Disney recipe review: Spinach puffs from “The Emperor’s New Groove”

Cheese lover gets ready to cook with Kronk

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Graphic illustration and photo by Youqi Huang

Kronk poses with key ingredients: spinach, garlic, shallot and cream cheese behind a plate of spinach puffs!

Youqi Huang

I love cheese, I love carbohydrates and I can tolerate spinach. What better recipe to recreate than Kronk’s spinach puffs from “The Emperor’s New Groove”? I haven’t watched the movie, which apparently features an Incan-emperor-turned-llama fighting his evil former advisor and her stupid sidekick (Kronk!) to return to his human form. However, I did watch Binging with Babish’s video on the recipe and consulted the version posted on his website for exact measurements.

I ended up making two batches of six spinach puffs each because I had a few improvements I wanted to make. Babish leaves room for improvisation — his Youtube video is only four minutes long, and he encourages you to be careful with the parmesan in particular since “the human tongue can only take so much flavor.”

Salt your spinach to encourage moisture loss and get ready to watch it shrink!

The recipe is pretty simple: cook spinach with aromatics, mix the spinach with cheeses to create the filling, dump the filling on puff pastry squares, then seal and throw them into the oven to bake for 20 minutes. Some details have been omitted, of course, but, if you are curious, you can always check out the links above.

I omitted the dill and bacon bits from my rendition — dill because I went to Safeway and Trader Joe’s, and neither of them had any, for some reason; and bacon because I didn’t want to buy bacon bits then struggle to finish them for the next few months. I ran out of shallot for the second batch, so I ended up substituting a quarter of a white onion. Are the two interchangeable? Who knows. Either way, both made me cry when I diced them. 

Adding a yolk to your filling helps with stability.

The first time around, I chopped my spinach too coarsely and misunderstood what Babish meant when he said to crush the garlic, though there was a video demonstration to go along with his instructions. I smashed the garlic with the flat of my knife and gave my garlic pulp a few cursory chops before tossing it in the pan with the shallot. The result? Visible garlic chunks in my spinach and herb mixture. Once mixed in with the cheeses, they weren’t too noticeable, but I knew there was room for improvement.

Slice your puff pastry into six pieces — this is where you’ll be spooning the filling onto.

The biggest deal-breaker the first time around was that the puffs burst apart at the seams when baked. Instead of retaining Kronk’s delicate trumpet shape, the puff pastry expanded in the oven, and I ended up with an exposed puddle of cheese and spinach in the center of each puff. Although it didn’t look too appetizing, it still tasted great. I had enough of nearly every ingredient, so I decided to give it a second go.

I tried my best to fortify the seams of my puffs — here’s my wrapping technique.

The second time around, I sealed the seams of the puff as tightly as I could. I even folded the excess from the sealed seam over to double seal the puffs, but it still wasn’t enough to handle the huge amounts of filling I scooped into each puff. I couldn’t help it: I had no idea what to do with the inedible, egg-yolk-covered cream cheese and spinach, so I strived to leave none behind. Perhaps, if I had fortified the seams further by folding them like a dumpling, that could have done the trick.

I give the recipe an 8 out of 10 because adjusting the measurements for the filling ingredients, cream cheese and spinach, would have prevented the issue of needing to cram so much filling in each puff that they come out looking like open-faced sandwiches. Heed the video’s warning on the parmesan as well; I added a bit too much the first time and definitely felt the sodium begin the desertification of my mouth soon after finishing my second puff.

Altogether, this recipe is foolproof in the sense that your puffs are seriously good even if they burst open in the oven like mine did.  Cheese, carb and Kronk lovers, rest assured that this recipe will meet — and perhaps exceed — your expectations if you have strong fingers to pinch the artful, trumpet-shaped puffs that I couldn’t.