I've been making these tender mini trees for nearly 40 years-and folks still keep asking for them! With almond filling, maraschino cherry "ornaments" and iced garlands, the flaky pastries taste as festive as they look.
- 4-3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 1 cup cold butter
- 3-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1-1/4 cups warm milk (110° to 115°)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ALMOND FILLING:
- 4 ounces almond paste
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk, beaten
- 14 green candied cherries, quartered
- 14 red candied cherries, quartered
- 1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- Sprinkle 1 tablespoon flour on a work surface; place butter on surface and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon flour. Press and roll out with a rolling pin. Scrape butter from rolling pin and continue to work the butter until it forms a smooth mass without any hard lumps. Knead in 1/4 cup flour, working quickly to keep butter cold. Place butter mixture on a sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a small rectangle. Cover with another sheet of plastic wrap; roll into a 9-in. x 6-in. rectangle. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
- In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk. Add the egg, sugar and salt; beat until smooth. Stir in the remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Roll into a 14-in. x 10-in. rectangle, with the short side toward the bottom. Unwrap butter mixture; position on dough 1 in. above bottom edge and 1/2 in. from each side edge. Fold top half of dough over butter and pinch edges to seal.
- Turn dough a quarter turn to the right; sprinkle lightly with additional flour. Lightly roll into a 16-in. x 8-in. rectangle. Fold bottom third of rectangle up and top third down, as when folding a business letter, making a 5-1/2-in. x 8-in. rectangle (this is called one turn). Rotate dough a quarter turn to the right. Lightly roll into a 16-in. x 8-in. rectangle and again fold into thirds, finishing the second turn. Repeat rotating, rolling and folding two more times for a total of four turns. (If at any time the butter gets soft, refrigerate it for 10-15 minutes.) Wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- For almond filling, in a bowl, beat the almond paste, sugar and egg until smooth; set aside. Roll dough into a 22-in. x 7-in. rectangle. Cut lengthwise into fourteen 1/2-in. strips. Twist each dough strip, zigzagging dough on ungreased baking pans to form tree shape. Brush with egg yolk. Dot with almond filling. Decorate with candied cherries. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 20 minutes.
- Bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks. In a bowl, combine the confectioners' sugar, water and almond extract. Drizzle over pastries. Yield: 14 servings.
Originally published as Christmas Tree Danish Pastries in Country Woman Christmas Annual 2005, p19
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