Saturday, April 6, 2013

Sweet & Spicy Cheddar & Pepper Jelly Pastry Puffs

When I was a little girl, we lived in a suburb of NYC. I remember going to the city to see Broadway shows with my parents. So exciting! I remember the first time I saw a homeless person too. I asked my father if we could invite her home for dinner. He smiled, shaking his head. He said I had a bleeding heart.   

As a teenager, I volunteered at the local ASPCA, caring for homeless animals and taking home a sweet collie-mix. Once, on a bitter cold day in winter, I found an emaciated dog wandering the streets not far from our house. Naturally, I had to rescue him because I had a bleeding heart just like my dad said. I took the dog to the Vet to get checked out and the doctor told me that my newly found pup wouldn't last long in the freezing temperatures because he was so thin. So I hid him in our basement, feeding him and nursing him back to health. My dad had no idea that there was a semi-feral dog living in our basement. One day, the dog accidentally escaped into the yard and attacked my dad. Dad wasn't smiling at my bleeding heart then. On the way to the emergency room, he was muttering Lebanese curse words under his breath. Whenever he was angry, he cursed in Arabic. I was bitten too while attempting to get the dog off of him during the attack. But I was more afraid for my dad who sustained a puncture wound from the dog's teeth. He continued to curse as the nurse was bandaging our hands. She told him he should be proud he raised a daughter who is kind to animals. She also reminded him that we may need rabies shots. That wasn't my finest hour.

Cheddar & Red Pepper Jelly Puffs
A week or so later, I came home from school to find my father sitting at the kitchen table with one of his new clients. My dad did accounting work for many of our neighbors and friends. He looked at the man sitting across from him and calmly said, "I'd like you to meet my daughter, the girl who kidnapped your dog." I stood there shocked and embarrassed. The man was our neighbor. He told my dad that his dog, Red, had gone missing. He then told us that he didn't much like the dog, so it wasn't such a big deal. I asked him if I could still care for the dog, sending over dog food. The man was thrilled. My dad just shook his head in disbelief. I think my father always knew that the extra allowance he gave me bought Red's dog food. Whether he liked to admit it or not, I learned to have a bleeding heart from him. 

When I was 19, I dated a football player. I wasn't the girl who dated ball players. I was the girl who dated science-geeks, artist-types and guys who liked to reenact civil war battles at Gettysburg. My short-lived romance with this one particular jock didn't last long. But it I got to ride around with him in his Pontiac Trans-Am... which was cool back then.

My boyfriend's idea of a date was eating lots of greasy pizza and staying home watching hours and hours of football. I don't think he ever gave much thought to books, art, science or homeless pets. We were a mismatched couple if there ever was one.

His mother's name was Blanche. She worked in a factory all day. Every night, she cooked for her family. When everyone else was watching football, her and I would sit at her kitchen table, drinking coffee and eating pieces of freshly-baked poor man's cake (her specialty). She'd smoke a few cigarettes and talk about what she was planning on making for Sunday supper or hashing out the latest factory gossip. We never discussed undernourished animals or the plight of the homeless in New York. Meeting Blanche was good for me.  I was destined to date the football player so I could meet his mother.

More than twenty years have passed since those kitchen conversations with Blanche. I still care about homeless animals, donating regularly to the ASPCA. But like Blanche, I take breaks from serious matters. I sit at my kitchen table, sipping coffee and thinking about the next recipe I'll create. I turn off the noise of the world and turn on the jazz. I pull out my baking trays and make golden pastry puffs.

Today, Little B's Brie and Jam Bites were on my mind. Just reading her recipe made me smile. Crispy little pastry puffs filled with savory and sweet ingredients. What's not to love? Have you been to her blog yet? She cooks delicious, homey things from her Vermont kitchen.

Cheddar and Pepper Jelly Pastry Puffs Recipe
(adapted from Little B's Brie & Jam Bites)

Some Notes:

The inspiration for this recipe came from Little B's Brie & Jam Bites. Instead of using brie and jam, I use a creamy cheddar cheese and red pepper jelly. Hers are perfectly shaped. Patience is not my virtue, so mine are not as pretty. Unless you're serving them to the queen, mis-matched shapes are fine. Cutting the pastry with a cookie cutter and using a fork to seal the top and bottom pieces has worked well for me. Making triangle shapes works too. Use your creativity.

These spicy, sweet, buttery, melting morsels of deliciousness can be yours for minimal effort.

My brother-in-law's family makes their own homemade hot pepper jelly which I love. But there are many store bought kinds that are also very good. I used Trader Joe's brand for this recipe. 

I don't like all the ingredients in regular store-bought puff pastry.  So, I make them with White Toque butter puff pastry. It's imported from France. I find it at Whole Foods. It's expensive but I don't make these that often so it's worth the splurge. It's all natural with a non-greasy, light and crispy texture. If I were Julia Child, I might make my own puff-pastry sheets. But, sadly, I'm not. So I turn to this brand for my puff pastry recipes. It comes in two large round discs instead of two large squares. I have to use my ingenuity in cutting the shapes.

I'm still experimenting with getting just the right amount of cheese and pepper jelly in each puff. Too much and they seem to explode. Too little is not good either. If you make these, I'd love to hear how they turn out and please send your tips to me. I use a bite-size piece of medium-sharp Tillamook cheddar cheese in each square and a teaspoon or two of jam, depending on the size of the pastry shape.
I'm not very patient, so some of them always explode while baking. They still taste great.

They're great with beer, wine, sherry or port. They make a nice appetizer or snack.
I had a few of them for lunch with a green salad.

Some other great sweet and savory pastry puff combinations are:
Stilton and cranberry jelly
Brie and berry jam
Manchego and fig jam
Cheddar and mango or apricot chutney
Cheddar and jalapeno-apple jelly

Sweet & Chocolatey Combos are:
Dark chocolate, sea salt & berry jam (raspberry, strawberry and blackberry are wonderful)
Dark chocolate & apricot jam
Dark chocolate & a pinch of fleur de sel
Milk chocolate & and a pinch of cinnamon
Dark chocolate & slivered almonds

This recipe was featured on

Use my suggestions as a guide and have fun!

You'll Need:
  • 1 package of puff pastry, cut into 20-24 squares or small shapes. I use an all-natural, French brand. (see notes) 
  • cheddar cheese of your choice cut into 20- 24 bite size squares. I used a medium sharp cheddar.
  • hot pepper jelly. I used Trader Joe's Hot & Sweet Pepper Jelly  

The Rundown:
Preheat the oven to 400.

The puff pastry comes frozen, so I defrost it in my fridge overnight. When you're ready to make this recipe.Cut about 20-24 pieces of cheese into bite size pieces and set aside. Dust your work station with flour so that the puff pastry doesn't stick to it. Using a knife, cookie cutter or a pizza cutter, cut the pastry into 20-24 squares, triangles or other small shapes (see notes). Put about a teaspoon or two of pepper jelly in the middle of each pastry.
Add a piece of cheese. Fold the pastry together, pinching it with your fingers or use a fork to seal the edges. Make sure all the edges are securely sealed so the jelly doesn't ooze out too much during cooking. Take the tip of a knife and poke tiny hole in the top of each pastry to act as a vent.

Place filled pastry puffs on foil-lined baking trays that have been sprayed very well with cooking spray or buttered liberally. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and let the puffs cool until warm to the touch. Eat and Enjoy!    

To make chocolate & jam puff pastry hearts, I use Ghirardelli Sea Salt Dark Chocolate Bars and blackberry jam. With a heart shaped cookie cutter, cut bottoms and tops for the hearts from the puff pastry. Put a teaspoon of jam and a bite size piece of chocolate in the middle of the bottom piece of pastry and then put the top piece over it, crimping the edges with a fork, sort of like making ravioli. Brush the tops of the hearts with a beaten egg and a sprinkling of raw cane sugar. Put them on a foil-lined, well-greased baking tray and poked a hole in the top of each one to act as a vent. Bake them at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Great with coffee for breakfast, sort of like a chocolate croissant.  


  1. I really enjoyed reading this post Jill - wonderful job! I see you have a few gluten free recipes here also. Can't wait to explore some more ☺

    1. Hi Little B, Most of my fritters can be made gluten free by using Pamelas Gluten free baking mix. Great stuff! Not my best food photos in this post. Sometimes experimenting doesn't work. They didn't make it onto Food Gawker. But they were shared on Thanks again for the wonderful recipe!

    2. Oh and thanks so much for popping by and leaving a comment. Happy Cooking in Vermont!