A weekly trip to Chinatown to buy Asian groceries occasionally also meant a special stop at the Chinese bakery. As a child, one of my favorite pastries to eat was the very tasty, mild flavoured curry beef puffs (and it still is!). Under the many layers of flaky pastry was a delicious filling of delicious fragrant savoury beef. This recipe re-creates the treat with an easy-to-make ground beef filling with the convenience of prepared frozen puff pastry. Be sure to thaw pastry in the refrigerator overnight and keep chilled until ready to use. Refrigerating the meat filling makes it easier to work with.
1. Filling: Heat oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until beginning to brown. Stir in garlic and cook for 10 seconds. Add beef and cook, stirring often and using back of spoon to break up meat into small chunks, for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and stir in curry powder, hoisin sauce, soy sauce and pepper; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Drain, if necessary.
2. Whisk together ½ cup (125 mL) water and cornstarch in a small bowl until smooth. Stir into beef mixture and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until beef is cooked through and sauce is thickened. Transfer to a bowl; let cool for 10 minutes, then cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
3. Puffs: Beat egg with 1 tsp (5 mL) water in a small bowl; set aside. Unroll each pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Gently roll out to make two 11-inch (28 cm) squares. Cut each square into nine squares. Lightly brush the edges of each square with egg wash. Evenly divide the beef mixture (about 2 tbsp/30 mL each) onto the centre of each pastry square; fold in half diagonally (puffs will be quite full). Pinch the pastry edges together, then gently press down with the tines of a fork to seal. Place on two large parchment paper-lined baking sheets, spacing puffs 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Brush tops with egg wash, then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Refrigerate until baking.
4. Bake one sheet at a time in preheated 400°F (200°) oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool slightly before serving.
Puffs can be assembled up to 3 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds just before baking.