Electric Apricots

You could either interpret this as a ghastly reminder of the eccentric, no, just plain atrocious band I saw on cable tv discussing the whereabouts of their 'wonderful' band name OR the fact that the homely bake below filled with brown-sugared apricot puree and a veil of cinammon sugar nut mixture *nudges*.. was truly electrifying.

I would like to think it is the latter, for obvious reasons.


and if you're wondering what it is, yes, it's a woven apricot and almond strip (as stated.); a yeasted cake by nature. Note my trepidation when i drop the 'y' word. Despite my many years of stirring the deep realms of baking, yeast still remains as one of biggest obstacle. Wanting a taste of the forbidden fruit, I treaded on thin ice and made a pass at this recipe I spotted in Carole Walter 'Great Coffee Cakes'. Then, beginning with a sweet dough that was churned out a day before to allow it to rest in the fridge, I traced the rest of the steps with fearful precision until... disaster struck.


ah, yes, life has a way of doing a belly flop every time you smile in contention at your successful efforts. Just God's way of humbling us. But, as willed, I assembled the entire strip complete with puree and folding on the counter top, only to find out that it was nearly impossible to lift the long strip onto the cookie sheet without rupturing the structured bridges of dough over the top. I grimaced, whined, sulked and pull a hot-dog long face as I pried the dough from the countertop (that thankfully was well-floured enough) and plopped it onto the buttered cookie tray. But darn it... some of the overlapping had come undone releasing a torrent of syrupy juices from the apricot puree to flow around the base of the sweet dough. I was slumped. That was it, making a tiny mistake and having an entire days' worth of work go to waste. Ever felt like that before?


At the very least, the coffee cake emerged looking like a glorious fan of sunshine from the oven. I was elated... more so from the taste too. But be very sure that the sweet yeasted doughs deserves a revisit from me very soon!


Simple Sweet Dough
from Carole Walter's 'Great Coffee Cakes'

makes 2 pounds of dough, enough for 1 large or 2 medium coffee cake

4 tbsp sugar
1/4 cups warm water (110 to 115 F)
1 package active dry yeast
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour, spooned in and leveled
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup milk
3 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract

Rinse a small bowl in hot water to warm it. Add 1 tbsp of the sugar and the warm water to the bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water. Do not stir. Cover the bowl with a saucer and let the mixture stand for 5 minutes. Stir it briefly with a fork, cover again, and let it stand for 2 to 3 minutes more, or until bubbly.

In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix on low speed the 3 cups of flour, remaining 3 tbsp of sugar, and the salt. Add the slightly firm cubed butter and continue to mix until meal-size crumbs form, 2 to 4 minutes depending on the temp of the butter. Stop the mixer.

Using a fork, in a separate bowl, mix the milk, egg yolks and vanilla. Add the milk mixture to the flour, along with the dissolved yeast, and mix on low speed for about 15 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Mix on low speed for another 30 seconds, or until smooth dough is formed. NOTE: this is a soft dough.

Lightly butter a medium bowl for storing the dough. Empty the dough into the prepared bowl, smoothing the top with lightly floured hands. Spread a thin layer of softened butter over the top. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The dough may be kept in the fridge, tightly covered, for up to 3 days.

For the Filling and assembly:


Apricot Puree
4 ounces dried apricots (not organic)
1/2 cup (lightly packed) light brown sugar
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 tsp almond extract

Sugar Cinnamon Sprinkle
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp chopped almonds, toasted

1/2 recipe (about 1 pound) Simple Sweet Dough

2 tbsp unsalted butter, very soft
1 large egg white lightly beaten with 1 tbsp of water for egg wash
2 tbsp slivered almonds
2 tbsp granulated sugar

TO make the apricot puree: In a heavy 1-quart saucepan, combine the apricots and 1/2 cup water. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the apricots are very soft. If too much of the water evaporates, add 1 to 2 tbsp, or more as needed to prevent the apricots from burning. Stir in the brown sugar, then simmer for another minute or two. Remove the pan from the heat. Using a fork, whip in the butter and almond extract, mixing until the consistency is fairly smooth. Let cool. (You should have about 3/4 of a cup.)

Make the sprinkle: In a small bowl, combine the granulated and brown sugars, cinnamon, and almonds. Set aside.

Shape the dough: Butter a large cookie sheet and set aside. Place the chilled dough on a lightly floured work surface. Knead five or six times, then let rest for 5 minutes. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, shape the dough into an 8 x 12 inch rectangle. Roll the dough onto the rolling pin and place it on the prepared cookie sheet, stretching it back into shape.

Using an offset spatula, spread a 3-inch strip of soft butter down the length of the dough. Sprinkle the sugar/cinnamon mixture over the butter. Spoon the apricot puree over the sugar mixture. With the back of the spoon, smooth the puree over the sugar/cinnamon as best you can. Brush both sides of the dough with a 1-inch strip of egg wash.

With a dough scraper or a sharp knife, cut nine slashes, about 1 1/4 inches apart on both sides of the dough, being careful not to cut into the strip of filling. Starting from the top, overlap the strips from left to right, pulling down slightly to cover the filling. Pinch the seams on the top and bottom so the filling will not seep out. Cover the strip with a tea towel and set in a warm place to rise for 45 yo 60 minutes, or until puffy and almost doubled.

Bake the strip: Fifteen minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350. Brush the top of the strip with the egg wash and sprinkle with the almonds and sugar. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown. Do not overbake.

Remove from the oven and let stand on the cookie sheet for about 10 minutes, then loosen with a large spatula. When firm enough to handle, transfer to a cooling rack.

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