I love the holidays and planning a jolly assortment of appetizers to fill the table. Usually, I go overboard and make a huge variety of bite-sized delights. Check out my other festive holiday appetizer blog if you are looking for inspiration on small bites, but this year, I want showstopper appeal!
These appetizers act as a centerpiece of sorts and immediately catch your eye and anchor the table. Nothing screams centerpiece more than an epic grazing board of charcuterie, cheese and all the accoutrements. Alas, for this blog I went a little carb crazy and used two different dough recipes to create two entirely different eye-catching appetizers.
The first recipe is for star bread. I just love the shape of this bread and the endless possibilities of fillings. I made a duxelle using our very own Chef Josh’s mushrooms and pesto as my fillings in between each layer of dough.
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Yield: serves 8
Prep Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon salt
Filling – see ideas below
Egg wash: 1 large egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon milk or water
1. Place the yeast and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Heat the milk on the stove or in the microwave until warm to touch, about 110°F. Pour warm milk on top of yeast/sugar and let sit until the mixture starts to foam about 5-10 minutes.
2. Add the butter, egg, flour, and salt. Beat on low speed for 3-5 minutes. Dough will be soft. Using lightly floured hands, form it into a ball. If the dough is too sticky to handle, add 1-3 more Tablespoons of flour.
3. Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in a slightly warm environment to rise until doubled in size, around 60-90 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 350°F
5. Place dough on a lightly floured work surface. Divide into 4 equal pieces and with a floured rolling pin, roll each out into a thin 10-inch circle.
6. Place the bottom circle on a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat. If it lost its circle shape, use your hands to form the edges back into a round shape. Top the circle with filling up to the end and place another dough circle on top.
7. Repeat the layers with the remaining circles and filling. The top layer does not have filling on it, so only 3 of the 4 circles will be topped with filling.
8. Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut any scraps around the edges so you have an even circle. Place a 3 inch round object or bowl in the center and make an indent. This is the center of the star.
9. Next, cut 16 even strips from the center, I suggest cutting in quarters first and cut sections in half from there.
10. Using both hands, grab two strips and twist them toward each other twice, then press the two ends together to make a point. Your star bread will have 8 points.
11. Cover the shaped bread with plastic wrap and let it rest for 20 minutes.
12. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the star bread with egg wash. Bake for about 25- 30 minutes or until golden brown on top. If you notice the top or points browning too quickly, loosely tent the star bread with aluminum foil. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes.
What I love about these recipes are they are completely customizable and could be either sweet or savory. The bread and fillings can be made in stages so it doesn’t have to be a laborious undertaking.
Savory filling ideas:
- Herbed goat cheese with caramelized onions
- Ricotta or feta with wilted spinach
- Whipped cream cheese with mix ins like: blue cheese, shredded cheddar or other favorite cheese, crumbled bacon, scallions/herbs
- Chutney or salsa
- Any thick vegetable puree like a pumpkin puree or mushroom duxelle
Sweet filling ideas:
- Jams or preserves
- Sweetened whipped cream cheese with mix ins like chocolate chips
- Peanut butter and honey
- Whipped butter with cinnamon and sugar
- Puff pastry
- Pie dough
- Pizza dough
- Pre-made biscuit dough
The second recipe is my take on a savory profiterole, also known as a gougère or cheese puff. This recipe which starts with pâte à choux dough can be transformed into any shape you want. To get into the spirit of the season, I opted to make mine into a snowman! You can decorate your snowman with any garnishes you may like. I used a Microplane grater to create Parmesan snow, cornichons for the scarf and cranberries for the buttons.
Pâte à Choux Snowman
Yield: 2 dozen or one large snowman
Active time: 15 minutes
Start to finish: 40 minutes
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 stick butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1. Preheat the oven to 400°.
2. In a heavy saucepan, combine the water, salt, sugar and butter, and bring to a boil.
3. Add the flour all at once, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the flour is smoothly incorporated. Cook, stirring, for one additional minute.
4. Remove from the heat and transfer to a mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, mix in the eggs one at a time until completely incorporated.
5. Place finished batter in a piping bag if using. This batter can be stored for 3 days.
6. I used things around the kitchen to trace circles with for my snowman shape but you can also freehand pipe into the shape you desire.
7. While the dough is still warm, scoop or pipe onto a Silpat or parchment-lined sheet tray. The snowmen have 2 layers piped on top of one another, the one on the left is the outline and the right is free form. You may also pipe and bake separate circles and place them together after baking.
8. Bake until very brown and crisp. They should sound hollow when tapped lightly on top. For a small scoop bake for approximately 15 minutes, for a large scoop bake for roughly 25 minutes. My small snowman took about 30 minutes and the large took about 40 minutes to bake total.
9. Once the pate choux is baked and cooled, they can be frozen and reheated, or cut in half horizontally and filled with whatever you desire.
This platter may already be pretty cheesy, but I made a whipped blue cheese cream for filling with sliced tomatoes and prosciutto, boy was it tasty, even though it was a bit sad to cut into.
The filling ideas for the pate choux snowman and the star bread can be used interchangeably. Even in a pinch when you don’t have time to make dough from scratch you can use pre-made grocery store doughs!
If you want to learn how to make fun holiday appetizers, don't miss a special virtual class for our private Facebook members coming up on Wednesday, December 8 at 6pm CST. Join the group, and go to the Featured area to get the code that will allow you to register for the class at a 100% discount. We hope to see you there!