These little mouthfuls make you such a yummy appetizer for parties and holidays! This recipe will show you how to make bite-sized puff pastry cups filled with a cheesy spinach and artichoke dip.
These little puff pastry cups are from our mini vol-au-vent tutorial. Check out the full vol-au-vent post for more details and scrumptious filling ideas!
For another spinach and artichoke recipe, try our homemade spinach hummus with lemony fried artichokes.
- Spinach - We used fresh spinach that we quickly sautéed with the garlic. You can also used frozen spinach and skip the sauté step.
- Artichoke Hearts - We used a can of quartered artichoke hearts in brine (drained). Frozen and thawed works, too.
- Puff Pastry - We used a store-bought (frozen and thawed) puff pastry to make our very own mini vol-au-vent (pastry cups). If you'd like to make your own puff pastry, we like the homemade puff pastry recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction. Alternatively, if they are available near you, you can use the premade mini phyllo cups from the grocery freezer section.
Kitchen Tools Needed
- 2 Round Cookie Cutters - I used the smallest and third smallest cookie cutters from a nestled set. The larger cookie cutter had a diameter of 1 ¼ inches and the smallest cutter has a diameter of ¾ inch. You can make them a touch bigger, if needed - but these really are the perfect bite size.
- I used fluted cutters, but straight circles work just as well. In the past, I have used the wide end of a metal pastry tip (for cake decorating) as my smaller "cookie cutter".
- Fork or toothpick - to poke holes in the Botton sheet of dough and prevent some puffing.
- Pastry Brush - For assembling and glazing with egg wash.
- Rolling Pin - Optional, for retooling pastry scraps and making more vol-au-vent.
- Food Processor with Blade Attachment - Or a high-speed blender.
- Clean Kitchen Towel - for wringing the spinach and artichoke of excess moisture. You could also use a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth.
- Piping Bag - I buy inexpensive plastic piping bags from Amazon. You could use a reusable piping bag with a small round tip or a Ziplock bag with the corner cut off.
How To Make Mini Puff Pastry Cups
This technique is based on the French classic, called vol-au-vent. We scaled down the size of a traditional vol-au-vent to make perfectly bite-sized puff pastry cups that are perfect for appetizers and mini desserts. It's a little tedious, but pretty easy - here's how it's done:
Pro Tip: Keep the Pastry Chilled - For this entire process, the puff pastry dough must remain chilled. If at anytime the dough becomes soft and warm, the fats in the dough will melt and your pastry will not puff up in the oven. In very hot kitchens, you may need to chill the dough between steps, as needed.
- Start with cold pastry on a lightly floured work surface.
- Using the larger (1 ¼ inch) cookie cutter, punch as many circles from the dough as possible.
Pro Tip: Punch. Don't Twist - The secret to punching rounds of laminated doughs (like puff pastry, croissant dough or biscuits) is to cut straight down and avoid the urge to twist the cookie or biscuit cutter. These delicate doughs are comprised of razor thin layers of butter (shortening, or other fats) that create the flaky layers. When twisting, the layers of fat smear together and prevent the optimal puff in the oven.
- One third of the pastry circles will remain intact as the base of each vol-au-vent pastry. The other ⅔ of the circles will become the sides of the pastry cups. Use the smaller circle to punch out the middle of the circles, creating tiny rings.
Save the scraps and chill to be rerolled for more vol-au-vent.
- Use egg wash to adhere two layers of pastry rings to each larger circle.
If preferred you can just add one ring, to create a smaller cup. Admittedly, the double ring can cause theses cups to go a bit wonky and uneven in the oven... but I'm all for the uneven cups so I can fill them generously with spinach and artichoke dip!
- Once shaped, I like to chill the pastry until completely firm. You can do this in the refrigerator (for about 1 hour) or in the freezer (for about 15 minutes). In the meantime, preheat the oven.
- Once the oven is preheated and the vol-au-vent are completely chilled, use a fork or toothpick to poke a few holes in the bottom sheet of pastry. This process, called docking, will allow steam to escape and prevent the bottom sheet of pastry from puffing up as much.
- Then, working quickly, use a pastry brush to apply a thin coat of egg wash to the entire cup. Be sure to pay special attentions to the sides of the vol-au-vent. The egg wash will give the pastry a nice shiny finish but also help to bind the sides of the pastry together and prevent gaps.
- Bake the puff pastry cups for about 10 minutes. Quickly rotate the pan in the oven to promote even browning. Continue baking for 5 - 10 more minutes or until the pastry is crisp and golden brown.
- Allow the pastries to cool completely. With a traditional larger vol-au-vent, the center of the pastry is cut out, carefully, with the tip of a paring knife. You are welcome to use that method here, as well. However, since these puff pastry cups are so tiny, I'm inclined to just push the centers down, creating a deeper cup, with my fingertip.
- Voila! Mini vol-au-vent ready for endless fillings and flaky bite-sized joy.
Spinach and Artichoke Filling
Now let's make the spinach and artichoke filling. It only takes a few minutes.
- If using fresh spinach, start by quickly sautéing the spinach, until wilted, over medium-high heat. Once beginning to wilt, add the garlic and cook for one additional minute.
If using frozen spinach, you can skip this step. Just add the drained spinach, olive oil and raw garlic to the food processor with the other ingredients below.
- Next you need to drain the excess moisture from the spinach and drained artichoke hearts. Place the sautéed (or thawed) spinach and drained artichoke hearts in a clean kitchen towel, fine mesh strainer or folded cheesecloth.
- With your hands, squeeze as much moisture as possible out of the filling ingredients.
- Add the spinach, garlic, artichokes, cream cheese, Parmesan, mayonnaise, olive oil, lemon, juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper to a food processor fitted with the blade attachment.
**If using frozen and thawed spinach, add the raw garlic, as well.
- Process on high speed, scraping the bowl as necessary, until the mixture has a fine, almost smooth texture. Adjust seasonings, to taste.
- Transfer the mixture to a piping bag (or ziplock). Keep the mixture refrigerated until ready to use.
Filling The Cups
I recommend filling the cups just before serving. If the spinach dip has been chilling in the refrigerator, allow it to temper at room temperature until it is soft and easy to pipe.
- Squeeze a generous amount of spinach artichoke filling into each vol-au-vent pastry cup. I kept mine simple, but feel free to garnish your with a little extra Parmesan cheese or chopped chives, as desired.
- Serve immediately, and enjoy!
Pro Tips for Party Puffs
- Keep the puff pastry cold and the oven hot. Puff pastry rely on steam to create flaky layers. The steam puffs up layers of dough to create the flaky texture. For this to happen the dough needs to be COLD and the oven needs to be HOT. Bake your pastry straight from the fridge (or freezer) into a completely preheated oven. Work quickly to avoid letting too much hot air flow from the open even door.
- Bake the pastry cups day of. The spinach and artichoke dip can be made 1 - 2 days ahead of time. However, for the best results, I recommend baking the puff pastry cups on the same day they will be eaten.
- The vol-au-vent pastries can be made up to 3 months ahead of time and kept frozen. Feel free to egg wash and bake vol-au-vent cups straight from the freezer.
- Fill just before serving. These little pastry cups will inevitably become soggy after several hours. For the most satisfying bite - avoid filling the pastries too early.
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Check out our entire collection of Appetizers for more recipe ideas.
Spinach & Artichoke Puff Pastry Bites
- 1¼ Inch Cookie Cutter (2 ½ centimeters)
- ¾ Inch Cookie Cutter (2 centimeters)
- Pastry Brush
- Rolling Pin
- Kitchen Towel (fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth)
- Food Processor with Blade Attachment
- Piping Bag (or Ziplock bag with the corner cut off)
Puff Pastry Cups (Mini Vol-au-Vent)
- 2 sheets puff pastry homemade or frozen and thawed
- Egg wash from 1 egg, whisked
- All-purpose flour as needed tot prevent sticking
Spinach and Artichoke Filling
- 1 bunch fresh spinach washed and thick stems removed OR 6 ounces frozen and thawed spinach
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 14 ounces canned artichoke hearts in brine drained OR frozen and thawed artichoke hearts
- 4 ounces cream cheese room temperature
- 4 Tablespoons Parmesan shredded or grated
- ¼ Cup mayonnaise
- ½ Tablespoon olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice more, as needed to taste
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1½ teaspoons fine kosher salt* to taste
- Freshly-ground black pepper to taste
Puff Pastry Cups (Mini Vol-au-Vent)
- On a lightly floured countertop, lay out the first sheet of chilled puff pastry dough. (Keep the remaining dough refrigerated until ready to use.) Using the larger (1¼ inch) cookie cutter, cut as many rounds as possible from the dough.
- Reserve ⅓ of the puff pastry rounds. With the remaining ⅔ of rounds, use the smaller cookie cutter (¾ inch) to punch the center out of the larger rounds, creating a small ring of pastry. If desired, group the scraps of dough together to be chilled and rerolled for additional pastries.
- Create small cups of pastry by stacking two rings of pastry on top of each larger circle of dough. Use a pastry brush to apply egg wash as an adhesive between each layer.
- Transfer the shaped vol-au-vent to a sheet pan and chill in the freezer for 20 minutes (or in the refrigerator for 1 - 2 hours). Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the center of the oven (See Note: a.) and preheat to 450° Fahrenheit (235° celsius). You can prepare the spinach and artichoke filling during this time, as well.
- Remove the fully chilled pastries from the freezer (or fridge). Working quickly, use a fork to poke a few holes in the base layer of pastry (the larger circle on the bottom). With a pastry brush, egg wash the entire cup of pastry, taking care to be thorough along the sides and interior of the cup. Line the pastries on a baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch of space around all sides.
- Bake the mini vol-au-vent in a fully preheated oven for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan and continue baking for an additional 5 - 10 minutes or until the pastries have puffed tall and are golden brown.
- Allow the pastries to cool. To create a deeper cup shape you can either A) use the tip of a paring knife to carefully cut out the puffed top of the center or B) use your fingertip to gently poke down the center of the pastry cups (as I like to).
Spinach and Artichoke Filling
- If using fresh spinach: In a medium sauté pan, wilt spinach over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir, cooking 1 additional minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool. If using frozen spinach: Skip to step 2. Add the raw minced garlic to other ingredients in Step 3.**
- Add (sautéed or thawed) spinach and artichoke hearts to a clean kitchen towel (fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth). Use your hands to wring the spinach and artichoke hearts of any excess moisture. Squeeze out as much moisture as possible.
- Add the dried spinach and artichoke hearts to a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Add the remaining filling ingredients (cream cheese, Parmesan, mayonnaise, olive oil, lemon juice and zest, salt, pepper and **if using frozen spinach, add raw garlic.)Process on high speed, scraping the bowl as necessary, until combined and nearly smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings, as desired.
- Transfer filling to a piping bag or Ziplock. Fill pastries immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 - 3 days before baking and filling puff pastry cups. Temper at room temperature for 1 hour until softened and easy to pipe.Fill each mini vol-au-vent with a heaping portion of spinach and artichoke filling. Serve immediately.
* A Note About Salt
Unless otherwise noted, all recipes on The Sage Apron are developed using Diamond Crystal Kosher salt. It is a great all-purpose salt for cooking and baking. If using table salt, reduce quantities by about half.