Friday, March 28, 2014

Snack Madness

Cheesy Bacon-Wrapped Puff Pastry Straws

If you are looking for a salty-sweet snack to serve party guests, look no further than the Cheesy Bacon-Wrapped Puff Pastry Straws artfully arranged in the mug! Most of the ingredients you need to make these addictive treats can be found in the Dairy and Frozen Food departments at Jungle Jim's International Market. Usually we recommend the thick applewood smoked bacon, but for this recipe you will need thinly sliced bacon. Jungle Jim's brand bacon comes in both thick and thin sliced varieties, so make sure to pick up the thin type. Thin bacon strips will result in a perfectly crisp, fully cooked puff pastry straw your guests will gobble up! The Cooking School staff sampled the freshly baked straws and enthusiastically noted that they pair exceptionally well with any beer on tap at the Tasting Bar!

Working with puff pastry is easy. When you purchase puff pastry, keep it in the freezer until the day before you are ready to use it, then take it out and let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Have all your ingredients and utensils assembled before you are ready to make the straws before you take the puff pastry out of the refrigerator. You will find that chilled puff pastry is much easier to work with. Unfold the puff pastry into one flat sheet, brush lightly with the beaten egg and then sprinkle the desired amount of cayenne pepper over it. We didn't give you a specific amount of cayenne to use because each person has their own definition of "hot or spicy."

Sprinkle the finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese over the cayenne and then gently press the cheese into the puff pastry with a rolling pin. 

Cut the cheese-covered puff pastry into long 1/2-inch wide strips. Fold them in half on top of each other and then pinch the ends together. Gently twist them several times.

Tip - once you have all the twists made, refrigerate them for 30 minutes. They will be easier to handle for the next step.

Mix the brown sugar, minced fresh rosemary, salt and pepper in a pie plate. Gently coat each twist with the brown sugar mixture and place on a greased rack that sits on a foil-covered baking sheet. Give the straws some space - at least an inch and a half. They will expand while baking. 

Place the coated twists in a preheated 375 degree oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Depending on your oven, we recommend checking them at 30 minutes. They will look crisp and browned when they are done. Allow them to cool for 5 minutes on the rack; then take a thin metal spatula and move them a bit so they don't stick to the rack. Cool another 10 minutes and then eat.

Because these twists were immediately devoured by the staff, we can't say how long they will last or how to store them! Please leave us comments with instructions on how to store them if you happen to have any left over. We didn't try this, but we think the twists would freeze well before coating with the brown sugar. Just remove the twists from the freezer, roll in the brown sugar mixture, place on the prepared rack and baking sheet and bake. Enjoy!

Cheesy Bacon-Wrapped Puff Pastry Straws
Yield:  26-28 twists

1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten
Cayenne pepper
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded
13-14 thin slices of bacon, cut in half
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with foil and place a wire rack on top. Spray the rack with non-stick spray.

Open one sheet of puff pastry on a cutting board. Brush the surface lightly with some of the beaten egg. Sprinkle with your desired amount of cayenne pepper to taste (see photo above). Sprinkle surface with 1/2 cup of cheese to evenly cover entire surface. Dust a rolling pin with flour and then roll the rolling pin over the cheese to gently press the cheese into the puff pastry.

Cut the puff pastry into long 1/2-inch wide strips and then fold in half and then pinch the ends together. Twist each strip several times.

Take a piece of bacon and wrap it around the twisted pastry. Place on the rack. Repeat with the remaining twists until everything has been used.

Mix the brown sugar, minced rosemary, salt and pepper in a pie plate. Carefully take each bacon wrapped pastry one at a time and dip it through the brown sugar mixture - coat completely. Place each coated twist back on the rack.

Bake the twists for 35-40 minutes. Check them at 30 minutes to make sure they aren't burning. Once the bacon is cooked and the twists are browned, remove from the oven and allow to cool 5 minutes. Use a thin spatula to carefully lift the twists off the rack so they don't stick. Allow them to cool another 10 minutes to firm and crisp up before serving.

Tip: refrigerate the uncoated twists for 30 minutes to firm up before coating with the brown sugar mixture. They will be easier to handle.

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