Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Faces of Prunus or Prunus tváře

When we went to the town of Halošovice a week ago for their weekend summer festival (we'll post pictures from that soon) we were looking for additional items to stock our kitchen with that we didn't bring with us. We had carefully packed along select treasures from friends and relatives as well as special antique kitchen tools for use that we simply could not live without (like our paring knives and forks from the 1800s with bone and wooden handles, our Mother's recipe boxes, our treasured set of recipes for special occasions, our pressure cooker, sorbet makers, Brita water filters and pitcher, etc.). But, when going on Sabbatical Leave, one cannot pack up their entire functional kitchen and bring it with them! That would be too costly and expensive. So, even though it seems a bit strange and redundant, we had to repopulate our kitchen with tools and supplies that we had left across the pond in Minnesota. One of the top items on our list to get was a Rolling Pin! Dear me, we're forever making Pate Brise, pastries, and the like and have to be able to roll out everything!

So, we headed to Halošovice to see if we could find a new rolling pin from a wood carver. These are so much more preferable than the commercial ones we could have purchased in the local stores here (e.g. Globus, BauMax, Testco, etc.) which were probably made in China. We wanted something local, made from local hardwoods...it will help us encapsulate the local Czech energies every time we make pastry dough. We certainly found a few woodworkers who were selling rolling pins. We settled on one that had a mixture of some heartwood (darker color) and newer xylem. Wow. What an exciting find!

That, of course, meant that we had to make something right away! While we were at Halošovice we bought some of the cherry faces (double-layered sugar cookies with cherry eyes and mouth....see the picture above). That led us to think about creating a Czech-American hybrid pastry. We had fresh apricots and sour cherries... both in the genus Prunus (apricots are Prunus armeniaca while sour cherries are Prunus serasus)...so we ended up making Faces of Prunus or Prunus tváře. Here's the recipe:

Faces of Prunus (Prunus tváře)
Pastry (Mark's specialty):
2 cups (500 mg) unbleached white flour
1/2 pound (125 mg) butter, chilled
2 teaspoons sugar
pinch salt
1/2 cup (125 ml) ice water
Grate the butter either by hand or with the grater in a food processor. Add the sugar, salt, and flour and cut in with a fork, pastry cutter, or the blade on a food processor. After blending, it should be crumbly. While blending, slowly add in enough cold water to make a ball of dough. Stop blending as soon as this happens! Wrap in plastic wrap and keep refrigerated until you're ready to roll out the pastry.
Roll out to 1/4" thickness. Cut with a round pastry cutter or a large glass (using the open end, of course). Place the circles of pastry onto greased cookies sheets.

The Fruit and Glaze.
~10 apricots, fresh
~10 sour cherries, fresh
(This much fruit will be for 20 pastry circles; if you have more, then just add more fruit).
Cut the apricots in half and pit; set aside.
Cut the cherries in half and pit; set aside.
Make a reduction using 1 cup water (250 ml), 3/4 cup sugar (190 mg), 1/2 vanilla bean, zest from one lemon. Cook over medium heat on the stove and let this reduce by one half. Slowly lower each apricot half into the partial reduction and let each poach in simmering reduction for 1/2 minute. Remove immediately. Peel the skins off each apricot half after removing. Set aside. Do this with all apricot halves (but not the cherries).
Continue to reduce the sauce until it becomes very thick (it will start to bubble up vigorously and be at the classic 'soft ball' stage). Let it cool.
Now...assemble the Faces of Prunus: Press two cherry halves towards the top (see above) to make two eyes. [Note that there was at least one mutant above that had a 3rd eye!]. Underneath the cherries add in a poached apricot half to make a 'face'. Brush each pastry circle with the reduction sauce. Bake in an oven at 350F or 160C for 15-20 minutes until they are golden brown and puffy. Cool.
Serve with fresh coffee or tea for an afternoon delight!
Bon appetit or dobrou chuť!