When I'm entertaining, I often mix homemade with store-bought — it saves time and allows me to make "homemade" items I wouldn't attempt without having a place to start. Puff pastry is one of those ingredients I try to keep in my freezer at all times. It can be savory or sweet, used for breakfast or dessert, and lends a flair of sophistication to even the simplest ingredients. As a side note, Serious Eats taste-tested frozen puff pastry a few years back and concluded that the regular ol' Pepperidge Farm variety was perfectly fine for every day use, so that's what I keep on hand.
Puff pastry is surprisingly easy to work with. Let it sit out on the counter until it thaws out and becomes pliable. Then just follow the directions in your recipe. You can bake it alone and top it after, or bake it with a filling. The possibilities are endless!
There are certain things I don't make with puff pastry, though, like pizza crust or doughnuts. There are recipes out there, but I personally believe those items require a more doughier consistency versus the flakier poof.
If you've never worked with puff pastry before, here are three recipes that are easy to make and great for entertaining.
Cheese Straws from the Food Network's Ree Drummond
You can buy packages of twisted cheesy sticks at the store, but why not use puff pastry and make them yourself? You get credit for homemade, you have all the ingredients in your kitchen now, and the results will be more delicious than the store-bought stuff.
Apple Strudel from My Sweet Savory Life
I love apple strudel, and by using puff pastry, you can bake fresh strudel with minimal fuss! I like to serve this as part of brunch, or as dessert with a thin drizzle of icing on top. If you're having trouble braiding the strudel, check out The Kitchn's tutorial on how to braid puff pastry.
Ham and Cheese Puff Pastry Tart from Food and Wine
Don't be scared off by the mention of making a bechamel sauce — this recipe is really just a simple cheese sauce layered with ham, surrounded by puff pastry. Great for a heavier appetizer at an evening gathering, this can be made up to 6 hours ahead of time and then popped into the oven just before your event.