Sunday, November 23, 2014

Recipe #33: Cream Cheese and Apricot Almond Puff Pastry Braid

Puff pastry is the can do so many things with it, and no matter what you do, the presentation is always lovely.  Though I show many pictures below, this braid is easy to make.  I did a step-by-step as I did with the apple galette so those of you who are daunted by this recipe will see that it's not that difficult.  I have always been a lover of apricot, though apricot pastry filling is rather hard to find.  Locally, I get it at Metropolitan Market.  As a rule, grocery stores carry lemon and poppyseed pastry filling, and all are in a 12 oz can under the brand SOLO.  Back in the 60's, when my mom used to make filled cookies, she would use apricot and prune filling.  The SOLO company is located just outside of my hometown Chicago, and when my mom was buying this filling, it was then under the name BOHEMIAN KITCHEN and the filling came in a plastic container such as cottage cheese.  Just a little bit of culture.  Some of you may wonder why pastry filling instead of a jar of preserves?   Pastry filling is thicker and holds its shape instead of spreading all over your baked goods. 

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, defrosted                         1  4oz pkg cream cheese at room temp
1 egg yolk                                                                         1 12oz can solo pastry filling, or a
3 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tbsp white sugar                           jar of your favorite preserves
   and 1 tsp cinnamon mixed together                        1 tsp pure almond extract
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water, for egg wash            sparkling sugar for top of braid*
slivered or sliced almonds, optional          

Have the white sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, mixed together.  Also have your eggwash in a small bowl, ready to go.  Mix cream cheese with the egg yolk and almond extract until fully blended.   Unfold the sheet of puff pasty onto a lightly floured surface with the seams going vertically.  These will act as your guidelines when you are cutting the strips for the braid.  Roll out pasty into a 11x14 rectangle, with the 11" being your horizontal measurement.  I use a pizza cutter to trim, see below.   Roll dough onto rolling pin and place on parchment lined baking sheet, (although the picture shown is for a pie crust, the concept is still the same), see below.  Spread cream cheese mixture down the center row of your pastry (you should still be able to see all three seams), see below.  Sprinkle half of sugar mixture on top of the cheese, see below.  At this point, if you are using preserves, you will probably use about 1 1/2 cups.   Put spoonfuls on top of sugar mixture.  Spread over all of sugar with offset spatula, see below.   Sprinkle rest of sugar on top of preserves.   With a pair of kitchen shears, cut 1 1/2" strips at an angle down each side of braid, stopping just short of seam on each side of preserves.  Starting at top, lay one strip on braid, brush a little egg wash at end of strip where the next strip will overlap on top.  Continue down braid.  Fold top and bottom of pastry into braid.  Brush entire braid with egg wash to seal all strips and sprinkle entire braid with sparkling sugar, see below.  Bake at 400 for about 25-30 minutes, or until braid is brown on top.  Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes.  Slide braid onto cooling rack.   Bon appetit!

* you can get sparkling sugar locally at qfc and met market

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