Q: I love making puff pastry straws for my cocktail parties and while nobody has ever complained about them, I would like some tips on how best to twist them so they come of the oven looking like a pro made them. The strips never really seem to twist and I end up with straws with wide gaps between twists. Also, is there a trick to getting them to stay in place on the baking trays? Finally, is there a rule as to how dark puff pastry should be baked?
—Tom Saaristo, Chicago
A: How are you twisting your dough, asks Judith Finlayson, the Toronto-based co-author of "750 Best Appetizers: From Dips & Salsas to Spreads & Shooters."
"If you lay the strips on your work surface and twist the ends of each strip in opposite directions using the flat side of your hand, you should be able to end up with closely positioned spirals. You just have to keep doing it until you see what you think you want," she said. "Once you transfer the straws to the prepared baking sheet, (hopefully parchment or Silpat) press down on both ends to stick the straws in place."
By prepared baking sheet, Finlayson means lining it with parchment paper or using a silicone baking mat (such as Silpat).
"I then recommend placing them in the freezer for about 15 minutes to firm them up. This helps them to remember their position on the sheet and that they are spirals — not sticks," she said.
Finlayson said the final color of the puff pastry straws is up to you. She likes hers golden, not dark brown. She preheats the oven to 420 degrees, pops in the puffs and turns the temperature down to 400. She bakes the straws for 10 minutes. Take a peek then and, if the color is not dark enough, let them bake a few minutes more. Keep an eye on the straws so they don't burn.
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