Have you ever heard the saying that cold hands make good pastry? It’s probably related to the fact that the butter/shortening in pastry needs to remain cold while the dough is kneaded and rolled in order to puff up and become flaky while it bakes.
Reader, I’m pretty sure I have warm hands. I am absolutely terrible at making pastry from scratch, including the simplest pie crust, and even if I make it in a food processor. One of my culinary resolutions for 2014 is to finally produce a decent pie crust from scratch. I’ll let you know how it turns out…
Anyway, I recently discovered the glory that is frozen puff pastry. All you need to do is wait for it to thaw, roll it out, and cut it into whatever shapes you like. In the oven, it magically bakes into golden, flaky perfection every time. It works equally well in sweet and savoury applications, but for today I chose a fruity apricot filling spiked with a splash of brandy, and I sprinkled the tops with a bit of coarse sugar for texture and some extra sweetness.
If you don’t have time to pull the apricot filling together, you can always just use whatever fruit preserves or jam you have in the house. Whatever you choose to stuff inside, these little crescents are delicious and impressive with hardly any prep work needed. Just try to eat them fresh out of the oven or shortly thereafter, as they simply aren’t as delicious and crispy the next day.
I promise, to you and to myself, that I will learn to make better pastry from scratch this year. For now, I’m happy to cheat and use store-bought.
- ½ package frozen puff pastry (mine came in a 397 g package with two big squares of pastry; I used one square)
- 1 cup dried apricots
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon brandy (optional)
- 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon coarse sugar (I used turbinado)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- To make the filling, place dried apricots in a small saucepan and add water to cover. Over medium heat, bring to a simmer and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, reserving the cooking water. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the apricots, sugar, brandy (if using) and about 3 tablespoons of the reserved cooking water. Process to a smooth puree, about the consistency of fruit preserves.
- Roll out puff pastry into roughly a 12-inch x 12-inch square. Cut pastry into 10 long triangles of approximately the same size. Place a teaspoon of filling on the wide end of each triangle and roll into a crescent (make sure you tuck the pointy end piece underneath so the crescent stays closed while it bakes).
- Transfer to prepared cookie sheet, leaving 2 inches between each roll. Brush each evenly with the egg-water mixture, and sprinkle with coarse sugar.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes, until pastries are puffed and golden brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool. Best if consumed within 1 day.
Source: Filling recipe from Williams Sonoma Essentials of Baking (2003 Edition)