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Fresh fruit braid an easy pleaser for breakfast or brunch

Recipe: Try cherries, apricots or any seasonal favorite

Braided baked pastry on a dark blue plate
Fresh apricots are baked in puff pastry on a bed of lemony cream cheese. It's
a special breakfast treat. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

I have no problem using kitchen shortcuts when the results are delicious and reliable. Frozen puff pastry is one of the best. (No way am I making my own.)

Pastries aren't diet food, but occasionally a treat for a special breakfast (Father's Day, for example) is a lot of fun. This recipe comes together easily, with some cream cheese, lemon zest and a pint or so of fresh fruit. Blueberries are spectacular in this, but cherries, apricots, peaches or nectarines are great, too.  Strawberries might be too juicy, but good strawberry preserves are an option for the strawberry fan.

One box of frozen puff pastry makes two of these breakfast braids, so it's easy to vary the fruit to please everyone. Or make just one now and save the second frozen dough for another occasion.

A cherry pitter is a must if you make a lot of
cherry dishes.

Note: I made my two braids separately, using 14 halved cherries for one and 5 quartered apricots for the other.

Fresh fruit breakfast braid

Makes two braids, 5 or 6 slices each

Ingredients:

One 17.3-ounce package puff pastry dough, defrosted but cold

One 8-ounce package regular (block) cream cheese, room temperature or softened slightly in the microwave

4 tablespoons sugar

Zest from 1 lemon

2 to 3 cups prepared fruit (such as blueberries, pitted and halved cherries, or pitted and sliced apricots or peaches, or 1 to 1-1/2 cups of two kinds)

Cutting the triangles provides a guide
for making the braid.

Cream or milk for brushing the pastry

Coarse sugar for sprinkling (optional)


Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Prepare the fruit desired, and set it aside while you make the filling.

In a medium bowl, stir the lemon zest and sugar into the softened cream cheese until thoroughly incorporated. Set aside while the dough is being prepared.

Remove 1 dough from the box; leave the other in refrigerator to stay cold while you're working on the first.

Apricot quarters on pastry
The cream cheese and fruit are in place and the pastry
is ready to braid.


Place the first dough  on a large piece of parchment paper with one of the short sides in front of you. Unfold the dough, removing the little papers that are packed with it. Using a rolling pin, lightly roll it thinner, generally retaining the shape.

Using a sharp knife, cut two small triangles off the upper corners of the dough (about 2 inches in from the corners). Then cut two triangular notches out of the lower edge of dough. (See photo for example.) This will allow you to fold the ends up to keep the filling from spilling out. Save the triangles for decor if desired.

Now cut the braid pieces, following the angle of the upper corners of the dough. They can be thick or thin, but there should be an equal number on each side.

Slide the parchment paper onto the pan you'll be using to bake with. Set the pan in the refrigerator or even the freezer to stay cold while you work on the second dough.

After the second dough is prepared on a second piece of parchment paper, set it aside. Remove  the first dough, still on the pan, from the refrigerator.

Overlap the strips to make the braid.

Spread half the cream cheese mixture over the center part of the dough, leave about an inch or dough uncovered at each end. Arrange the desired fruit on top of the cream cheese.

Then braid the dough, starting at the bottom where the notches are. Fold up the uncovered dough, then alternately bring the dough strips up and over the fruit. The strips should overlap a little; if they don't stick together, wet the undersides with a little water.

When you get to the end, tuck the upper uncovered flap of dough up under the last strips. If desired, use the cut-off triangles to decorate the top. Brush the dough with cream or milk and sprinkle on the coarse sugar if using.

If there's room on the pan, slide the second dough and its parchment paper on it, and repeat the process with the rest of the cream cheese and fruit. If there's not enough room, slide the dough and paper onto a second pan and create the braid there.

Put both pans in the oven and bake 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool on wire racks after baking for about 10 minutes. The braid can be served warm, room temperature or even cold.

All ready for the oven.





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RECIPE

A recipe for preparing delicious meals from the bounty of the garden.

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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Oct. 2

Plan to make the most of the mild weather in your garden.

* October is the best month to plant trees and shrubs.

* October also is the best time to plant perennials in our area. Add a little well-aged compost and bone meal to planting holes or beds, but hold off on other fertilizers until spring. Keep the transplants well-watered (but not wet) for the first month as they become settled.

* Now is the time to plant seeds for many flowers directly into the garden, including cornflower, nasturtium, nigella, poppy, portulaca, sweet pea and stock.

* Plant seeds for radishes, bok choy, mustard, spinach and peas.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Set out cool-weather bedding plants, including calendula, pansy, snapdragon, primrose and viola.

* Reseed and feed the lawn. Work on bare spots.

* Dig up corms and tubers of gladioluses, dahlias and tuberous begonias after the foliage dies. Clean and store in a cool, dry place.

* Treat azaleas, gardenias and camellias with chelated iron if leaves are yellowing between the veins.

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