Poppy Seed and Apple filled Pastries
Can I just start off saying that I come from a family where our grandma used to be the queen of all things baked, bulochki/pastries and roulades in particular? Her bulochki (aka pastries) were so soft, so fragrant, so delicious and for years I tried to make mine similar to the way hers came out and never succeeded. Mine were soft and delicious when they just came out of the oven, but would harden or go stale very quickly. Other times, in an attempt to make my pastries softer and stay fresh longer, I would reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe, which would result pastries that looked like a melted candle, all liquidy and almost runny, while good on taste, not so much on presentation. I don’t quit easily, in fact I don’t know one recipe where I quit before reaching the desired goal. Over the years I have gained a lot of knowledge about the yeast dough, how it works, what it likes and what it dislikes. I think this recipe will conclude my search for the perfect dough, perfect technique and perfect pastries. I am really excited to share it with you, as I like knowing that I helped someone find that perfect recipe and saved you from the same trouble that I had finding it.
One of the most important and key things when working with yeast dough, is kneading it to the correct gluten development .
To figure out if the gluten is fully developed you would take about 2-3 tablespoons of dough and stretch it out with your fingers to make a ‘window’ – if the dough tears, then it is not developed yet. When you are able to stretch the dough to an almost paper thin thickness and when you look through it it is uniformly thin, with no chunks of thicker dough, the gluten is fully developed and you’re ready to add your fat component (butter/oil/margarine). This is called a “windowpane test”. At this point the dough will not stick to the walls of the mixing bowl.
Why is gluten development important? Gluten is what will eventually hold the air bubbles in as they expand. The strands of gluten will easily stretch and easily accommodate for the air. If the gluten is not developed and you proof the dough and then shape it, most likely it will result a very misshaped product that ‘runs’ instead of holding it’s shape and form and deflates very easily.
If you braid a hala, it will most likely tear at each twist, as there is not enough gluten development for the dough to properly stretch with the rise, and if you were to make a roulade, then it will most likely be flat’ish instead of holding the round shape a roulade should hold.
There is such term as “strong” flour. When the word “strong” is used to describe flour, it usually means that it is high in gluten content. The higher the gluten content, the more moisture it can hold. That’s how you get a ciabatta bread. The ratio of water to flour is very big, nevertheless you don’t get a flat piece of bread, but a fluffy, rounded bread, with huge air bubbles that don’t collapse.
Fat – this is what makes the bread soft and pastry-like. Fat also inhibits or prevents the development of gluten. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when it comes to things like brioche.
Sometimes the fat is added after the gluten is fully developed as at this point, the gluten strands are developed and the fat just coats them from the outside, giving us the benefits that come with strong strands of gluten, but also the benefits that come with fat being present. If you were to add the fat before the gluten is developed, each flour particle would be covered in fat, therefore inhibiting or not allowing any gluten development at all. Hence the name ‘shortbread’, it actually refers to the strands of gluten being ‘short’ (as we all know, the cookies have a very high ratio of butter to flour, therefore not allowing any gluten development at all), which results in crumbly and ‘sandy’ texture of the cookies. So now we know that fat can inhibit the development of gluten. There is one more thing though – depending on how much fat we add, we can get soft pastry, without it becoming a shortbread. “Amount’ is the keyword here.
Understanding this little bit of information about the yeast dough, gives you a an upper hand when it comes to breads, pastries and such.
So let’s get to the recipe itself.
Poppy Seed and Apple filled Pastries
- 1¼ cups milk
- ⅓ - ½ cup sugar
- ¼ cups (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
- 2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp salt
- 3½ - 4 cups flour
- 1 egg yolk (for glazing)
Poppy Seed filling****
- 1 cup poppy seeds
- 1 qt. milk
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 large apples, peeled, cored, grated
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons semolina
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
- Heat milk until lukewarm and add yeast. Mix. Leave to rise, about 15 minutes
- Meanwhile, in a bowl of an electric mixer combine egg, salt and sugar. Sift the flour in and add the risen milk mixture. With a hook attachment, starting with the slower speeds combine flour and the milk mixture, then increase the speed to 2 and continue kneading the dough until it completely stops sticking to the bowl, looks very smooth and gluey, and you get a thin and see through result performing the 'windowpane test', about 15 minutes.
- Add room temperature butter and kneed the dough some more, until butter is fully incorporated into the dough and no traces of it are left on the bowl, about 5 minutes
- Shape the dough into a ball. Place into a well greased bowl and oil the outside of the dough. Cover the bowl with clean kitchen towel. Place the bowl on an elevated, draft free surface (fridge, top of cabinets), where the temperature is higher*, allowing the dough double in size, about 1.5 hours.
- Meanwhile, prepare the filling.
Poppy Seed Filling
- Place the seeds into a medium size pot, cover with milk (1 qt) and let come to a boil, watching the milk so that it does not run over. Once at a boil, lower the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for about 30 minutes. You can let it sit covered off the heat, for another 30 minutes.
- Drain through a fine mesh sieve.
- Put the poppy seeds through grinder twice.
- Add the sugar, vanilla extract and mix.**
- Grate peeled apples.
- Add sugar and mix. Let sit for about 2-3 minutes.
- Place the grated apples over a fine mesh sieve and squeeze the extra liquid out. Transfer to a bowl.
- Add enough sugar to make the apples sweet (optional).
- Add a pinch of cinnamon (optional) and 2 tablespoons semolina***
- Mix well together.
To make & shape pastries
- Punch down the dough. Shape a round ball and then a log.
- With a rolling pin, roll out the 'log' to about 30 inches long and 12 inches wide. f
- Spread the filling of choice along the length of the dough, leaving about 2 inches at the other end.
- Roll roulade, 'jelly-roll' fashion and pinch end to the roulade.
- With a sharp knife and a quick motion, cut the roulade about every 3 inches.
- With a knife cut in the middle of each piece, leaving the two pieces attached by about ½ inch of dough. Take the two ends, separate them and lay them inside part out facing up, side by side, making it look like a heart.
- Transfer to a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. Continue with the rest of the dough, placing each piece about 3 inches apart.
- Cover with a clean kitchen or paper towel and place somewhere up top, allowing the pastries double in size, about 40 minutes.
- 20 minutes into the proofing, turn the oven on to 350F.
- Whisk the egg yolk and using a pastry brush, brush pastries with egg yolk mixture right before placing them in the oven.
- Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.
- Transfer to a cooling rack.
- Dust with powdered sugar before serving.
- Best eaten right away, but will keep fresh for at least 6 hours.
NotesIf your oven turns to a low temperature of 100F, you can place it in the oven and leave the door ajar. Otherwise, just put it on top of the fridge or cabinets where the temperature is higher.
*The poppy seed filling will look pretty dry. I like it this way, because it does not "flow" out of the pastries and doesn't burn.
**It will absorb the extra moisture when the apples bake.
***Recipe is designed to use ONLY one of the fillings, not both. If you want both fillings, either half the filling recipes, or double the dough recipe.
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