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pastries01

I am a little bit obsessed with brunch lately. Brunch has a lot going for it, to my mind. As a confirmed night owl, I am all for breakfast at noon, and inviting people over for brunch feels so much more do-able than homemade waffles for a crowd at 8 AM. Brunch is casual enough to remove the pressure associated with such portentous words as “dinner party,” yet it is still event enough to merit a few new recipes.

For me, brunch is about balance: breakfast and lunch, savory and sweet. This recipe is the perfect brunch candidate in the sweet category. The combination of buttery pastry, tender pears, and the richness of almond paste was inspired by a recipe from Gale Gand’s cookbook Brunch!. If you are joining me on the brunch bandwagon, her recipes are a good companion to have along for the ride. The one caveat might be that she has been an acclaimed pastry chef for so long, she’s a teensy bit out of touch with how things operate in a regular kitchen. (God bless her, it’s not her fault she hasn’t purchased puff pastry from a store in twenty years.)

I have no problem changing ingredients and ratios as I see fit, though; hence the recipe below, which I adjusted in several ways to tame the cloying sweetness of the original. Although a natural for breakfast, these charming little pastry parcels also make an indulgent dessert for a weeknight supper. They take very little time to put together, the most arduous task being peeling and coring a couple of pears. You can use marzipan and almond paste interchangeably here, depending on your preference and pantry. (See the Chewy Almond Macaroon recipe notes for more about both.) I also wouldn’t be opposed to finishing with a drizzle of creme fraiche — but then, would I ever? :)

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Pear and Marzipan Pastries
makes six

14 oz. all-butter puff pastry (one sheet, thawed overnight in refrigerator if frozen)
4 oz. marzipan or almond paste (I use Odense)
1/4 c. cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp. sour cream (preferably all-natural)
1/4 c. cinnamon sugar (I make mine in batches of 1/2 c. granulated sugar + 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon)
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
2 ripe pears, peeled, cored, and sliced into about 18 wedges
a dash of freshly grated nutmeg
1 egg
coarse sugar (optional)

Oven 425F. Cut the puff pastry sheet into six squares of about equal size and arrange on parchment-lined baking sheet. Slice the marzipan into six equal portions, then shape each portion into a disc about 2″ wide and 1/2″ thick, and place one disc in the center of each pastry square. In a small mixing bowl, thoroughly whisk together cream cheese, sour cream, lemon juice, salt, and 3 tablespoons of the cinnamon sugar. Place a generous dollop on top of each marzipan round. Top the cream on each pastry with three overlapping wedges of pear, then sprinkle the tops of the pears with the remaining 1 tablespoon of cinnamon sugar and a sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg.

Carefully gather the four corners of each pastry together at the top and twist them together to form a little parcel with a pastry topknot in the center. (Be sure to press the corners together well enough that they won’t come apart during baking.) Beat the egg in a small bowl, then brush the tops of each pastry lightly with the egg wash. Sprinkle on coarse sugar if desired, then bake for 25-30 minutes, until pastries are puffed and golden. Transfer immediately to cooling rack and allow to cool before eating.

These are fantastic warm from the oven or room temperature. They don’t reheat well, however, so eat them within a day of baking. (That’s not meant as a challenge. ;)

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