Mini Puff Pastry Pizzas | Good Will Hunting

I first saw this film whilst on a plane flying from Frankfurt. It had been on many of my must-watch lists and when I found it on the plane’s movie collection, I didn’t hesitate. My Good Will Hunting mini puff pastry pizzas make a heck of a tasty movie viewing snack. Let’s have look at the equation.

About the film:

Released in 1997, Good Will Hunting is about a young M.I.T. janitor, played by Matt Damon, who is incredibly gifted at mathematics. When he solves a mathematical equation set on a hallway chalkboard for the students of a mathematics professor, Will is swooped into a world of higher education and limitless potential – a life he signed off as being impossible for himself. 

The professor, played by Stellan Skarsgård, seeks the help of a former friend and psychologist to help Will get his life on track. This psychologist, played by the extraordinary Robin Williams, has a tremendous impact on Will, but also finds himself going through a transformation as a result of his sessions with Will.

The film was directed by Gus Van Sant and was written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, both of whom have integral roles in the film. Matt playing the title character and Ben playing his best friend. Completing the cast are Minnie Driver as the woman who changes everything for Will; as well as Cole Hauser and Casey Affleck among others.

Good Will Hunting is one of those films that many of the people around me either haven’t seen or don’t even know about (which hurts my heart)… it’s a rare gem.

But once you’ve seen it, it stays with you.

The performances are slick, stripped-back and raw. The pace of the film keeps you on your toes, especially when you regard just how much dialogue there is throughout. The relationships between characters feel incredibly genuine and the story makes you sit back and take a deep breath. 

It makes you see that most of the time, the only things holding us back in life are lack of self-belief and belief that we only deserve a certain amount based on our childhood, socio-economic status, or purely because everyone else around us only has certain things.

It also makes you see what is most important in life. Love. Happiness. Health.

If you haven’t yet seen it, I urge you to give it a watch. Good Will Hunting is a prime example of the beauty of cinema and the beauty of story-telling.

Plus, the score is great.

I was sobbing by the end of Good Will Hunting, which was a first for me on a plane!

About the bake:

Films like Good Will Hunting don’t necessarily inspire artistic expression such as creating bakes based on the story. Nevertheless, I’m here to do just that and to give you an idea of how to as well. 

I chose to recreate the mathematical symbols that Will draws to answer the linear algebra equation on the chalkboard. It’s the first turning point in the story and is where it all begins, so it felt right to draw inspiration from that scene.

Now, I know pretty much nothing about linear algebra… or any advanced mathematics for that matter. My brain only really computes maths when food is involved. But I found out that the symbols that Will draws in this scene are called series-reduced trees, or “homeomorphically irreducible trees”.

They are a combination of lines and dots drawn together in varying forms. In my view, they look like part of an alien language… but then most mathematics does to me.

Naturally, I regarded these series-reduced trees and thought they’d make great pastry goods.

The kind of pastries that are savoury and make delicious movie viewing snacks. Mini puff pastry pizzas, as a matter of fact.

I chose puff pastry because I think the layered texture is delicious, especially with the flavours I chose. As the film is set in Boston, I made them pizza style. Boston is famous for its pizza, as they say. So, these are mini puff pastry pizzas in the shape of series-reduced trees. I made them as simple cheese and tomato pizzas but feel free to add more toppings!

Madness. I know. But they are super delicious.

The pizza sauce is a recipe I threw together and made by taste.

It’s honestly unreal. Much better to make your own sauce as it doesn’t take long and is super easy!

When it comes to the pastry for these mini puff pastry pizzas, you can definitely buy some ready-to-roll puff pastry from the shop. We’re not here to shame anyone in doing that, it’s there for you to buy! I know some pro chefs have definitely said there’s nothing wrong with buying ready made pastry.

If making pastry is something you struggle with or something you’re not interested in then by all means, just buy a roll or two from the shop and follow the instructions for cooking them on the packaging. Then use my recipe for these trees to help shape your pastry trees and top them!

I made my own pastry for these mini puff pastry pizzas, so that’s what is written in the recipe below.

With puff pastry, there is usually a worry with butter leakage. I’m telling you now, there will be some leakage due to the shape of the pastries, but don’t panic! You should still achieve the layered texture you’re after. I did so it’s certainly possible! 

The key to avoid as much butter leakage as possible is to chill after every step. This is especially important if you usually have warm hands and/or you’re making these pastries in the heat of summer. Chill your pastry in the fridge when the recipe tells you to and for as long as possible. The butter must be very cold to start with.

You will struggle a lot if you use butter that is too warm from the get go. I put my butter – in its original block form – in the freezer for an hour before using.

As I say, if this feels like too much of a faff or you’re just not interested in learning how to make pastry, then you can buy some ready made.

But, if you are interested then you will feel very proud knowing that you have made your own puff pastry!

To shape the trees, I cut the outlines out of the pastry using the tip of a sharp knife. I used a sort of stab and slice motion to protect as much of the pastry part as possible. I didn’t use stencils but if you find that this will help you, definitely make a stencil for each tree.

To stay true to the film, I created these mini puff pastry pizzas to represent each of the series-reduced trees that Will draws on the chalkboard. I used stills of that scene as a reference point and sketched them out in my recipe book before going anywhere near my pastry. There are eight trees in total on the chalkboard so I made eight well-sized pizza pastries. 

In terms of cheese, you can use any cheese that you like on a pizza or even no cheese at all.

I happened to have attended the Blenheim Palace food festival a few days before I made these pastry trees and picked up some incredible mozzarella cheese that I used in my recipe. The stall was run by The Bath Soft Cheese Co., so if you’re U.K. based and love cheese, I highly recommend you check them out.

The mozzarella was unbelievably tasty, especially with my pizza sauce. I’m not affiliated with the company, I just really love their cheese!

Top Tips:

  • Don’t feel like you need to make the pastry yourself. It can be a rewarding activity, but it can also be stressful. There really is no shame in buying a sheet from the shop. It’s why it’s there! I used some in my Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince pineapple turnovers, after all.
  • If you are making your own pastry, make sure that the butter you are using is very cold before using. This is key to achieve the lamination of a puff pastry.
  • Feel free to adapt and season the pizza sauce to your taste. That’s the fun part of cooking! Besides the eating part, of course.
  • Make sure to use a very sharp knife when carving the shapes of your series-reduced trees. It will save you a lot of hassle and time ripping apart.
  • Don’t stress if you see butter leaking from the pastry while it’s cooking. You can still achieve the lamination you desire!

So, there you have it. Mini puff pastry pizzas in the shape of linear algebra series-reduced trees. Bonkers enough for you? Whether you’re using shop-bought pastry or making your own, I hope you absolutely love these unusual pizza pastries. Especially if you’re eating them whilst watching Good Will Hunting!

Happy baking, happy eating!

Ingredients:

Puff pastry (if making your own):

  • 250g [1½ cups + 1 tbsp] strong white flour (bread flour is fine)
  • 225g [8 oz] very cold unsalted butter
  • A pinch of salt
  • 150ml [5.25 oz] cold water

Mini puff pastry pizzas toppings:

  • 1 small onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 200g [1 can] chopped tomatoes
  • 4 tbsp tomato puree
  • 3 tsp dried Italian herbs or oregano
  • A sprinkle of light brown sugar
  • A dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Cheese of your choosing 

Serves: 8

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Chilling time: 1 hour 30 minutes – 2 hours

Baking time: 15 – 20 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Method:

Pastry:

  1. If using shop bought pastry, follow the cooking instructions on the packaging.
  2. To make your own pastry, put the flour and salt into a food processor and blitz. If you don’t have a food processor, mix the two in a large bowl with a wooden spoon.
  3. Add the water gradually and blitz/mix until a pastry dough has formed. Tip out onto a clean and floured surface and bring together. Do not knead or work it too much.
  4. Wrap in cling film or beeswax paper and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  5. Grate your butter using a cheese grater and place in the freezer until you have rolled your dough out.
  6. Retrieve your pastry from the fridge and lightly flour a clean work surface. Roll out your pastry into a circle around 1 inch in thickness.
  7. Place the grated butter in and around the centre of your pastry circle. 
  8. Fold the bottom third of your pastry up to the middle, then the top third down to meet it. Secure the pastry seams by pressing them together gently – including the ends – to make sure the butter is firmly inside.
  9. Gently roll the pastry to flatten and quarter-turn the pastry. Bring the bottom third up to the middle, then the top third down to meet it again.
  10. Repeat step 8 again and then wrap in cling film or beeswax paper and chill for another 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  11. Prepare two baking trays by lining them with greaseproof paper or baking parchment. Set aside.

Shaping:

  1. When ready to use, repeat step 8 and then roll out until you have enough pastry to make 4 of your trees. Make sure as much of the butter is covered by pastry but don’t worry if a little is breaking free.
  2. Using a sharp knife and a stabbing and slicing technique, cut the outlines of your trees out of the pastry. Use a pre-made stencil if necessary.
  3. Place the 4 trees on a baking tray.
  4. Bring together the remaining pastry, roll out again and cut out the other 4 trees. 
  5. Place them on the other baking tray. If you have any excess pastry, be sure to roll it together and divide into squares for more mini pizzas. Put these on a separate baking tray with greaseproof paper or baking parchment.
  6. Put the baking trays in the fridge and chill for another 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Baking:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C [350°F] or 170°C fan.
  2. Bake your trees for 15 – 20 minutes or until golden brown. Butter may well leak but do not worry too much. As long as you can see layers in your pastries, you have done well!
  3. Your squares may take longer – make sure they are golden and crisp by the end.
  4. Whilst your pastries are baking, make your pizza sauce.

Sauce:

  1. Dice the onion and fry off in a small saucepan with olive oil over a medium heat. Add the garlic.
  2. Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato puree. Allow to simmer for a couple of minutes, stirring regularly.
  3. Add the Italian herbs or oregano to taste. Add the light brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce and stir in.
  4. Season to taste with salt and black pepper (I used garlic pepper). Allow to simmer at a low heat until the sauce has thickened.
  5. If grating cheese to top your pastries, do so now.

Finishing touches:

  1. When your pastries are golden and crisp, take them out of the oven and turn the oven temperature up to 200°C [370°F] (for fan as well).
  2. If there is excess butter from your pastries, drain from the trays over a sink carefully.
  3. Take your pizza sauce off the heat and carefully spoon the sauce over your pastries using a small spoon.
  4. Cover any excess pastry with the sauce too. If you have sauce leftover, put it in a tupperware box and keep for no longer than 4 days in the fridge.
  5. If adding more toppings such as vegetables, do so now.
  6. Rip up or sprinkle your chosen cheese over your pastries and place them back in the oven just until the cheese has melted.
  7. Take your pastries out, sprinkle on some black pepper and fresh bay leaves if you have any.
  8. Serve immediately.

These tasty mini puff pastry pizzas are best eaten fresh out of the oven (or a few minutes after so not to burn your mouths!). They can be eaten cold but the pastry will be a little harder. The pastry dough can be frozen for later use – if freezing in tree-shape, freeze in individual bags or between sheets of baking parchment so that they don’t freeze together. Linear algebra is not mandatory but is delicious in this circumstance. Enjoy!

Recipe card:

Mini Puff Pastry Pizzas | Good Will Hunting

Laura – Flavour of the Film
Flaky and buttery mini puff pastry pizzas topped with a homemade pizza sauce and cheese, shaped like series reduced pizza trees, celebrating Good Will Hunting.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Chilling time 2 hours
Total Time 3 hours
Course Side Dish
Servings 8

Ingredients
  

Pastry (if making your own):

  • 250 g [1½ cups + 1 tbsp] strong white flour bread flour is fine
  • 225 g [8 oz] very cold unsalted butter
  • A pinch of salt
  • 150 ml [5.25 oz] cold water

Topping:

  • 1 small onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 200 g [1 can] chopped tomatoes
  • 4 tbsp tomato puree
  • 3 tsp dried Italian herbs or oregano
  • A sprinkle of light brown sugar
  • A dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Cheese of your choosing

Instructions
 

  • If using shop bought pastry, follow the cooking instructions on the packaging.
  • To make your own pastry, put the flour and salt into a food processor and blitz. If you don’t have a food processor, mix the two in a large bowl with a wooden spoon.
  • Add the water gradually and blitz/mix until a pastry dough has formed. Tip out onto a clean and floured surface and bring together. Do not knead or work too much.
  • Wrap in cling film or beeswax paper and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Grate your butter using a cheese grater and place in the freezer until you have rolled your dough out.
  • Retrieve your pastry from the fridge and lightly flour a clean work surface. Roll out your pastry into a circle around 1 inch in thickness.
  • Place the grated butter in and around the centre of your pastry circle.
  • Fold the bottom third of your pastry up to the middle, then the top third down to meet it. Secure the pastry seams by pressing them together gently – including the ends – to make sure the butter is firmly inside.
  • Gently roll the pastry to flatten and quarter-turn the pastry. Bring the bottom third up to the middle, then the top third down to meet it again.
  • Repeat step 8 again and then wrap in cling film or beeswax paper and chill for another 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Prepare two baking trays by lining them with greaseproof paper or baking parchment. Set aside.
  • When ready to use, repeat step 8 and then roll out until you have enough pastry to make 4 of your trees. Make sure as much of the butter is covered by pastry but don’t worry if a little is breaking free.
  • Using a sharp knife and a stabbing and slicing technique, cut the outlines of your trees out of the pastry. Use a pre-made stencil if necessary.
  • Place the 4 trees on a baking tray.
  • Bring together the remaining pastry, roll out again and cut out the other 4 trees.
  • Place them on the other baking tray. If you have any excess pastry, be sure to roll it together and divide into squares for more mini pizzas. Put these on a separate baking tray with greaseproof paper or baking parchment.
  • Put the baking trays in the fridge and chill for another 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Preheat your oven to 180°C [350°F] or 170°C fan.
  • Bake your trees for 15 – 20 minutes or until golden brown. Butter may well leak but do not worry too much. As long as you can see layers in your pastries, you have done well!
  • Your squares may take longer – make sure they are golden and crisp by the end.
  • Whilst your pastries are baking, make your pizza sauce.
  • Dice the onion and fry off in a small saucepan with olive oil over a medium heat. Add the garlic.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato puree. Allow to simmer for a couple of minutes, stirring regularly.
  • Add the Italian herbs or oregano to taste. Add the light brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce and stir in.
  • Season to taste with salt and black pepper (I used garlic pepper). Allow to simmer at a low heat until the sauce has thickened.
  • If grating cheese to top your pastries, do so now.
  • When your pastries are golden and crisp, take them out of the oven and turn the oven temperature up to 200 [370F] (for fan as well).
  • If there is excess butter from your pastries, drain from the trays over a sink carefully.
  • Take your pizza sauce off the heat and carefully spoon the sauce over your pastries using a small spoon.
  • Cover any excess pastry with the sauce too. If you have sauce leftover, put it in a tupperware box and keep for no longer than 4 days in the fridge.
  • If adding more toppings such as vegetables, do so now.
  • Rip up or sprinkle your chosen cheese over your pastries and place them back in the oven just until the cheese has melted.
  • Take your pastries out, sprinkle on some black pepper and fresh bay leaves if you have any.
  • Serve immediately.

Notes

These tasty mini puff pastry pizzas are best eaten fresh out of the oven (or a few minutes after so not to burn your mouths!). They can be eaten cold but the pastry will be a little harder. The pastry dough can be frozen for later use – if freezing in tree-shape, freeze in individual bags or between sheets of baking parchment so that they don’t freeze together. Linear algebra is not mandatory but is delicious in this circumstance. Enjoy!
Keyword good will hunting, mathematics, mini puff pastry pizzas, pastry, pizza, pizza pastries

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