If you're in need of an easy yet festive dessert, these are a perfect option for you! The tart, sugared cranberries pair well with the sugary sweet lemon curd and flaky puff pastry. These are fuss-free; you can prepare parts of them days in advance and assemble hours before you need. It's also really nice to be able to make as few or as many as you'd like, and, best of all, they are three bite finger foods.
I feel a little like what's her name... Sandra Lee... coming up with ideas that combine homemade with store bought. There are things that I'm just not ready for, like making homemade puff pastry dough.
Right out of college, I lived on a modest salary in Chicago. For dinners, I survived on meals of Lean Cuisines or steamed frozen brussel sprouts (seriously). It wasn't until I moved to Madison and started cooking for John that I actually took an interest in making things that taste good.
One of my first cooking attempts was making homemade puff pastry for a tomato, basil, prosciutto tart. At the time, I was using a British cookbook (where ingredients were in grams) without a scale. I knew so little about what I was doing, and my weight to volume conversions yielded a dough that was an absolute mess. I don't even think "dough" is the right word for it.
I haven't tried to create my own puff pastry dough since then. I'm perfectly content with saving my sanity and opting for store bought dough, especially if it's Trader Joe's puff pastry. It's a seasonal item (so stock up now!), Trader Joe's puff pastry is made with... wait for it... wheat flour, butter, salt, water. You know, the same things I would have made it with. So now that I've done a free endorsement for Trader Joe's, let's continue on with this easy dessert!
The lemon curd is also store bought when World Market had a buy one get one free deal over the summer. I don't think that lemon curd is that hard to make, but opening a jar of lemon curd that has good ingredients is ok by me, too. I am, after all, trying to make this a quick dessert.
Easy Lemon Curd Pastries with Sugared Cranberries
1 1/2 - 2 cups of fresh cranberries, washed and picked over
2 cups sugar, divided
1 cup water
1 box of puff pastry, thawed (2 sheets)
1 egg plus a splash of water
flour for dusting the counter before rolling the dough
1 jar of lemon curd (I used Sticky Fingers Bakeries; one jar will yield 32-48 pastries, depending on how much you use)
These need to get started at least a day in advance so plan accordingly!
Make a simple syrup by combining 1 cup of sugar and water in a pot over medium heat. Stir occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved completely. Let it rest for about 10 minutes or until the syrup is warm but not hot.
Place the cranberries in a bowl. Pour the warm syrup over the cranberries, making sure to coat them well. If the syrup is too hot, it will cause the cranberries to burst. Cover and refrigerate 1-3 nights.
Drain the cranberries. In a small bowl, add a few spoonfuls of white sugar. Drop a few (10 or so) cranberries on top of the sugar and shake the bowl back and forth to coat. Don't worry if they have a few spots because you can go back later.
Carefully move the cranberries to a baking sheet to dry in a single layer. Repeat the process until you're out of cranberries, refreshing the sugar in your bowl every couple of batches (so that it doesn't get too gunky). Allow to dry in a single layer for at least 2 hours at room temp.
After 2 hours, if you still have sticky parts or gaps without sugar, repeat the sugar in the bowl technique. Allow to fully dry for another hour or so. After they are dry, you can put them in a bowl and allow them to touch. They will not be sticky and will last for at least a week in the fridge.
Preheat your oven to 400 with the rack in the center of the oven.
Prepare your puff pastry by rolling the thawed pastry sheet out to about 1/8 inch on a lightly floured surface (doesn't have to be perfect). Cut out your desired shapes with cookie cutters, keeping in mind that a 3 bite size cutter is a good size to aim for. Alternatively, you could use a sharp knife and cut squares out.
Make sure to get your shapes as close together as possible because puff pastry isn't the type of dough that you can glob together and roll out a second time. Your scraps will either need to be made into personal bite sized nibbles or toss them.
The sharper the cookie cutter, the better for maximum puffiness.
If you have more dough than room on the cookie sheet, refrigerate the dough between batches.Line your dough shapes on a parchment lined (or silpat lined) cookie sheet, leaving at least 1/2 inch between each shape.
Optional (for browning and shine): In a small bowl, lightly beat one egg with a splash of water. Brush lightly over the cut dough.
Place in the oven and bake for about 17 minutes, or until fully puffed and browned. Don't peek by opening the oven; use the oven light instead! The puffing normally happens at the last minute.
Remove from oven and allow to come to room temp, either on the sheet or on a wire rack.
Assembling the Pastries
Use your finger to make a slight indention on the top of each puff pastry shape. Arrange the puff pastry on your serving platter (makes it easier to arrange now rather than trying to move them with the toppings).
Add a small dollop of lemon curd into the indention in each shape (about 1- 1 1/2 tsp) and then top with three sugared cranberries.