There are times when the fates seem to be working their hardest to bring you down, and it's often at these moments that some of the most gloriously delicious inspiration strikes. Last week, things were not going well for Daniel and me at Serious Eats World Headquarters. After a weekend of brainstorming ideas for a new recipe series, we started the week with trying and failing to pull together a great recipe for stuffed French toast, and finished it up by tag-teaming and tag-failing at perfecting a recipe for pull-apart bread.
One of these days, we're going to publish a post titled "Recipes Ideas That Look Great on Pinterest but Suck in Real Life." I've already got the list in my head.
Fortunately, things took an upturn when we combined the package of puff pastry we had in the freezer with the pizza toppings we had in the fridge, and set them on the waffle iron we keep on the shelf. While the waffle iron might not quite be the magic bullet that turns absolutely everything delicious, it's certainly had a high proportion of success in the crispy-on-the-outside, gooey-and-cheesy-in-the-middle department.
A few months back, we discovered that the waffle iron is the best way to reheat pizza. Today, we're gonna show you that it's equally good at producing ready-in-15-minute pepperoni pizza-flavored treats as well, and all it takes are four ingredients: frozen puff pastry, pizza sauce, pepperoni, and shredded mozzarella cheese.
Step 1: Roll out Puff Pastry
Start by rolling out a sheet of thawed puff pastry into a 16- by 16-inch rectangle (it's ok to be rough here, don't bother breaking out the yardstick!)
Step 2: Spread Sauce
Next up, spread some pizza sauce on there. I used canned tomatoes that I drained carefully and crushed with a pinch of salt, but you can use store-bought sauce or try making up a batch of my New York-Style Pizza Sauce if you're the kind of person who prefers bells and whistles. Make sure to leave a one-inch border all around so that you can seal the puff pastry later on.
Step 3: Spread the Pepperoni
Spread out a fine layer of pepperoni over the surface. You can use pre-sliced pepperoni, but I prefer to cut my own off of a stick (this was Boar's Head, one of the winners of our taste test).
Step 4: Spread the Cheese
Next up, I add a layer of shredded mozzarella. Our taste test favorite is Polly-O, but any full-fat, low-moisture mozzarella will do. Just make sure to grate it fresh—pre-grated cheese comes coated in starch that can affect its melting qualities.
Step 5: Start Rolling
Here's where the fun part comes in. You could just fold the darn thing over and slap it into the waffle iron to make a two-sided, pepperoni-and-cheese-in-the-middle pocket, but what we're gonna do will end up creating dozens of interspersed layers of cheese, pastry, pepperoni, and sauce.
The secret is to take a cue from Chinese scallion pancakes. Rather than simply forming a disk, we start by rolling the ingredients up tight like a jelly roll.
Step 6: Seal the Seam
Seal the seam with your fingertips to ensure that the fillings don't leak (at least, not too much).
Step 7: Spiral It!
Here's the real trick. Now, I've tried forming these puff pastry spirals into waffle-able shapes in a variety of ways, from slicing them into disks and flattening them, to simply folding and pinching like an empanada, to laminating them like a croissant. This is the simplest method to get plenty of flaky layers without any difficult rolling or folding.
Take that rolled-up tube, and spin it into a spiral shape, sealing the trailing edge against the outside of the spiral. We now have a perfectly circular shape that has all of the original layers built into the puff pastry, multiplied by three or four times with the rolling process.
Step 8: Waffle It.
Shove the whole thing into a preheated Belgian waffle iron. If you've stuffed yours as full as ours, you'll have a tough time keeping the lid shut, but do your best.
Step 9: Wait For It...
Peek in on the waffle periodically. You want it to be a deep, golden brown on both sides, with crispy, near-blackened bits of cheese around the edges. There are few things worse than gummy puff pastry, so make sure that your waffle hits at least, oh, 190°F or so before calling it.
And yes, you'll want to use an instant-read thermometer here.
Step 10: Done!
It looks a little dark, but trust me here. We're going for flavor, not Pinterest clicks, which means you want to take a cue from Buddy's in Detroit and get that cheese nice and dark.
Step 11: De-Iron It
Is de-iron a word? If deplane and defenestrate count, I think de-iron should as well.
If your cheese is properly crisped, it should have leaked a bit around the edges and will lift off in a single lacy edge that sticks to the waffle, not the iron.
Step 12: Cut and Serve
Cut the waffle into wedges with a knife and serve it with more sauce on the side for dipping.
Step 13: EAT
And let the pulling, flaking, burning-of-fingers, and chowing down begin.