Nothing says party to me like puff pastry. It sounds kind of retro kitsch, but there's something about that crisp shatter of salty, flaky pastry that's so indulgent, it can't help but be for a special occasion.
Instead of cheese straws, which have sort of been what they are forever, I make cheesy papillons—butterflies, or bowties. I just press sea salt, grated Gruyère, and piment d'Espelette (for heat and some holiday coloring) into store-bought puff pastry, slice the pastry into ribbons with a fluted ravioli cutter, twist the ribbons in the center, and bake them. They puff up into huge, glorious, crispy, salty, cheesy Everests. I serve them in baskets down the center of the table instead of bread.
I almost never have any of these left over. So I stash one away for myself. It's the happiest snack for doing the dishes.
- 2 puff pastry sheets (17 ounces total)
- Coarse sea salt (such as Maldon or fleur de sel)
- 2 cups grated Gruyère (about 6 ounces)
- 1/4 teaspoon piment d’Espelette
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Dust the countertop with some flour. Unfold the puff pastry, dock lightly with a fork, and season with a generous pinch of sea salt. Scatter 1 cup of cheese evenly over the top, and use a rolling pin to gently press it into the pastry. Top with half of the piment d’Espelette. Repeat with the second sheet of pastry and the remaining ingredients.
Use a ravioli cutter to slice the pastry in strips about 1-inch by 3 inches. Twist each strip in the middle to form a bowtie.
Place strips, spaced out, on a Silpat or parchment-lined baking sheet (you may need to do this in two batches). Bake until puffed and golden, 15 to 20 minutes.