You do not have to be a professional chef or world-class baker to make creative items that will impress your guests. During the Thanksgiving season, entertaining family and friends can become a weekly event. In the essence of “you eat with your eyes first,” here are some tips and tricks to present delicious and beautiful desserts, appetizers, or even gifts — all made with dough.
The great thing about dough is that so many wonderful options are available in your neighborhood supermarket. Making dough is a labor of love, taking skill and time, so why not take a few short cuts when possible? However, for the purists, we have also provided some of our personal favorite dough recipes as well.
One of my favorite types of dough to work with is puff pastry. You can find this in the freezer section of the store usually near the pies and other desserts — the ready-made options today are so good that it is what we always use. It comes in sheets and shells. The sheets are extremely simple to work with and thaw out at room temperature in less than an hour. Buttery, golden brown, and flaky, anything wrapped up in this looks like a million bucks.
Baked brie seems to be on every holiday appetizer display. Beautiful on its own, it is even more special if you take the time to add a decorative topping. Remember, cookie cutters are not just for cookies! Cut out a little of the excess puff pastry dough and put a holly leaf or snowflake on top. Simply remove the puff pastry dough from the package, roll it out gently with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface, and cut out whatever shape you like. The holly “berries” can be made by just rolling a pinch of the dough into tiny balls. The best way to get a decorative topping to stick is to use a little egg wash, which is just a beaten egg with a splash of water added to thin it out. Here is a delicious recipe for a baked brie that has a few unexpected ingredients. You can make this any time of year and craft a topper for any season or theme. Use your imagination.
Basil, Bacon, and Peach Baked Brie
1 sheet of puff pastry
1 (8 ounce) brie cheese, round
2 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
2 tablespoons of fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup peach jam (homemade or store bought)
1 egg beaten, plus a splash of water (for egg wash)
Preheat oven to 375 F. Lay out one sheet of puff pastry. Place round of cheese (rind may be left on) in the middle of the pastry. Top with jam, basil, and bacon. Bring up the edges of the dough around the cheese and pinch to seal, trimming off excess dough with a sharp knife. Flip over onto a baking sheet so that the sealed edges are on the bottom. Brush the dough with egg wash. Roll out excess dough on a lightly floured surface and cut out shape of choice. Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Pie dough is another type of dough with versatility. Make a favorite family crust recipe or our recipe below, or just purchase a deep dish or standard pie shell. Fill it with your favorite sweet or savory mixture, and it is ready for the oven in minutes. The real “wow” factor comes on the top of the pie. For example, a woven lattice pie crust can make a homemade pie look so pretty. As intimidating as it might appear to non-weavers, weaving a lattice pie crust top is actually quite easy. It is also fun and a great way to get the kids involved.
Here is a step-by-step method of how to achieve a lattice top:
1) Before starting the lattice top, roll out half of the pie dough and line the pie dish with it (or, just use a prepared pie shell). The dough should extend beyond the rim of the pie dish by about half an inch. Put it in the refrigerator to chill while you work on the lattice.
2) On a lightly floured surface, roll out the other half of the pie dough to the same size as the first half, about 3 inches beyond the diameter of the pie dish. It is easier to work with the dough if it is chilled, so if the dough has softened too much, put the rolled-out piece on a flat cookie sheet and chill it in the refrigerator or freezer for a few minutes.
3) Cut the dough into even strips, 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch wide, depending on desired thickness. Use a blunt knife with or without a ruler or straight edge as a guide, or use a pizza cutter or a pastry wheel. Fill pie shell with the pie filling. Lay out four to seven parallel strips of the pie dough, depending on how thick the strips are, on top of the filling with about 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch space between them. Fold back every other strip.
4) Place one long strip of dough perpendicular to the parallel strips. Unfold the folded strips over the perpendicular strip.
5) Now take the parallel strips that are running underneath the perpendicular strip and fold them back over the perpendicular strip. Lay down a second perpendicular strip of dough next to the first strip, with some space between the strips. Unfold the folded parallel strips over the second strip.
6) Continue this process until the weave is complete over the top of the pie.
7) Trim the edges of the strips flush with the dough of the underlying pie dish, which should be about 1/2 inch over the sides. Fold back the rim of the shell over the edge of the lattice strips and crimp to secure.
It may sound complicated, but with a little practice, you will have a beautiful pie!
Good for both sweet and savory pie fillings, this dough can be used for the bottom crust as well as the upper lattice.
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons ice cold, unsalted butter, cubed
2 to 4 tablespoons cold water
Blend flour and salt in a food processor. Remove cubed butter straight out of the refrigerator and blend with the salted flour. Pulse as needed. When the butter and flour balls become the size of lima beans, add water 1 tablespoon at a time. Get the consistency so that it is not gooey, but is soft enough so that you can roll it out. Then remove it from the food processor, but resist the temptation to mess with it too much with your hands. Pat it up in a bowl and refrigerate until you are ready to use it.
Filo, or Phyllo, dough is incredibly versatile and can be formed into a variety of elegant shapes. Around Thanksgiving, we love making filo purses. Guests receive their own personal, edible gifts. Fillings can range from sweet to savory. Cranberry and goat cheese or sweet potato, spinach, and feta are both scrumptious. Anything goes! Here is how to make them.
Thaw one roll of filo dough, following thawing instructions on package. When we attended the Gastronomisch Institute in Vienna, Austria, even they suggested we purchase the filo dough premade.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Unroll and cover the filo pastry sheets with a damp towel or plastic wrap to prevent the dough from drying out. Place one sheet of filo on a cutting board and lightly coat with melted butter. Layer and repeat with three more sheets.
Use a sharp knife to cut layered filo into circles. Place prepared filling of choice into the center of each circle. Fillings should be chilled and not too moist. Excessive filling will make it difficult to seal purses. Quantities depend on how large circles are cut.
For reference: 3-inch diameter circles yield about 12 pouches. Use 1 teaspoon of filling.
The 4 1/2 inch diameter circles yield about 6 pouches. Use 2 tablespoons of filling.
Lightly brush outer edges of each square with water to help the filo stick together. Gather filled filo circle just above the filling and tie with blanched scallion strips. Gently fan the top of purse. Brush outside of purse with melted butter. Place at least 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking pan. Place filled purses in freezer for 10 minutes before baking to set the shape.
Reroll unused filo sheets, and follow storing instructions on package. Bake small purses about 25 to 30 minutes. These are adorable served on a platter or on individual dishes for guests.
Last, but certainly not least, is sugar cookie dough. One of the sweetest holiday presents for Thanksgiving or Christmas is something homemade and beautiful, and sugar cookies are perfect for gifting. Our favorite recipe has been in Lillian Zografov Lippard’s family for years. Other than needing a scale, this dough is super simple to make.
Sugar Cookie Dough
1 1/3 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 pound sugar
1 pound all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Beat the softened butter with the sugar until well combined. Add egg and vanilla and continue to mix. Add flour and mix again until well combined. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge until ready to use.
Prepare the sugar cookie dough by rolling it out to about 1/8 inch and cutting it into stars of various shapes and sizes. Bake the cookies at
350 F for about 12 minutes until lightly browned, then dust them with sugar crystals. White is elegant, but multi-colored are beautiful, too, and can be found at craft stores and specialty markets. Then stack the stars up large to small, place in a clear bag, and tie up with ribbon and twine.
There are so many ways to decorate and use these various types of dough. This is just a sneak peek with some personal favorites. These simple techniques and tips will elevate your own tried-and-true family recipes. So get in the kitchen, start rolling out some dough, and enjoy.
These recipes were developed by the ladies at Lillian’s Eatery & Bakery.