Strawberry Puff Pastry Squares

During that one warm spell a few weeks ago, I was coming home from fishing with the car windows wide open when all of a sudden all I could smell was strawberries. I looked over past the side of the road and there was the biggest strawberry field I have ever seen. I was in awe.

The ground, for what looked like at least 1 mile, could easily have been part of an elaborate Christmas display with all the dark greens of the leaves and the bright reds of the berries, but the smell was what first attracted my attention — and it was the smell that finally made me pull over. At the small stand, it seemed like I had just stuck my head into a bucket of the most fragrant strawberries. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to pass a strawberry patch again.

The next time you are passing a strawberry farm or stand or trying to figure out what to do with all the berries you have, give this easy dessert a try.

I did my part in supporting the local farmer. Because of me he will make it through the winter. Boy, did I get a lot of strawberries. Usually, I will stop on the way home and grab a burger or something, but I just kept on snacking on the perfectly ripe berries and never felt the urge for anything else. By the time I got home, there was not any room in my belly for a single Cheerio. And that brings us to this week’s recipe: Cheerios with strawberries and milk. Just kidding, but that is what I had for the next few days for breakfast along with strawberry pancakes and real maple syrup.

This week’s recipe is a simple dessert that can be made at the last minute. This recipe is good for eight servings and although leftovers are good the next day, it is best fresh. It takes about two hours from start to eating, but most of that time is to let the dessert set.

There are four ingredients needed to make the squares: puff pastry dough, one egg, strawberry Jell-O and strawberries. You can top it all off with whipped cream. Use the ripest berries from your local farmer so they will have the best flavor. They can be cut in a couple different ways depending on your mood. You can dice half for the bottom and then slice the rest to lay out in a nice top layer or you can slice the berries and lay them into the pastry shell.

Make the shell first so that it has plenty of time to cool. Let your dough thaw out and gently unfold it. The dough usually comes two sheets to a package and the sheets are folded in thirds. Don’t force the dough apart, but rather let it thaw and as soon as you can, unfold it. Do the first section and then it shouldn’t be long before the second fold is ready to open. Cut the berries while the dough is baking.

Let the dough completely cool before making the Jell-O. You can line the bottom of the shell with a little more than half of the berries once the dough is nice and cool.

Follow the directions on the box to make the Jell-O. Once you add the cold water to the Jell-O, set that bowl into another bowl with some ice water and stir well. Stir often while the Jell-O starts to set. When it starts to mound, pour some over the berries.

Using the ice water bath will speed up the setting period and it should only take 20 minutes or so. Cover the berries, but don’t let it flow over the shell. It will make the shell soggy. Lay the rest of the berries on top and spoon a little more Jell-O to cover all the berries.

There might be some leftover Jell-O and/or berries. Let the dessert finish setting for half an hour and serve with whipped cream.

The next time you are passing a strawberry farm or stand or trying to figure out what to do with all the berries you have, give this easy dessert a try and enjoy.

Strawberry Puff Pastry Squares | Serves 8
1 sheet puff pastry dough
1 egg, beaten
11/3 lbs. ripe strawberries, sliced in fourths
1 box strawberry Jell-O

Roll the dough out into a rectangle about 14 inches long and 8 inches wide. Cut 1 inch off each of the four sides and save those pieces. Beat the egg and brush the edges lightly, 1 inch wide and set the pieces you cut off on the edges to form a wall. Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 20 minutes while you cut the berries.

Brush the dough with the egg and bake at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes or until nice and golden. Finish slicing the rest of the berries while the dough cools.

Once cool, make the Jell-O according to the directions. Instead of letting it set in the refrigerator, place the Jell-O bowl into an ice bath as soon as you add the cold water. Stir good at first and then stir often until it starts to mound.

Cover the bottom of the shell with berries. Ladle Jell-O in to to cover the berries. Repeat those two steps trying not to allow the Jell-O to flow over the sides.

Place the dessert in the fridge until fully set. Cut, top with whipped cream and enjoy.


Chef Smitty

Smitty is a personal chef specializing in dinner parties, cooking classes and special events. Trained under Master Chef Anton Flory at Top Notch Resort in Stowe, Vt., Smitty is known for his creative use of fresh ingredients. Smitty has been teaching skiing at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows for more than 26 years each winter, and spends his summers working for High Sierra Waterski School since 2000. Smitty has been writing his chef column for Tahoe Weekly since 2005.