Julie from WillowBird Baking’s Challenge #2.
A braid pastry. Or as I call it, “Autumn” on a plate.
I had recently made a batch of pumpkin butter with leftover roasted sugar pie pumpkin puree I had made for a previous recipe and was trying to think of what it would go with, besides just a spoon headed straight for my mouth. When I saw a baking challenge posted on twitter from Julie at Willowbird Baking, I knew the pumpkin butter would be perfect as a filling, but I wanted something more than just that. I had also just gotten a bag of gorgeous fresh pears in my latest CSA box this week and I thought the combo of the pumpkin and pear would go awesome together in a pastry. I didn’t want to just slice up the pears and add them in, I wanted to give more depth of flavor, so they were poached with brown sugar, fresh ginger and cinnamon stick. I then went a step further and reduced the poaching liquid and made the spiced caramel glaze with it. My family gave me rave reviews and my 8 year old nephew even asked for seconds. My husband took fourths. And didn’t gain an ounce. Jerk. I mean I love you honey! ha ha
I had googled “Braid pastry” for ideas on photographing the pastry and I must have read one too many recipes because I actually did two steps, wait three, that weren’t part of Julie’s original recipe, but part of who knows what recipe. And because I made a TON of filling, I made two pastries. And I still have leftover filling. I have more plans for that pumpkin butter. Yes I do. The second pastry followed her braid dough recipe to a T. They both came out slightly different, but both really good.
My first braid I had added 2 tbsp of sugar into the dough, I rolled it to about 12 x 16 inches and I did an egg wash on the braid before I baked it. Julie’s original recipe called for no sugar, roll to 8×12 inches and no egg wash. Can’t even tell you why I did what I did, but honestly, we liked the first braid better than the second. The smaller on was a lot thicker and seemed doughier. It also didn’t look at all like Julie’s, hers seems thinner. So I am thinking I may have messed something up. But we liked the thinner rolled dough and the extra touch of sweetness a little better.
I had also had an interesting time trying to photograph these. We got some crazy wicked thunderstorms the other night starting at 1 am, and early am there was good light in one room but it was fading quickly as a new storm was rolling in at 8 am. So I was frantically trying to set up, take pics, trying different angles etc. At one point I kicked over my cup of coffee I had forgotten I had set behind me instead of back up on the window sill, oops! And then the room was dark. I contemplated using lighting like a strobe light for pics, but it was too unpredictable so I waited for a cloud break to take more pics. The sky really made for interesting lighting in the room I was shooting in and I ended up taking 176 pics. Mostly because I couldn’t tell which ones were blurry through my camera’s view finder. I can’t believe I narrowed it down to about 8 pics that I deemed blog worthy.
This was my first time making a pastry like this. This was a lot less intimidating than making my own puff pastry dough like a traditional Danish Braid. I still want to try that one of these days, mostly because I want to try making croissants. Filled with nutella of course. Duh.
Seriously so good.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 3 ounces best quality cream cheese
- ½ cup milk, minus ½ teaspoon
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 egg
- 1tbsp water
- 1 can (15 oz) or 2 cups organic pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
- 1 tbsp honey
- ¼c brown sugar
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp ginger
- ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 4 firm but ripe bosc pears
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 inch knob of fresh ginger peeled and sliced into ¼ inch pieces
- 3 cups water
- 1 C packed brown sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 C of the poaching liquid from pears
- ¼ C brown sugar
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp heavy cream
- Pinch sea salt
- ⅔ cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon milk
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla
- Combine all in pan and cook over low heat for 5- 10 min or until slightly thickened. Taste and add more seasonings if desired. This can be made a few days ahead of time. Just thaw to room temp before using
- Peel, remove cores and slice pears into quarters.
- Combine the rest of the ingredients in a medium high sided sauce pan and stir over medium low heat to dissolve sugar. Add the pears to the pan and cover with a disk of parchment paper with a small hole cut in the middle. This way the pears stay covered in liquid but steam can still escape.
- Simmer for 15 minutes until cooked through. Let cool in pan 5-10 min.
- If using same day remove pears and thinly slice each pear quarter. Each braid uses a little over 1 whole pear, you can use more if desired.
- Reserve 2 cups of the sauce to make the glaze or refrigerate the pears in a covered bowl with the poaching liquid until ready to use. There will be leftover pears, they are great served over ice cream with the caramel glaze drizzled over them
- NOTE: To prepare this braid in advance, complete all steps and assemble the braid but do not bake. Cover the braid on its parchment lined baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Set out in the morning as you preheat the oven and then bake as usual. The dough can also be made ahead of time and refrigerated. Just thaw to room temp and continue at the step where you roll it out to fill it.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- In the bowl of a food processor, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the cream cheese and butter into the flour mixture and pulse to cut the fat into the flour (about 6-10 pulses). Add the milk and vanilla extract and blend into a loose dough.
- Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead VERY LIGHTLY for 4-5 strokes. (NOTE: This is the step at which you can ruin the braid. If you overwork the dough, the pastry will be tough. Just gather the dough together and don’t worry about making it smooth. It will still look a little rough. That’s perfect.)
- Between two sheets of waxed paper, roll the dough to a 12x16-inch rectangle. Turn dough out onto a piece of parchment paper, place on a baking sheet and remove the waxed paper. Measure and mark the dough lengthwise into thirds. Spread pumpkin butter down the middle third of the dough, keeping it about ½ inch from the mark on both sides. Top with the thinly sliced poached pears in a single layer. Make slight diagonal cuts at 1-inch intervals on each the long sides. Do not cut into the center filled area. Fold strips, first one from one side and then one from the other side in a rotating fashion, over the filling. It will now resemble a braid.
- Whisk the egg and 1 tbsp water together in a small bowl. Using a pastry brush lightly brush the egg wash on top of the pastry. Don’t use it all just use enough to cover the top of the pastry.
- Bake in a 425° oven for 15-18 minutes, until the dough is cooked through and the top is lightly browned.
- Cool for 5 min and using the parchment paper slide the braid onto a serving platter.
- Pour 2 cups of the remaining poaching liquid in a sauce pan, add the brown sugar and butter and cook over medium heat until it’s reduced by about half, and starting to turn darker brown and bubble.
- Stir often and remove from heat once it’s starting to get thick. Quickly pour in the heavy cream and stir quickly until combined. Return to medium heat and stir until it starts to bubble again and starts to smell like caramel, being careful not to burn it. Remove from heat and add in salt and stir again.
- Drizzle over braid with a spoon while glaze and braid are still warm. If not using right away just reheat it until it’s a thinner consistency as it will thicken as it cools.
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir until it is all mixed together. Drizzle over the braid with a spoon while it’s still warm
I’m just glad I found enough pictures to use in the post considering my challenge with lighting due to the storm because my family ate the entire thing in about 10 minutes and I would have had to make a whole new one just for pics.