I discovered store-bought puff pastry a few years ago. It was a great find, as was the Epicurious recipe that introduced it to me. Recently, I dreamt about sweet rolls and coffee for breakfast. I couldn’t get the dreamy confections out of my mind, so I decided to make them (or close approximations) with store-bought puff pastry sheets. Not gargantuan nightmares like the Cinnabon monstrosities sold in shopping malls and airports, but smaller treasures, with lighter dough, fruit and nuts.
Ahhh, food dreams. Maybe I shouldn’t admit how many of them I have.
The “dream pastries” as I started to call them, were a cross between a sticky bun and a cinnamon roll – sweet, but tasting of much more than just sugar. I came up with a rolled log of puff pastry, stuffed with raisins, cinnamon and sugar, cut into individual rolls and baked until the filling is bubbly, then topped with a light icing with a hint of orange.
These rolls are quick and can be made the night before a brunch, then refrigerated and baked when company arrives. Puff pastry does not contain yeast and you do not need to let it rise. It flakes, but is not flaky when you work with it. The basic trick to working with a puff pastry sheet is defrosting according to the directions on the package and using the sheet while it is still cool to the touch. If the dough gets too warm to move easily, put it back in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes and it will cool down so that you can continue working with it.
Pecan Raisin Breakfast/Brunch Pastries (I was going to call them “pecan raisin swirl sweet rolls”, but is such a tongue twister for me that I can’t say it once, let alone 10 times fast.) – 8 servings Total cost – $9 for 8 pastries (just over $1 per pastry).
Although I adore pecans, nuts are not cheap and some people are allergic to them. These pastries would be excellent (and much less expensive) with finely chopped apple pieces substituted for the nuts. Also, if you find the mixture too sweet, you can use less sugar with the same amount of raisins and nuts/apple.
I forgot the cinnamon, so… (check below). My trusty cinnamon – never far away when I’m baking.
- 1 sheet of store-bought puff pastry. (A package typically contains 2 sheets. You can freeze the other one frozen until you want to use it.) Make sure to buy sheets, not puff pastry shells, which are small cups into which you place filling. I use Pepperidge Farm, because that brand is available in my area. I’m sure there are other brands, equally good.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- Flour for dusting area where you roll out the pastry
- ¼ cup white sugar
- ¼ cup brown sugar (Either dark or light – I used dark.)
- ⅔ cup raisins
- ⅔ cup chopped pecans
- 1 navel or similar orange with thick skin
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅓ cup confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
- Cutting board
- Large bread-type knife with serrated edge
- Measuring spoons
- Measuring cups
- Mixing bowl
- Bowl & nut chopper or another way to chop nuts
- Knife or brush for spreading butter
- Small bowl
- Rolling pin (or a clean can or clean, sturdy bottle)
- Small grater
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Defrost the puff pastry sheet.
- Butter a small pan, approximately 10” x 6”, with half the butter (1 tablespoon)
- Heat about ¼ cup of the juice of the orange in a microwave at high for 30 seconds. Soak the raisins in the juice for 5-10 minutes while you are preparing the rest of the ingredients. They will soften and expand slightly.
- Flour a clean area at least 12” long and about 10 “ wide and set the pastry sheet down on it. Spread a bit of flour on the top of the pastry sheet to keep it from sticking to the rolling pin.
- Use the rolling pin (can or bottle) to roll the sheet so the long side is about 12” (a foot) long. Spread 1 tablespoon of the butter on the sheet, either by melting the butter and brushing it on, or by softening it to room temperature and spreading with a knife.
- Chop the nuts. Here are some inventive ideas (especially in the comments after the post) on how to chop nuts if you don’t have a bowl and chopper to do that.
- Grate about 1 ¼ teaspoon of the skin of the orange. That skin is called the zest. Try not to get down to the white part, which is bitter.
- Mix together the white and brown sugar, the chopped nuts, the softened raisins and about 1 tablespoon of the juice in which it was softened, the cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon of the orange zest.
- Spread the mixture out on the puff pastry sheet, stopping just before the edge of the dough.
You want the dough to be cool, so it rolls easily. I don’t recommend using the microwave to defrost it or you may end up with mush.
- Roll it up, firmly, but not too tightly. Cut the log in half, then cut each half in half again twice more, so you end up with 8 pieces.
A serrated knife works better for slicing than a regular straight-edged one.
- Place the pieces in the buttered pan so the swirls show on the top. If you want to make ahead, do the pastries to this point, cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, take off the plastic wrap (crucial step!!!) and let the pan sit on the counter as you get ready. If the pan is cold when it goes into the oven, the cooking time may be slightly longer.
Press the plastic wrap against the rolls to press out air., but don’t press too hard.
- Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 40 minutes until the filling is bubbling and the pastry has begun to get light brown on the edges.
- Soon after you take the pan out of the oven, put the pastries on plates. (They begin to stick in the pan as they cool down.)
- Mix the powdered sugar and about ½ teaspoon of the orange juice and a bit of zest. Add more juice if you need it, until the consistency is thick but drizzle-able. (Go easy on the juice – putting in too much means you have to add more confectioner’s sugar to get the consistency right.) Drizzle the mixture over the cooling pastries and serve.
I put on the icing right out of the oven – big mistake. It just melted into the rolls. But they were still yummy.
Hints – The sugar mixture gets really hot. Resist the temptation to scrape if off the pan with your fingernail or swallow a spoonful of it as you plate the pastries. Believe me on that – I speak from experience. If you find the pan difficult to clean, let it soak in hot, soapy water for a while. I microwaved my pan to heat the water (after making sure it was microwave-safe), then let it soak – it worked like a charm.