These pastry braids are an elegant addition to any special occasion tablescape. They make delicious breakfasts, desserts, or appetizers with minor tweaks to the filling ingredients. They are deceptively easy to prepare, and they come out beautiful enough to impress your guests.
The cream cheese dough in this recipe is forgiving; I whip mine up in a food processor, and it requires no additional kneading. Roll the dough out on a floured sheet of parchment paper for easy transferring of the final braid to the baking sheet. While the name of this dish might imply otherwise, the dough isn’t really “braided” — flaps of dough are criss-crossed to give a pretty braided effect. The best part is you can prepare these braids in advance and stick them in the fridge overnight. Just hold off on the egg wash until just before baking the following day.
The pastry braid below is filled with mild, tangy goat cheese and a thickened blueberry sauce. A drizzle of honey over top after it cools down is the perfect touch of sweetness to this gorgeous appetizer. Slice one of these up and keep it on the kitchen island. It’s the perfect welcome for dinner guests.
Blueberry Goat Cheese Pastry Braid
1½ cups fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
3 ounces cream cheese, cold and cut into cubes
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon almond extract
8 ounces goat cheese
1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon of water for egg wash
Sugar for sprinkling
Honey for drizzling
For the blueberry sauce: In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring blueberries, lemon juice, water, sugar, cinnamon, and salt to a simmer. Cook until the blueberries break down and the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Allow this to cool. Note: I set mine in the fridge to chill after a few minutes.
For the pastry braid: Preheat the oven to 425°. In the bowl of food processor, mix flour, baking powder, powdered sugar, and salt. Add cream cheese and butter to flour mixture and pulse to cut fat into the flour (about 6 pulses). Add milk and almond extract. Blend until the mixture begins to form a loose dough.
Turn the dough out onto a big sheet of lightly floured parchment paper. Press pieces of dough gently together as needed, being careful not to overwork it. Lightly flour top of the dough and roll dough out to create a 10×12-inch rectangle.
Measure and mark dough lengthwise into thirds: You should now have three long sections marked in your rectangle measuring about 3.3×12-inches each. Fill center section with crumbled goat cheese. Top with the chilled blueberry sauce. Make diagonal cuts at 1-inch intervals on each of the two outside sections of dough. Do not cut into the center filling area.
Fold strips over the filling, alternating outside strips. It will now resemble a braid. Use the sheet of parchment paper to carefully transfer your braid to a baking sheet. At this point you can cover and refrigerate the braid overnight, or you can continue to the next step.
Bake the braid: Brush pastry braid with the egg wash mixture. Sprinkle sugar over top of braid. Bake in oven for 17-20 minutes, until the dough is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Don’t worry if some oozes out. Let braid cool for 30 minutes before generously drizzling honey over top, slicing, and serving.