Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Woven Apricot-Almond Strip

I got a bit more ambitious this week with the baking -- a totally new type of recipe with several steps, and semi-complicated decorative folding. Ok, the folding wasn't really all that complicated, just more complicated than I am used to. Anyone who takes the recipe from here will be at a slight disadvantage since the book (Carole Walter's Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More) has very clear and helpful illustrations.

This was also more ambitious than normal (especially for a weeknight) since it involves yeast doughs. I made the simple sweet dough from the book yesterday afternoon after finishing the brownies, and put it in the fridge for its overnight rest. The dough was very quick and easy to put together so no complaints there.

This afternoon after work I went to work on the filling for the pastry. This wasn't actually that complicated, but I do have a complaint or two about how the recipe was written. She calls it an apricot puree which is made from boiling dried apricots down until they are really soft. Her directions say it will take between 15-18 minutes. I ended up using both apricots and currants since I didn't quite have enough apricots alone, and I simmered those suckers for at least 25 minutes, but I never got them soft enough to make a puree. We ultimately decided to throw the whole mess into the food processor since the word puree indicates a fairly smooth concoction, and my apricot mix before the food processor was basically some soft dried apricots and some soft currants. With the aid of the food processor we managed to make a puree. :)

I actually don't like apricots all that much, I thought at first it was mostly the slightly mealy texture of the fresh fruit, but no, there's something about the flavor that I just don't like. However, despite my slight aversion to apricots, this is actually a good recipe. The dough is flaky and soft,the cinnamon sugar mixture is divine, and the fruit puree is also quite good despite the presence of apricots. I can't wait to try this simple sweet dough base again in other variations. The book has a fig walnut recipe, and couple of crumb bun recipes that look quite good and are on my short list of future recipes.

The recipe is in two parts -- the first part is the base simple sweet dough that is used as a base in several of her recipes, followed by the filling and assembly directions. I'm going to write the ingredients and instructions for the base dough, followed by the ingredients and instructions for the filling. Please note -- the sweet dough has to sit overnight in the fridge before using, plus the filling and assembly instructions only use half of this dough -- I'm writing the instructions as they were in the book, but when I made the recipe I doubled the filling and made two of the pastries.

Simple Sweet Dough
makes 2 pounds of dough, enough for 1 large or 2 medium coffee cake
4 tbsp sugar
1/4 cups warm water (110 to 115 F)
1 package active dry yeast
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour, spooned in and leveled
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup milk
3 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract

Rinse a small bowl in hot water to warm it. Add 1 tbsp of the sugar and the warm water to the bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water. Do not stir. Cover the bowl with a saucer and let the mixture stand for 5 minutes. Stir it briefly with a fork, cover again, and let it stand for 2 to 3 minutes more, or until bubbly.

In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix on low speed the 3 cups of flour, remaining 3 tbsp of sugar, and the salt. Add the slightly firm cubed butter and continue to mix until meal-size crumbs form, 2 to 4 minutes depending on the temp of the butter. Stop the mixer.

Using a fork, in a separate bowl, mix the milk, egg yolks and vanilla. Add the milk mixture to the flour, along with the dissolved yeast, and mix on low speed for about 15 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Mix on low speed for another 30 seconds, or until smooth dough is formed. NOTE: this is a soft dough.

Lightly butter a medium bowl for storing the dough. Empty the dough into the prepared bowl, smoothing the top with lightly floured hands. Spread a thin layer of softened butter over the top. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The dough may be kept in the fridge, tightly covered, for up to 3 days.

For the Filling and assembly:


Apricot Puree
4 ounces dried apricots (not organic)
1/2 cup (lightly packed) light brown sugar
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 tsp almond extract

Sugar Cinnamon Sprinkle
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp chopped almonds, toasted

1/2 recipe (about 1 pound) Simple Sweet Dough

2 tbsp unsalted butter, very soft
1 large egg white lightly beaten with 1 tbsp of water for egg wash
2 tbsp slivered almonds
2 tbsp granulated sugar

TO make the apricot puree: In a heavy 1-quart saucepan, combine the apricots and 1/2 cup water. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the apricots are very soft. If too much of the water evaporates, add 1 to 2 tbsp, or more as needed to prevent the apricots from burning. Stir in the brown sugar, then simmer for another minute or two. Remove the pan from the heat. Using a fork, whip in the butter and almond extract, mixing until the consistency is fairly smooth. Let cool. (You should have about 3/4 of a cup.)

Make the sprinkle: In a small bowl, combine the granulated and brown sugars, cinnamon, and almonds. Set aside.

Shape the dough: Butter a large cookie sheet and set aside. Place the chilled dough on a lightly floured work surface. Knead five or six times, then let rest for 5 minutes. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, shape the dough into an 8 x 12 inch rectangle. Roll the dough onto the rolling pin and place it on the prepared cookie sheet, stretching it back into shape.

Using an offset spatula, spread a 3-inch strip of soft butter down the length of the dough. Sprinkle the sugar/cinnamon mixture over the butter. Spoon the apricot puree over the sugar mixture. With the back of the spoon, smooth the puree over the sugar/cinnamon as best you can. Brush both sides of the dough with a 1-inch strip of egg wash.

With a dough scraper or a sharp knife, cut nine slashes, about 1 1/4 inches apart on both sides of the dough, being careful not to cut into the strip of filling. Starting from the top, overlap the strips from left to right, pulling down slightly to cover the filling. Pinch the seams on the top and bottom so the filling will not seep out. Cover the strip with a tea towel and set in a warm place to rise for 45 yo 60 minutes, or until puffy and almost doubled.

Bake the strip: Fifteen minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350. Brush the top of the strip with the egg wash and sprinkle with the almonds and sugar. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown. Do not overbake.

Remove from the oven and let stand on the cookie sheet for about 10 minutes, then loosen with a large spatula. When firm enough to handle, transfer to a cooling rack.


Anonymous said...

i'm sorry i missed these--i quite like apricot! my mom used to cook dried apricots until they are soft and juicy--like a compote i guess--and then you put some inside a hot, buttered biscuit.....MUCH better than any jam i've ever had!


Mira said...

this was yummy! :D

Anonymous said...

i have to admit, i'm not a big fan of apricots either. however, i'm really glad i tried usual, you didn't disappoint. all the things that went into it go really well together. =)

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