“No, I am serious, this is the very best cheese nibble I have eaten in my life!” isn’t exactly the worst kind of feedback to receive when you have just spent roughly 2 hours in the kitchen, is it? But even without Oliver’s enthusiastic outburst, I could not keep my praise about these super-flaky appetizers all to myself…
The great thing about this recipe is that you receive a maximum of crisp flakiness with a minimum of tedious puff pastry techniques. Honestly I could not believe my eyes when they started to grow in my oven – they almost tripled in height and seemed to breathe. Oliver’s slightly geeky comment was…”Whooa Cheese People”. Mmm, ooookay.
These are perfect for nibbling professionals, well, those people who pay close attention to how they eat something (how you eat Oreos or Prinzenrolle cookies maybe a good indicator). Of course, you can eat them all at once, which is only half the fun, better yet (or much better!!!), nibble away one thin layer after another layer of the flaky pastry, starting from the bottom (where else?!) up to the top, to finally be rewarded with the cheesy, crusty top layer. Mmm. Mmm. Mmm.
Start the night before: Line a large metal sieve with either a clean cheesecloth or a paper towel and fill with the Quark (curd). Leave covered to drain in a cold spot, preferably in the fridge.
On the next day: Cut cold butter into cubes and put into a bowl together with 125 g of the drained Quark, flour and sea salt. Quickly knead together by hand or with a handheld mixer (use the dough hooks), just make sure not to overwork the dough, small visible spots of Quark and butter are fine.
Dust your work surface and a rolling pin with some flour and carefully roll it out to a rectangle, about 1 cm (0,4 inch) thick, then fold the dough like a letter into thirds (when making puff pastry this procedure is called “one turn”). Rotate and repeat the step, then wrap the dough into plastic foil and freeze for 20 to 30 minutes. Throughout the whole process it is important to work quickly, but in case the dough gets too warm and too hard to work with, just wrap it into foil and freeze for a couple of minutes. If you are having trouble keeping the edges of your dough straight I recommend using a large ruler: push it against the sides from time to time, this helps to keep a nice rectangular shape.
Remove the dough from your freezer and repeat step no.3. Put into the freezer for another 20 to 30 minutes. In case you are completely new to making puff pastry and turning the dough, this video is a great starting point (although the dough isn’t folded into thirds).
Preheat the oven to 200°C (~390°F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the freezer again, dust surface and rolling pin one last time and roll into a neat square (~ 18*18 cm/ ~ 7*7 inch), trimming the edges with a sharp knife if necessary. Then cut into small squares (mine were 3*3 cm/ 1,2*1,2 inch) using the large ruler (for measuring and pressing down the dough, while cutting) and knife or pizza cutter.
Place them on the lined baking sheet not too close to each other, then brush with the beaten egg. Top with a mix of freshly grated Gruyere and Grana Padano, then bake on middle level for about 15 minutes or until puffed and nicely golden brown (don’t get nervous, if the fat looks like it is leaking during the first minutes, that’s normal). Place on a cooling rack – or eat right away… Best eaten the day they were made.
Recipe source: own creation
Prep. time ~1,5 hours (plus draining over night)
Ingredients (~ 36 nibbles):
~175 g Quark (curd), 40% fat
125 g cold butter
125 g bread flour (type 550)
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 egg (M or L), lightly beaten
20 g freshly grated cheese (I used a mix of Gruyere and Grana Padano)