From the Kitchen – Savouring the Experience

by Joan Saunders | photos by Amanda Cribdon Photography – 

Yes, it’s Mother’s Day again, and I’ve cajoled my son into spending more time with me in the kitchen. He isn’t that difficult to persuade when he knows he gets to enjoy the finished product. And when the final result includes puff pastry, cream cheese, tomatoes and smoked salmon, it’s another winning experience for us both. Besides, it ends up as a fabulous Mother’s Day brunch item as not only does it look gorgeous, but it also has layers of amazing flavour.

We started out with this recipe by assigning ourselves the challenge of homemade rough puff pastry; neither of us has attempted it before. Puff pastry of any kind sounds a bit intimidating, so we were pleasantly surprised when it wasn’t that difficult. It does, however, take a lot of time. A lot. You have to make the dough, roll it out, fold it into quarters, wrap it up, put it in the fridge, bring it out again after half an hour, roll it out, fold it into quarters, wrap it up and put it back in the fridge. You do this entire process four times in total, so it is a commitment. But is it worth it? Nope, not really.

It was worth it for us to say we had actually made rough puff pastry, so we could check that off our list of baking skills. But the second time we used this recipe we decided to buy puff pastry from the freezer section of the grocery store, and it made the process very straightforward. Just follow the directions on the package for thawing and you’ll be good to go. You could even bake the bagel base the night before your brunch and easily assemble it in the morning.

This does make a fabulous showpiece for Mother’s Day, but I would also serve it as an appetizer as it isn’t too rich; having the pastry base lightens up the whole concept of an “everything bagel.” It’s not the tidiest thing to eat, but it’s entertaining when the pastry layers explode into flakes and you have to lick cream cheese off of your fingers. I guess you could use a fork and plate but, heck, there’s so much joy in just digging in and savouring the experience of being with family while relishing food you made together. And, for me, that’s what Mother’s Day is all about.


Smoked Salmon with Everything Pastry “Bagel”

1 block or half package frozen puff pastry
egg wash (1 egg mixed with 1 tbsp cool water)
2-3 tbsp everything bagel topping

Whipped cream cheese
12 oz cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup drained capers, chopped up rough
grated zest of 1 lemon
½ tsp pepper

2 medium tomatoes, sliced thin
10-12 oz thinly sliced lox/smoked salmon
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions/scallions
sprigs of fresh dill for garnish

On a lightly floured surface, roll out puff pastry dough into a circle a bit bigger than 12 inches. Using the rolling pin, carefully transfer pastry to a parchment lined baking sheet. Using a 12-inch circle (a cake pan or pie plate) cut dough into a 12-inch round. Use a four-inch cookie cutter or another guide to cut a round of dough from the centre and remove it.

Brush dough with your egg wash, then dock/prick it all over using a fork. Sprinkle the everything topping evenly all over the pastry.

Put the dough in the fridge while you preheat the oven to 425° (but check the guidelines on the package of the puff pastry you bought).

Bake the pastry until it’s evenly golden brown, about 25 minutes.

While it’s baking, make the whipped cream cheese. In a bowl, using either a stand or handheld mixer, whip the cream cheese, capers, lemon zest and pepper until it’s light, fluffy and very well mixed together.

Let the pastry cool completely before putting on the whipped cream cheese. Put it on in dollops all over the pastry then spread it gently, as you don’t want to crack the “bagel.” Then arrange slightly-overlapping tomato slices on top of the cream cheese. Now put the smoked salmon on top of the tomatoes. Make it look like ruffles; it will look nicer than if you just lay it flat. Scatter the red and green onions on top. Finally, garnish with small sprigs of dill. Enjoy.

Slightly altered and combined from:
The Book on Pie by Erin Jeanne McDowell, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 2020

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