How to Work with Frozen Puff Pastry

Pre-made and frozen puff pastry is a life saver this time of year. With a package or two stashed in our freezer, we know a quick apple tart or plate of mini-quiche appetizers is only a few steps away. If you've never used it before, have no fear. It's as easy as 1-2-3!

1. Open the Package - Remove as many sheets as you need. One sheet will make a dessert tart for 4-6 people, a savory dinner tart for 4, or enough appetizers to feed a cocktail party of 10 or so. Wrap the remaining sheets back up and return them to the freezer.

2. Thaw the Pastry - Most pre-made puff pastry come in sheets that are folded like a business letter. Don't try to unfold the sheets straight from the freezer or the pastry will break along the folds. Instead, let them thaw overnight in the fridge or on the counter for about 30 minutes.

3. Shape the pastry - Dust your counter with a little flour and gently unfold the pastry on top. If it does crack, just brush it with a little water and press it together with your fingers. Proceed with cutting the dough into shapes or preparing it for baking.

It really is as easy as that! The 1-2-3 steps are a little silly and self-explanatory, we admit, but we really just wanted to underscore what a simple and versatile pastry this is to work with. For a quick dessert or appetizer, it really can't be beat.

A few extra tips:

• Try not to handle the dough too much or the baked pastries can end up tough.

• If the pastry starts to soften before you're finished preparing it for the oven, just put it back in the refrigerator for a few minutes.

• If you don't want the pastry to puff so dramatically, prick the dough all over with a fork (just like docking a pie crust). After baking, the pastry will be cracker thin and shatteringly crisp.

• To make a tart with a puffy outside crust, lightly score a border around the entire edge with a paring knife and then prick everything inside this border with a fork. The edges will puff up while the center stays down.

• If you're making a tart from the entire piece of dough, it's easiest to transfer it onto the baking sheet before adding any toppings.

• Make only what will be eaten and make it as close to serving as possible. Puff pastry looses its lovely crispiness after a few hours.

P.S. If you're craving the real thing, stay tuned. We're planning on a little DIY puff pastry tutorial later this season!

What's your go-to party appetizer, entrée, or dessert using frozen puff pastry?

Related: Entertaining: Make-Ahead Tips for Dinner Parties

(Image: Emma Christensen)