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The following recipe comes from our brand new cookbook, The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion.
Don't you just love it when you discover a recipe that’s easy to make, and yet yields something that’s not only delicious, but gives the appearance of having been difficult to execute? Looks aren't everything, but in the world of food they're at least something.
We got the inspiration for these cheese twists from Food Arts magazine, to our mind the best restaurant-focused magazine out there. If you want to know what the "hot" chefs are doing, crave information on the newest away-from-home food trends, or enjoy tracking what new restaurants are opening where (and which old ones are closing, and why), this is the magazine for you. An issue last fall included a photo of tall, spiraled, golden "bread sticks," the copy indicating that they were "slender twists of buttery pate feuilletee combined with grated Parmesan." Later on, we read that the deep orange color of the spiral running the length of the twist came from paprika and cayenne pepper. A couple of photos showed the dough being cut and shaped to make the twists, and from this very basic information--remember, the publication targets professional chefs, who don't need everything spelled out for them--we were able to formulate the following recipe.
First, we bypassed the pate feuilletee, which is labor-intensive puff paste, and substituted “faux” puff paste, a much-streamlined version of the original classic. We combined Parmesan cheese with paprika and cayenne till the color and flavor were to our liking then, with the help of the photos, put the twists together. By gory, they actually looked like the picture! And what's more, upon emerging a lovely, golden brown from a hot oven, they tasted like something you'd be served in a fancy restaurant, along with your aperitif. Thank you, Food Arts! We've just added another hors d'oeuvre to our "fancy but easy" arsenal.
Faux Puff Pastry
This pastry is very quick to put together, and mimics the flakiness of classic puff pastry. Yes, it does seem like that’s an awful lot of butter for the amount of flour; in fact, it IS an awful lot of butter for the amount of flour, but that’s how you get the desired tender, flaky-crisp texture. I tried this using half the amount of butter (1 stick); the result wasn’t quite as tender, quite as flaky, and the dough was much more difficult to work with. However, if you’re counting calories or worried about cholesterol, you might want to go this route. Be advised that the size of the rectangle you roll out will be more like 18 x 10 inches, instead of the 24 x 12-inch rectangle the full-fat version will yield; there’s less dough to roll, and it doesn’t roll out quite as thin.
1 1/2 cups (6 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup (4 ounces) sour cream
3/4 cup (3 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste*
*This amount yields a twist that is noticeably but not assertively hot. Reduce or increase the amount of cayenne as you see fit.
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water
Pastry: In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Cut in the unsalted butter; leave the butter in uneven pea-sized bits, larger than you would for a pie crust. If you have a food processor, a few quick pulses is all it takes. Stir in the sour cream; the dough won't be particularly cohesive at this point. Turn it out onto a floured work surface and bring it together with a few quick kneads. Shape the dough into a rough, thick rectangle, wrap it, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Filling: Combine the Parmesan, paprika and cayenne and set aside.
Egg wash: Beat the eggs with the water in a small bowl, set aside.
Assembly: Roll the dough into a 12 x 24-inch rectangle; it'll be about 1/8-inch thick. Brush the entire surface with egg wash. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over half of the dough. Fold the bare piece of dough over the filled piece to make a 12-inch square, and roll it lengthwise, till the two halves stick together. You should have a rectangle of dough about 12 x 13 inches. Transfer the dough to a piece of parchment or a baking sheet. Why? Because this dough handles best when it's cold, and if it starts to get too warm as you're shaping the twistsóif it becomes sticky and fragile --having it on parchment or on a pan makes it easy to transfer it to the fridge to cool down for a bit.
Using a rolling pizza cutter, a sharp knife, or similar implement, cut the dough in 3/4-inch wide strips crosswise, so that you have about 17 1-inch strips. Pick up a dough strip, and twist the ends in opposite directions (like you were wringing out a washcloth), till the dough is a spiraled cylinder. Place the twists on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining dough.
Brush the tops lightly with egg wash if desired; it will make them brown better. Bake the twists in a preheated 400°F oven for 20 to 22 minutes, or until they're golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and cool them on a rack. Serve them in a long bread basket, or arrayed upright in a tall glass canister or vase. Yield: about 1 1/2-dozen 12- to 14-inch twists.
Nutrition information per serving (1 twist, 34g): 153 cal, 13g fat, 2g protein, 8g complex carbohydrates, 46mg cholesterol, 40mg sodium, 31mg potassium, 131RE vitamin A, 12mg calcium, 23RE phosphorus.
July 8, 2003