Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Easy Pastry Braid

Are you looking for a breakfast treat to serve over the holidays? This pastry braid is easy and delicious. It also makes a beautiful presentation, making it special for company. My mom has made this recipe for years, but I don't know where it originated from.
You can use any filling you like. Make your own, or use store-bought pie filling. I came up with this pumpkin filling, because I just can't get enough pumpkin these days. This recipe makes two, so you can make two different flavors if you want.

Pastry Braid (makes two)
1/2 cup warm milk
1 package yeast
1 tsp sugar
Set this aside.

In another bowl, mix:
3 egg yolks
1 cup whipping cream
Set this aside.

Stir together in large bowl:
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
Cut in 1 stick of butter.

Pumpkin Filling
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 egg
1-2 TBS sugar
2 TBS half and half
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ginger
pinch of nutmeg
Just whisk it all together. This really only makes enough for one braid; I don't think you could stretch it for two. I made my other one blueberry, which I didn't photograph, because it didn't look as pretty, so we promptly ate it!

Mix wet ingredients together then mix that into flour mixture. Just stir until well blended. Refrigerate dough for one hour. Divide dough into two pieces. Roll each half into a long rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Important! Do this one at a time and after you roll it out and before filling the dough, place your rectangle on a cookie sheet. I always line it with parchment paper first, but you may be able to just spray it instead.

It's much easier to move your rectangle than to move it after you've filled it; I learned this the hard way. Now, your rectangle is facing you vertically. You want to visually divide it into three sections. You can divide them with a pizza cutter lightly without cutting through, if that helps. Spread your filling of choice down the center. You only need about a cup, by the way. Overfilling is a big mistake! Okay, now take your pizza cutter or knife and cut about six slits on each side. The amount will vary. Now just braid them, overlapping the pieces of dough. Allow the braids to sit about 20 minutes. I forgot to do this once and they still tasted great, but I think it improves the texture to let them raise a bit. Bake on 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, until golden. Let cool, then sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Hope you enjoy this favorite of mine!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cheap-O Christmas Decorating

My husband says I have expensive taste. Maybe that's true. Yep it is true. However, I also love getting something from nothing, being resourceful, and being a good steward. I love decorating my home with things I already have on hand.
I always wanted a way to display my antique cookie cutters in my kitchen for the holidays. A wreath would be perfect I thought, so I went outside and cut a bit off my boxwood. I used floral stems I had in the closet to fashion a wreath shape. Then I reinforced that with floral wire. I wired the boxwood around the shape in small amounts. Then I used a little wire to secure the cutters. It's a little wonky I'll admit, still cute though. I was thinking some red and white bakers twine would be perfect to accent this with.
There was a concern about how long it would last, but it's been hanging in my kitchen window for five days and it still looks pretty fresh. I couldn't get a good picture of it in the window because of the lighting. Hopefully, you get the idea.

My other cheap project was something I saw several years ago in Better Homes and Gardens. I made this star garland out of old Christmas cards. I always hang onto those, and this is a much better use of them instead of being packed away. I used a star cookie cutter for the template. They are strung onto tweed colored yarn. It's hanging in our little art room. Again, kind of crappy photography. Maybe you'll be inspired to try it anyway.

I love homemade Christmas decorations! What are your favorite ideas for decorating on a budget?