Holiday Entertaining

How to Make The Ultimate Holiday Appetizer (or Dessert) Without A Recipe

December  7, 2015

Inspired by Comté's ancient production methods and its varied cheesemakers, we set out to learn more about the world of cheese and recipes to use it in.

Puff pastry will save you. It doesn’t complain like pie dough can. It’s there for you when things like this cross your mind: Oh, sugar! I’ve got 40 minutes until 10 people show up for dinner and I don’t have a suitable appetizer outside of this bag of half-eaten, mostly crushed potato chips.

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“Don’t worry,” puff pastry assures you (hypothetically, of course). “Just defrost and make me into a tart. It’ll be thawsome—er, awesome.” Puff pastry’s right, too: A tart is the perfect quick holiday appetizer or dessert or even weeknight dinner. It’s the kind of thing you can throw together with a just a little know-how and even less work. A tart accepts your filling whims, random condiments, and cheese dregs. It’s happy sweet, savory, or sweet-savory.

Here’s how to make a puff pastry tart without a recipe:

1. Roll with it.

First thing’s first: preheat the oven to 475° F. On a lightly floured surface, roll a sheet of puff pastry into a 13-inch square, fold the corners in, and re-roll into a round. Don’t worry if the round isn’t perfect. It doesn’t have to be! Transfer the puff pastry to a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate until you’re ready to add your filling.

2. Get your fill.

Sweet or savory: The choice is yours (and what a choice to make). Cheese! Vegetables! Herbs! Jam! All the exclamations! Here are some ideas to get you started:

Depending on your filling, saute your aromatics (shallots, garlic, etc.) and add your prepped vegetables (or roast separately) and some chopped or minced herbs. Cook and season like the filling-making pro you are—or will be. If you’re going sweet and using thinly sliced fruit like apples or pears, toss with some lemon juice, brown sugar, and salt to keep them from browning.

Whatever you do, let your filling cool—we’re not trying to cook the pastry on contact (or melt any cheese prematurely).

3. Build it, baby.

Here, we’re making a leek, Comté, and prosciutto tart. We used a 1/2 pound of coarsely shredded Comté and sprinkled half the cheese over the puff pastry, followed by the leek mixture, thinly-sliced prosciutto, and the remaining cheese. If you’re taking the sweet route, dust the puff pastry with a tablespoon or two of sugar before adding your filling.

Whatever you use (except if it’s a super melty thing like Nutella, which should be spread on after the tart shell is cooked), leave about a 1-inch border around the tart’s edge. Try adding the filling to the center and spreading outwards for evenness and ease. Season everything (if applicable, flavor-wise) with salt and pepper.

4. Fold, bake, and wait.

Fold the dough’s edge over to form a rim, pressing lightly to adhere. Bake the tart for 20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. To avoid burning and sad, blackened bits, add things like chopped, toasted nuts and sugary sauces like dulce de leche or caramel after the tart comes out of the oven. Things like pickled peppers can be added post-oven, too, to preserve that “oh, that’s freshhh” quality.

If excess fat irks you, blot the tart with a paper towel. Slice into wedges and serve! Yes, it was that easy. 

Photos by Bobbi Lin

Inspired by Comté's ancient production methods and its varied cheesemakers, we set out to learn more about the world of cheese and recipes to use it in.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Frederique Matteau L.
    Frederique Matteau L.
  • Pamela_in_Tokyo
  • Deedledum
I fall in love with every sandwich I ever meet.


Frederique M. December 14, 2016
I got my puff pastry from a french bakery around the corner. they sell pre-cut round tart puff pastry, the one they use to make their amazing pies! They sell 4 rounds per bag in the freezer, so i literally take it out of the freezer, prep my stuff and lay it all out as close to or as far from the edges i want! Never was an apple tart so easy! But this post gave me the need to make something savory out of the next one! :)
Pamela_in_Tokyo December 22, 2015
This worked much better than I thought possible! And was a great hit with my guests. All the ladies said they wanted to try it. I think less cheese is better. I want to try this again. My store bought puff pastry really puffed up and got crispy! A sweet version would be fun. And a breakfast version too: with ham, eggs and a little cheese. Feta cheese, goats cheese would be good to try too.

I couldn't roll out the pastry, put it on a parchment sheet and put that on a baking sheet then into the refrigerator. Who has a refrigerator that big?? ;-) But I should have used a sheet of parchment paper, though. I found it difficult to move the filled puff pastry from the counter after I rolled it out to the baking sheet. But, I did it some how. Once it is baked, it holds its shape easily. Transferring it to a cutting board or a plate is easy. Cuts easily, but perhaps not so prettily.

This is a fun dish!! I really recommend it.

Deedledum January 10, 2016
If you roll the pastry out on top of a piece of parchment, it's much easier to just pick up the sides of the parchment and slide it on to your baking sheet from there. January 12, 2016
You could also look for pre-rolled puff pastry. They usually come 2 per box rolled with a sheet of parchment. When you unroll it, you have parchment to bake on and a 10" x 11" (approximately) rectangle. PC Puff Pastry uses real butter as well.