Pear and Almond Danish Braid

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This braid is a dazzling use of this shortcut Danish dough recipe, a large braid filled with tender, sweet pears on a bed of ground almonds. Be sure to add 1 teaspoon of coarsely ground fresh cardamom with the flour in Step 1 of the Danish dough. (Grind it yourself using a grinder or mortar and pestle; the coarse grind allows the spice to permeate the dough, but not in an aggressive way. If you use pre-ground cardamom, you will likely need less.) The apricot glaze adds a festive shine to the finished pastry, but it is not essential.

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 tablespoons/71 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons/30 grams packed light or dark brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups/380 grams diced pear (from 2 to 3 firm Bosc pears)
  • cup/52 grams raw almonds
  • 3 tablespoons/21 grams confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 batch Danish dough with cardamom added
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup/80 grams apricot preserves, for glaze (optional)

PREPARATION

  1. To prepare the pear filling, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt and stir to combine. Add the pears and cook, gently stirring occasionally, until they are tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer the pears to a plate and let the mixture cool completely.
  2. Use a coffee grinder to blend the almonds to a fine meal. Transfer the almond meal to a medium bowl. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons butter, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, the confectioners’ sugar, egg yolk and almond extract. Mash the mixture into a paste with a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon.
  3. On a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll the dough into an 11-by-14-inch rectangle. Arrange so a short side is facing you. With a bench scraper or the backside of a knife, very lightly mark off a 3-inch section lengthwise down the center of the dough. (Don’t cut through the dough, you’re just creating a guide for yourself.) Cut 1-inch strips perpendicular to the lengthwise guidelines, on either side of the 3-inch section. (These strips will be folded up to become the braided top.) Cut off the top and bottom corner strips, leaving the center flap.
  4. Spread the almond mixture down the 3-inch section of the pastry, leaving about an 1/8-inch border on all sides. Top evenly with the pear mixture, leaving any accumulated liquid on the plate.
  5. Beat the egg in a small bowl. Very lightly, brush a 1-inch border around the edges of the pastry with some of the beaten egg. (You’ll be brushing the pastry that’s been cut into strips, and the two end flaps.)
  6. Fold up the top and bottom ends of the center section to create a barrier for the filling. Starting at the top, fold each strip in at a slightly downward angle over the filling, alternating from left to right. Make sure the strips are overlapping by about 1/2 inch so they don’t open up while baking. Using the parchment, move the filled pastry onto a rimmed baking sheet.
  7. Cover the pastry loosely with plastic wrap and let rest until slightly puffed, about 1 hour. Note the thickness of the strips when you first set it aside and use their growth as a guide. It’s ready when the dough bounces back slowly when pressed lightly. (If it bounces back too fast, it hasn’t risen enough; if it doesn’t bounce back at all, it’s gone too far.) While dough is rising, heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  8. Gently brush the top and sides of the pastry with some of the remaining beaten egg. Bake for 10 minutes then turn the pan and reduce the heat to 375 degrees. Bake until deep golden brown and puffed, 10 to 15 minutes more.
  9. Meanwhile, make the apricot glaze if desired. Heat the apricot jam in a small saucepan, stirring, until loose. Strain the jam through a mesh sieve into a small bowl; discard the solids. Brush a thin coat of apricot glaze over the warm pastry. Let cool slightly before serving.
 
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