29 December 2010

Jam-Ricotta Crescents

This was the second baking adventure of the day (see the first here) and it was extremely successful. The dough was easy and the crescents are both delicious and gorgeous. The pastry is delicate, crumbly and slightly shortbread-y and it feels like cheating to make a pastry this light with barely any work. It is savoury (there is no sugar in the recipe) but the jam sweetens it enough. I made about 20 pastries, most with strawberry jam, some with marmalade. I found the marmalade much softer, so it squidged out from the pastry when I wanted it to stay in the pocket (I lost a couple of crescents that way, sadly) - hence I used less, and the marmalade crescents don't taste much of marmalade. Proper jam seems to do a better job.

Given that there isn't any sugar in the recipe, these could be redone as savoury treats. I think they'd be amazing with cream cheese and caramelized onions inside.

The original recipe calls for farmer's cheese but I made ricotta using about 500ml milk. Instructions for both will be included below.

Jam crescents with ricotta pastry
Jam-Ricotta Crescents
(Printable Recipe)
Makes about 22 pastries

1 cup butter
500ml milk with 1 tablespoon lemon vinegar or 1-2 cups ricotta
2 tablespoons cream with 1 teaspoon lemon vinegar or
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Jam (I used strawberry jam and marmalade)
2 tablespoons milk

Soften the butter - I took mine out of the fridge while I was working on the bagel dough, then chopped it into large-ish chunks and microwaved on a low heat for ten seconds. Cream the butter, either with an electric mixer or by hand. If you are creaming by hand, it is best to hold the bowl against your torso rather than leaning over a table. This should take about ten minutes.

In the meantime, pour the milk into a pan and add one tablespoon of vinegar. Leave to curdle for one minute before turning the heat on (low). Stir every so often. After ten minutes the curds and whey will have separated - pour the pan's contents through a colander lined with cloth (as shown below, and as discussed before here). Leave to drip for five minutes. Alternately, skip this entire paragraph and use bought ricotta.

Fresh ricotta
In a separate cup, mix two tablespoons of cream with one teaspoon of vinegar to make sour cream. Allow to stand for a minute to curdle. Alternatively, use two tablespoons of sour cream.

Mix the creamed butter with the ricotta, sour cream and vanilla and stir everything through. Add the flour and salt. At this point I found that I needed to use my hands to shape the dough as it was just separating into small shaggy bits - I buttered my hands lightly and kneaded the dough in its bowl until it came together, which didn't take long. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least three hours. My dough went in the fridge for two and a half hours, became rock-hard, and then sat on the counter for another hour and a half before I was ready to start on the next step.

Wrapped and ready to go in the fridge
Once the dough has been chilled, remove the plastic and roll it out on a lightly floured surface.

I only use the best equipment
I rolled the dough until it was about half a centimetre thick. Use a knife or a square cookie cutter to cut squares from the pastry - the closer to perfect the squares are, of course, the better, but getting the ruler out was a step too far for me. Fill each square with a scant half-teaspoon of jam, fold in half into a triangle, and press firmly on the edges to seal the pastry. Roll the right-angled corner over the hypotenuse of the triangle, and twist the ends into a crescent shape. Place on a greased baking tray.

Re-roll the dough scraps and continue cutting squares of pastry until all the dough has been used. Pour the two tablespoons of milk into a bowl and using either a pastry brush or clean fingers, daub each crescent with milk. (An egg wash could also be used here.)

Put the crescents in the oven at 200 degrees (390 Fahrenheit) for ten to fifteen minutes. Oddly, my jam crescents were done after ten, whereas some of the marmalade ones were barely browned after fifteen.

Fresh out of the oven

The original recipe recommends dusting the baked pastries with icing sugar but I skipped this step as I didn't feel it was necessary.