Apricots are a very mild flavored fruit and so they do not overpower this recipe. I also like to fill them with a bit of cheese filling that I use in my raspberry cheese danish as well as the apricot, because then you get a nice balance of sweet and creamy. If you don’t want to make the apricot filling you can just use a good quality apricot preserve for the danish.
- 8 oz Dried Apricots
- ¼ cup sugar
Place apricots and sugar in a small saucepan and add just enough water to cover apricots. Cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until most of the water is absorbed and the apricots are soft and plump.
Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes. Drain out the cooking liquid into a small bowl reserving the liquid. Then puree the apricots in a food processor adding some of the reserved cooking liquid if needed to make a smooth paste.
- 1/2 batch challah dough (recipe follows)
- 2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter
- ¼ cup (1 ½ oz) flour
- Apricot filling
- 1 egg beaten with 1 TB water for glaze
Prepare the dough as directed but after kneading lightly pat the dough into a rectangle and place on a sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 45 minutes.
While the dough is chilling, prepare the butter package. Using a rolling pin or the heel of your hand, beat or knead the butter on a work surface to flatten it and warm it to about 60 degrees. Sprinkle the butter with the flour and gently beat the butter to incorporate the flour into the butter. Shape the butter into an 8×7 inch rectangle. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm but still pliable.
On a lightly floured work surface roll out the chilled dough into a 10-by-6 inch rectangle. With the short side facing you, place the butter on the lower half, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides. Fold over the upper half to cover the butter and press the edges together to seal. Then, with the folded side to your left, roll out the dough into a 12-by-20-inch rectangle. With the short side facing you, fold the bottom third up, then fold the top third down, as if folding a letter. This completes the first turn. Return to the pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Return the chilled dough to the lightly floured work surface with the folded side to your left and repeat the process to make 3 more turns, rolling, folding, and chilling the dough each time, for a total of 4 turns. After the final turn, refrigerate the dough for at least 1 ½ hours or up to overnight before shaping.
To shape the pastries divide the dough in half and roll each half into a rectangle about a ¼ inch thick. Spread the apricot filling down the center third of the rectangle. Using a sharp knife, cut diagonal strips 1 ¼ inches wide down the outside of the pastry on both sides of the filling, cutting almost through to the filling. Cut off the first and last strip on both sides so that a flap is formed at the top and bottom.
Fold the flaps over onto the filling. Starting at the top, fold the strips over the filling alternately from each side at an angle. When you get to the end, tuck the overhang of the last few strips underneath the braid to form a seal. Using a wide spatula, carefully transfer the pastry to the prepared pan. Place in a warm spot covered with plastic wrap and let the braid rise until doubled in size, about 30-40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Lightly brush the braid with the egg mixture. Sprinkle with slivered almonds or coarse sugar. Bake the pastry for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 and continue baking until golden brown and puffed, 15-20 minutes longer. Let the braid cool completely.