Cooks who are looking for a holiday baking challenge may be interested in these delicious French Apricot Strips, which, provided you have time and patience, will make a spectacular holiday breakfast or brunch.
The strips are based on processor-made croissant dough that is divided into two pieces. Each piece is rolled to a rectangle, filled and folded into the shape of a rectangular coffeecake. The baked strips are particularly flaky and far more refined than traditional coffeecake, thanks to the croissant dough.
This processor method for croissant dough offers a significant shortcut over other methods because it permits the dough to be filled with butter and turned or folded three times without waiting in between.
Firmly frozen unsalted butter is processed with the metal blade and a small amount of flour to small bead consistency. During the rolling and turning, the frozen butter acts as an interior coolant that keeps the dough workable.
Once divided in half and rolled out into thin rectangular sheets, the dough does require refrigeration. It will also shrink slightly as it relaxes and it is best to verify the measurement of the dough rectangle (which should be at least 12x9 inches) before filling.
Division of Labor
Perhaps the best and easiest strategy is to divide the making of the strips over a two- or three-day period. The recipe indicates each point at which the dough and the shaped, filled strips can be refrigerated overnight. The raw, filled strip also can be refrigerated until firm enough to turn upright, then wrapped and frozen. After overnight refrigeration, slightly less than two hours is required for rising and baking.
Should the dough at any time become too elastic to roll, simply refrigerate it for 20 minutes. Having the right equipment on hand also can be enormously useful. A large, dry pastry brush, a ruler, a sturdy rolling pin (24-inches minimum) and a plain-edged pizza cutter should be kept near the work surface. Foil (but not wax paper) can be substituted for baking parchment.
It is very important to note that once the dough has been processed (before layering it with butter), it can be left to rise in two ways. First, it can be placed in a rinsed plastic zipper-lock bag and refrigerated overnight--this, in effect, replaces a room temperature rise and it is not necessary to punch down the dough. Or, the dough can be placed in a wet bowl, covered, and left at room temperature for a conventional rise, in which case it must be refrigerated before adding butter.
FRENCH APRICOT STRIPS
1 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
1/2 cup warm (110 degrees) water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons shortening
1 tablespoon milk
3 tablespoons hot water
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) firmly frozen unsalted butter, cut 12 pieces
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons milk
Place yeast and warm water in 1-quart bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup flour. Cover bowl with plastic, secure with rubber band and set aside until doubled, about 2 hours. (May cover tightly and refrigerate up to 2 days).
Insert metal blade in food processor. Add 1 1/4 cups flour, salt, sugar and shortening. Mix milk with hot water. Process, pouring liquid quickly into machine. Stir yeast mixture well, add to machine and process until dough is kneaded to slightly sticky, taffy-like consistency, about 45 seconds (add 1 to 3 tablespoons additional flour only if dough is runny).
Rinse inside of plastic zipper-style locking bag with warm water. Add dough, press out excess air and seal. Refrigerate overnight without letting dough rise. (May transfer to bowl, let dough rise until doubled, then refrigerate 1 hour and continue with recipe.)
Flour work surface generously. Pull dough from bag without kneading. Dust dough with flour and roll to 15X10-inch rectangle. Brush off excess flour. Leave dough on surface.
Fit dry processor with metal blade. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon flour over bottom of processor container. Add butter. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon flour over butter. Process with 2-second pulses until butter is minced to consistency of small beads. Remove and mince any large pieces of butter that remain.
Distribute chopped butter evenly over upper 2/3 dough to form even butter layer. Fold bottom third over central third like business letter. Flip dough up and over top buttered third to completely enclose butter in dough that now measures 10X5 inches.
Generously flour work surface and dough. Roll dough to 15x10-inches. Brush off excess flour. Fold in thirds like business letter. Repeat rolling and turning dough twice more. If dough becomes elastic or difficult, cover with plastic and let rest 10 minutes. After final turn, transfer dough to baking sheet, cover with plastic and refrigerate 1 hour. (Can double wrap snugly in plastic and refrigerate overnight, or freeze).