Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christmas Tree Pastries


Holidays this year have been relaxing thanks to no travel plans – got a chance to catch up on some reading, chores, paper reviews (I know that sounds like work) as well as a good dose of cooking and baking! For Christmas this year, I wanted to try something that I had not made before – but couldn’t decide between a sweet or savory dish. So I ended up making both.

These puff pastry Christmas trees are not only pretty to look at and delicious in taste, they are also extremely easy to make. You could make the puff pastry and filling from scratch, but I have used store bought frozen pastry sheets, pesto sauce and Nutella for the fillings.

4 Puff pastry sheets – I used 2 packs of Pilsbury brand pastry sheets from the frozen section at grocery stores. Each pack has two sheets. You could certainly make your own pastry dough.

Pesto sauce (Or other savory sauce of choice)

Nutella or other chocolate spread (Fruit preserves and pastry cream would work well too)

Optional toppings:
Savory – Butter, Parmesan cheese
Sweet – Sugar glaze (confectioners sugar, milk, vanilla essence)

Thaw the pastry sheets overnight in the refrigerator. Spread pesto sauce on one sheet. Place another sheet on top. Cut out the Christmas tree shape (you could make a stencil on paper first). How wide you want to make the tree is up to you – I used the maximum width of the pastry sheets, with the stem being about an inch tall. Repeat the same procedure with the remaining two sheets using Nutella spread for a sweet version.

Make symmetric cuts leaving about an inch in the middle. My pesto tree had wider strips but I decided to make the cuts closer for the sweet one. Starting from the bottom-right, twist each strip in the clockwise direction. Repeat the same on the other side making sure it is symmetric (anti-clockwise twists on the left side).

The pastry puffs up a lot as it bakes, so press on the edges (especially at the tree top and the bottom). Also, pushing the lower “branches” upwards works best as they tend to move apart as they bake.

Bake for about 20 min or until golden brown. Add toppings while the pastry is warm.

For the pesto tree, brush the warm baked pastry with melted butter and sprinkle Parmesan cheese (it looks like snow!).

For the sweet pastry, prepare the sugar glaze by mixing ¼ cup of confectioners sugar with just enough milk to form a thin paste (add milk by teaspoons). Add a few drops of vanilla essence. Drizzle glaze on warm pastry.

Tip: If the edges (top, bottom, or even branch tips) start to brown a lot while the pastry is still uncooked in the middle, you can use pieces of aluminum foil to cover these areas to slow down the browning.