Be reliably flaky with puff pastry treats

As Jews, we are given many reasons to celebrate, and as Jews, we complement our celebrations with food. In addition to our festivals, our weekly celebrations of Shabbat, our High Holy Days, Chanukah, Purim and Passover, we also have our life events. Baby namings, brit, weddings, b’nai mitzvah and even funerals honor and celebrate life.

I’ve included recipes in this week’s column that are very elegant, yet fairly easy to make. Packaged puff pastry is the key, as the layers of flaky dough make for a fancy presentation. These dishes may be a bit time-consuming to make, but the results are worthy of celebration.

Coulibiac is a classic French dish that was modeled on the royal dish of St. Petersburg of the 19th century. The chocolate turnovers are a delicious special-occasion dessert that is impressive and rich.

Coulibiac (Salmon in Puff Pastry)

Serves 10-12

2 Tbs. unsalted butter

1 small leek, cleaned and chopped

1 cup chopped mushrooms

1 cup cooked rice

1 tsp. salt

1⁄2 tsp. pepper

2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 side of filleted salmon, about 11⁄2 lbs. or 14 inches long

1 egg, beaten

Melt the butter in a medium skillet. Add the leek, and sauté until it begins to soften, about 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until mushrooms release their juices, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to high, and sauté until liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Transfer to bowl. Add rice. Season with salt and pepper. Cool completely.

Roll out 1 pastry sheet on a piece of parchment paper to about a 4-by-14-inch rectangle, or large enough to fit the salmon fillet. Mound the rice and mushroom mixture in an oval on top of the pastry. Set the salmon on top of the rice. Bring pastry corners up around salmon (pastry will not enclose salmon completely). Roll out remaining pastry sheet on a floured surface, to a size large enough to cover the salmon. Lay the pastry on top of the salmon fillet. Pinch edges together to seal, brushing with egg mixture if necessary to adhere. Place the coulibiac, with the parchment paper, on a baking sheet. Cover and chill 30 minutes. (Can be made 8 hours ahead. Keep chilled.)

Brush the top of pastry with egg mixture. Bake in a preheated 425-degree oven until golden, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with dill sauce.

Dill Sauce

Makes about 1 cup

1⁄2 cup dry white wine

11⁄4 cup crème fraîche

3 Tbs. chopped dill

Bring the wine to a simmer and cook until it is reduced to 1⁄4 cup, about 9 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Whisk in crème fraîche. Simmer until reduced to 1 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in dill. Season with salt and pepper.

Chocolate Orange Turnovers

Makes 8 turnovers

2 thawed puff pastry sheets, cut into 8 squares

1 large egg, beaten

3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 Tbs. freshly grated orange zest

1 Tbs. sugar

Brush edges of pastry squares with some egg. Put some of the chocolate in the center of each pastry square. Sprinkle on a little orange zest. Fold each square diagonally in half, forming triangles. Seal edges by gently pressing together and crimp decoratively.

Brush tops of turnovers with egg and sprinkle with sugar. With a sharp knife cut a small steam vent in top of each turnover. Place turnovers on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in a preheated 450-degree oven, until golden, about 12 minutes. Cool turnovers slightly on a rack. Serve warm.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a certified culinary professional. Visit her Web site at She can be reached at [email protected].