Season with salt & pepper.
Bake, loosely tented with foil, until tomatoes have softened, about 10 minutes.
Let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes. To serve, cut into eight pieces. Makes 8 servings.
Nutrition per Serving (1/8 piece of tart):Calories 108; Fat 5.0g (poly .9g, mono 2.4g, sat 1.4g); Protein 3g; Fiber: 1.9 g; Cholesterol 0mg; Carbohydrate 15g.