Challenged! Honey Pear & Feta Braid

IMG 5637 Edited Challenged! Honey Pear & Feta Braid

The second Willow Bird Baking Challenge required bakers fill a pastry braid with any filling that met their heart’s desire. I had been thinking about whipping up some baked pears like those I made in the past, so I figured, why not just put them into a braid? There is just something about a fruit and cheese combination - in this case pears and Feta – that to me never seems to get old.

Another of my favorites is apple and cheddar.  And as silly as it may sound, tart granny smith apples, creamy brie cheese, and sweet cherry preserves make for a great sandwich. I think both of these combinations would make an equally delicious braid.

I thought of so many filling possibilities I wanted to try in this challenge that I felt a bit like a cop out trying something I knew would work based on past experience. I initially thought of making some sort of banoffe pie concoction. I also considered adding some cocoa power to the dough to create a chocolate braid, filing it with bananas and marshmallows.

Thinking of chocolate dough led me down the path of wanting use cherry pie filling. After that, I naturally began to wonder if pudding would not make for a delicious filling as well. What I am trying to communicate is there are seemingly infinite possibilities for this braid.

Be sure to click the link that starts off this post to see all of the wonderful concoctions – savory and sweet – people created. The savory options bakers came up with were amazing! The sweet recipes looked pretty good too.

The dough does not make an overly large pastry as 8 x 12 is just barely larger than a sheet of notebook paper. If this is your first time baking a braid, as it was mine, the step-by-step pictures that show how to cut and fold the dough found in the original recipe post are quite helpful.

Given that under other dough-folding circumstances, one might call this a pie or a galette, the braid is really nothing that should overwhelm. Because the assembled braid can be refrigerated and baked the next day, it is great to pull together the night before a brunch. Or if you are a morning person, pull together a savory option upon waking and pop it into the oven before dinner. When a recipe is as flexible as its fillings, what’s not to like?

Honey Pear & Feta Braid
  • For the Dough:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (additional may be needed)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • ½ cup milk, minus ½ teaspoon
  • ½ teaspoon lemon extract
  • For the Filling:
  • ½ mediem-sized pear, sliced very thin
  • 2 tablespoons honey, plus additional for drizzling
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • 2 tablespoons feta cheese, plus additional for topping
  • For the Icing:
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon extract
  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.
  2. Add the butter and cream cheese into the flour mixture and pulse to cut the fat into the flour.
  3. Add the milk and the lemon extract and blend into a loose dough.
  4. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead VERY LIGHTLY for 4-5 strokes. Add flour as needed to make sure the dough is not too sticky to roll out. The goal is to simply gather the dough together. It does not need to be smooth, and likely will look a bit rough.That is okay.
  5. Between two sheets of waxed paper, roll the dough to an 8- by 12-inch rectangle. Next turn the dough out onto a lightly greased baking sheet and remove the waxed paper.
  6. Measure and mark the dough lengthwise into thirds.
  7. In a clean bowl, toss all of the filling ingredients except the feta cheese together. I find it helpful to rub the honey and spices on each slice of fruit. The lemon juice serves to thin the honey so it will better coat the fruit.
  8. Lay the pear slices down the middle third of the dough, keeping them about ½ inch from the mark on both sides.
  9. Sprinkle the feta over the pears once layered across the dough.
  10. Make 2¾-inch slight diagonal cuts at 1-inch intervals on each the long sides. Do not cut into the center pear-filled area.
  11. Fold strips, first one from one side and then one from the other side, in a rotating fashion over the filling.
  12. The dough should now resemble a braid.
  13. Bake in a 425° oven for 12-15 minutes, until the dough is cooked through and the top is lightly browned. About a minute before taking the pastry out of the oven, sprinkle additional feta over the top if desired and return to the oven.
  14. When the braid comes out of the oven, drizzle with honey.
  15. While the braid cools slightly, combine the powered sugar, milk, and lemon extract.
  16. Drizzle over the top of the braid and enjoy. Best when served warm.
Note from Julie at Willow Bird Baking: To prepare this braid in advance, complete all steps and assemble the braid but do not bake. Cover the braid on its parchment lined baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Set out in the morning as you preheat the oven and then bake as usual. Note from LeAndra at Love & Flour: I followed these instructions and was please with the results. It should also be noted that I have a teeny tiny food processor. I simply formed the dough in two batches to compensate for this shortcoming.




A Flavor of August: Avocado Pear Dip

IMG 4846 Edited A Flavor of August: Avocado Pear Dip

Never underestimate the places you might find a delightful new recipe. I picked this one – for Avocado Pear Dip – up while I waited in line at the Community Drug in Benzonia, Michigan. While in the midst of the most severe physical pain I had experienced in nearly 20 years. While on vacation. In a place very far removed from my insurance network. To every gray cloud there is a silver lining.

IMG 4857 Edited e1344996345621 A Flavor of August: Avocado Pear Dip

One of my favorite snacks is chips and dip. This Avocado Pear dip provides a flavorful, creamy alternative to the sour-cream based dips I typically fall victim to. I was very surprised by its flavor, and what I mean by that is, the dip had a lot of flavor. Though I like avocados, I tend to eat them in ways that complement a dish rather than act as the primary flavor.

IMG 4860 Edited e1344996424459 A Flavor of August: Avocado Pear Dip

Take, for example, a sandwich. One of my favorite sandwiches to order is a grilled chicken breast on sourdough bread, topped with provolone cheese, sprouts and avocado. Along those lines, the Avocado Pear dip is easily transferable to a sandwich spread. If my sandwich suggestion is not up your alley, try the avocado dip in place of mayonnaise on any sandwich. I think you will like it. Enjoy!

IMG 4855 Edited A Flavor of August: Avocado Pear Dip

Avocado Pear Dip
  • 2 avocados, peeled and quartered
  • 1 pear, chopped
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until smooth.
  2. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  3. Allow the dip to chill at least 30 minutes so flavors may meld before serving.
If you prefer a chunky dip, mash the avocados by hand. Do not add them to the blender or food processor, but fold them into the dip after all other ingredients are smooth.


Resolutions and a Side of Cider Cinnamon Brussels Sprouts

SAM 4772 Edited Resolutions and a Side of Cider Cinnamon Brussels Sprouts

I realize a vegetable dish isn’t common place on a blog primarily focused on sweet treats, but this cider cinnamon brussels sprouts dish is my (likely lone) attempt to provide something useful to those who have made the popular New Year’s resolution to lose weight.

My resolutions usually aren’t too complex. In the past, I’ve resolved to untie my shoes before I take them off or to not swear so much (to my dismay, sometimes those words just slip out!). This year my personal resolution is to practice yoga on a more regular basis, and my baking resolution is to (try to) make a galette, Charlotte, and Baked Alaska. I’d also like to try canning, or at the very least, make freezer jam.

Other dishes I have not yet made, like tarts and fruit pies, landed on the “to do” list rather than the “resolution” list simply because they do not strike fear in me like the three I listed. They also beat out the desserts I feel like I should make but I have absolutely no desire to make, like petit fours. This resolution business is a tricky thing.

SAM 4783 Edited e1322331895677 Resolutions and a Side of Cider Cinnamon Brussels Sprouts

I don’t yet know how my tastebuds feel about brussels sprouts, but I do know these cider cinnamon brussels sprouts were the tastiest way I have prepared brussels sprouts thus far. The apple, pear, and cinnamon really cut what I consider to be the earthy (okay fine, they taste like dirt) taste of brussels sprouts. If you end up with leftovers, the remaining brussels sprouts  are best served sauteed with a bit of olive oil.

I will keep trying to decide if I do or do not like these little veggies. Though I lean towards the latter, I keep trying brussels sprouts because I think they got a bad rap. I hope you’ll try something new this year too!

SAM 4778 Edited Resolutions and a Side of Cider Cinnamon Brussels Sprouts

Cider Cinnamon Brussels Sprouts
Recipe type: Side
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups brussels sprouts, halved
  • 1 apple, diced
  • 1 pear, diced
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add the Brussels sprouts and saute until browned, approximately 10-12 minutes.
  3. Add the apple and the pear and cook another five minutes until the fruit is soft.
  4. Add the apple cider and the cinnamon to the skillet and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, until no liquid remains in the pan.