Pastry shells, including pie crusts, tart shells and puff pastry shells, are a handy thing to keep in your freezer, but some types need to be thawed before baking. With pastry crusts on hand, you can prepare meals, desserts and easy appetizers in minutes. To thaw or not to thaw depends on whether it's a pie crust or puff pastry.
Pie crusts are famous as the foundation for many desserts, but you can also use a frozen pie crust for pot pie, quiche and other savory dishes, as long as the crust isn't too sweet for these dishes. Allow pie crusts to thaw at room temperature for 15 minutes before using as directed in your recipe. If you're using frozen rolled pastry for a pie recipe with a pastry top, work with the top when it's still cool, a little below room temperature. It's easier to handle that way, and you'll be able to crimp the thawed top and bottom crusts together around the edges, or cut and lay strips for a lattice top crust.
Tiny tart shells bake fast. There's no need to thaw or pre-bake these little crusts. Remove them from the freezer when you're ready to cook them. Spoon fillings such as steamed vegetables mixed with creamy Parmesan dressing or spiced shrimp covered with Southwest chipotle dressing into each shell, then pop into a preheated oven. Bake for at least 15 to 18 minutes to make sure the tart crust is cooked through and ready to serve.
Sheets of frozen puff pastry must be thawed before you use them. Remove the puff pastry from the freezer about 30 minutes before you want to prep your meal or dessert. Separate the sheets and let the pastry rest on the counter and thaw completely before you unfold it. As an alternative, you can thaw puff pastry in the refrigerator for four hours. Unfold and roll out the puff pastry, spread it with melted butter or ranch dressing and top with meat, cheese or vegetables for a savory dish. Bake the filled pastry according to the package directions.
When you need a fast appetizer for a party, puff pastry shells are ideal. These shells come pre-shaped and don't require more than a spoonful of filling once they're baked. You don't need to allow thawing time, so simply place these on a baking sheet and slide into a preheated oven. After 20 minutes, take the top off of each shell and return to the oven for a few minutes. Fill with seasoned vegetables, cold chicken salad or seafood poached in creamy balsamic dressing, then replace the pastry top.
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