Asparagus and Hot Smoked Salmon Puff Pastry Bundles

These are a delicious combination of asparagus, hot smoked salmon, cream cheese and lemon zest, all wrapped in buttery puff pastry. I’ve used 4 asparagus spears per bundle here, but it really depends on how thin your asparagus is – you could get away with more, if using the very thin ones. I wouldn’t use the very thick spears for this.

Salmon and asparagus bundle

I think puff pastry – especially ready-made puff pastry is one of the most versatile ingredients you can have on hand. I love homemade puff pastry too, but it’s super time consuming and the all-butter pastry you can get is really very good. The ready rolled stuff – even better!

These asparagus bundles are really delicious to eat and are nice served warm from the oven as an appetiser with salad, cold on a buffet table and make a great portable snack to take on a picnic. Like all things made with puff pastry though, they will lose their crispness, so they are best eaten within 24 hours of making them.

Salmon asparagus parcels

Leave the puff pastry in the fridge until you have all the other ingredients ready to assemble.  It can behave badly if it gets too warm and not puff up as much as it should do.

Ingredients:
1 sheet of ready-made, ready-rolled, all-butter puff pastry
150g (approx) cream cheese – I used Philadelphia, full fat
24 (approx) trimmed asparagus spears – I used 4 per bundle
2 fillets of hot smoked salmon – I used honey roasted, ready to eat
Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
Salt and pepper
1 little olive oil
1 egg, beaten

Salmon and asparagus parcels

Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F and line a baking tin with parchment or a non-stick liner

On a lightly floured surface, cut the rectangle of ready-rolled puff pastry into 6 equal squares. I used a pizza cutter to do this.

Then, on a diagonal, spoon a little cream cheese onto each square and flake the salmon on top.  You really don’t need a lot, or you won’t be able to close your parcel.

Rub a little oil onto the asparagus spears with your hands, just enough to help it cook in the oven.

Season with salt and black pepper and then sprinkle over the lemon zest.  This really helps lift the flavours.

Brush the visible edges of the pastry with beaten egg and draw up two opposite corners to form a bundle, press the edges together to seal.

Salmon & asparagus parcels

Place the pastry bundles ontp the prepared baking sheet and brush the tops with beaten egg and sprinkle over a little extra salt and pepper if you like.

If it’s a very warm day and the parcels have warmed up too much, put them in the fridge to chill out and firm back up for 10-20 minutes.

Salmon & asparagus bundle1

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until puffed and golden.  Serve warm from the oven as an appetiser with salad, or cold for a buffet or picnic

Mini Cheese Balls

These are individual bite-sized versions of the classic retro cheese ball and are the perfect finger food for a party or buffet. Skewered with a salted pretzel stick, the whole thing is edible and delicious too.

Bitesized cheeseballs

I used Five Counties cheese for mine, so there is a real mixture of cheese going on, but any sharp tasting cheese combination works well if it has good flavour.

5 counties cheese

This is a really quick recipe to knock up and just the thing to serve with drinks. The cheese balls are coated in pistachios and dried cranberries for a festive touch, so they would be perfect for a Christmas party.

If you do use use pretzel sticks, just make sure you spear the cheese balls just before serving as the ends will get soft if you leave them. Alternatively, a pretty toothpick or cocktail fork would work well here, or you could just serve the sticks separately for people to spear their own.

Bitesized cheeseball

Ingredients:
1 x 280g pack of cream cheese – at room temperature (but not essential if in a hurry)
280g of grated cheese – I used Five Counties – a cheese made up of layers of Cheddar, Derby, Double Gloucester, Cheshire and Red Leicester
1 roasted red pepper – I used some ready roasted from a jar for quickness
0.5tsp salt
0.5tsp black pepper
100g shelled pistachios
50g dried cranberries (craisins)
Extra black pepper for the coating
Salted pretzel sticks for serving

Method:
Very simply, mix together the cream cheese, grated cheese, chopped roasted red peppers and seasoning. I did this by hand with a fork, but if you are making a large batch, a mixer would make things much quicker. It is easier if the cream cheese is room temperature, but I have made this with fridge cold cream cheese and it worked just fine.

Chill for 30 minutes so that the mixture firms up and then roll into bite-sized balls.

Bitesized cheeseball1

Finely chop the pistachios and cranberries and spread over a board or large plate. Sprinkle over freshly ground black pepper and roll each ball in the mixture until coated.

Bitesized cheeseball2

Refrigerate the cheese balls until you want to serve and skewer each one with a pretzel stick just before serving.

Just the thing for a last minute Christmas drinks party.

You can make mini versions of my goats cheese ball and my smoky and spicy cheese ball too, check them out.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Spiced Maple Frosting

Who doesn’t love a whoopie pie?  These yummy treats are made with pumpkin, spices and sandwiched together with a decadent, spiced, maple cream cheese frosting.  All the flavours of autumn in one small (if indulgent) little cake.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pie

I made mine in a couple of Wilton 12 hole, Harvest whoopie pie pans, but they work just as well baked on a baking sheet with a non-stick liner, or parchment paper.  If you do use one pan, just be aware that you will need to keep washing and re-greasing it between baking the batches.  This can be a little time consuming, but if you want the cute shapes, totally worth it of course!

I’ve used a mixture of dark and light brown sugar and lots of spice for a dark and spicy mixture. There is more spice in the frosting too, along with maple extract.  All the flavours work so well together and create a perfect autumnal treat.

This recipe makes around 24 whoopie pies, depending on how big you make them

Pumpkin Whoopie Pie1

Ingredients:
200g dark brown soft sugar
200g light brown soft sugar
200ml vegetable oil
2 extra large eggs
1 can of pure pumpkin puree
380g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 tablespoon ground cloves
A little extra butter, melted for brushing the whoopie pie pan

Frosting:
280g full fat cream cheese at room temperature
115g butter at room temperature
450g icing sugar
2tsp maple extract/or use 2tbs maple syrup
2tsp cinnamon
1/2tsp ground cloves
Pinch of ground allspice

Method:
Prepare the fosting first by seiving together the icing sugar and spices into a bowl.

In another bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and maple extract together until light and fluffy. I do this in my stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, but you could easily do this with a wooden spoon.

Beat in the spiced icing sugar until smooth and fluffy.  I wrap a towel around the mixer at this point to avoid huge clouds of icing sugar coating my entire kitchen!  You don’t get that problem with a wooden spoon!

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies2

When the frosting is prepared, I pile it into a piping bag and chill until I’m ready to sandwich the cakes together.  This helps to firm up the frosting a little and make it easier to handle.  You could just leave it in a covered bowl in the fridge if not using a piping bag.

To make the whoopie pies:

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF and brush the baking pan with melted butter or line a baking sheet with a non-stick liner or parchment.

Sieve the flour, spices, salt, baking powder and soda together in a large bowl.

Place the oil, sugars and vanilla in a bowl and whisk together.  I used a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, but this could easily be done with a hand whisk.

Beat in the pumpkin and eggs until smooth, then add the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated.

If using a whoopie pie pan, I find it easiest to use a piping bag.  I pipe the mixture around the outside first to ensure the batter gets into all the corners and then work into the centre in a spiral.  You only need to half fill the little holes as the mixture will rise.  Give the pan a tap to help any air escape and settle the mixture.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies3

If not using a pan, drop heaped teaspoons of the mixture onto the lined baking sheet, leaving room for the cakes to expand a little.

Bake for around 7 – 10 minutes, but keep an eye on them, they are ready when the cakes spring back to the touch and a cocktail stick comes out clean.

Leave them to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, before turning out onto a cooling rack and baking the next batch.  Let cakes cool completely.

When all the cakes are baked and cooled, either pipe or spread a little of the frosting onto one side and sandwich the two cakes together.  You can leave them plain, or add a few sprinkles around the edge.  I’ve used some bronze sprinkles here, which I think work well, but some people have been known to add crispy bacon bits too!

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies1

These are great for a party, an after-school snack, or just with a cup of coffee.