Swiss Walnut Crescents

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    12

    filled crescents

Appears in

These walnut crescents, called nussgipfeli in Swiss German dialect, quickly became favorites of mine when I worked at a hotel outside Zurich in the early 1970s. Leftover pastries from the previous day always appeared with our staff lunch, and if you were quick enough to be in the front of the line, you had a good selection to choose from. For me, it was either one of these or a wedge of a typically Swiss version of a Linzertorte with a layer of kirsch-scented almond paste under the raspberry preserves. These crescents are a lightened Swiss version of a wonderful old Viennese pastry called a Nussbeugel, in which the same walnut filling is wrapped inside a tender yeast dough. Instant puff pastry is perfect for these, or use any good brand of all-butter prepared puff pastry.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1⅓ cups (5 to 6 ounces/150 to 175 grams) walnut pieces, finely ground in the food processor
  • cup dry bread, cake, or cookie crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons kirsch or vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ batch Instant Puff Pastry, or about 12 ounces (350 grams) prepared all-butter puff pastry
  • Egg wash: 1 large egg well beaten with a pinch of salt
  • 2 cookie sheets or jelly-roll pans lined with parchment or foil

Method

  1. Combine the milk, sugar, and butter in a heavy saucepan and place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Stir in the walnuts and crumbs, and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens. Off the heat, stir in the kirsch and cinnamon. Scrape the filling onto a plate, cover it with plastic wrap, and chill it while you are rolling the dough.
  2. Press the Instant Puff Pastry dough into a rough square, then roll it into a 12 × 15- inch (30 × 38-cm) rectangle. Roll gently, and if the dough resists, let it rest for 5 minutes, then roll again. If at any point the dough becomes too soft to handle, slide a cookie sheet under it and refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Once the dough is rolled to the correct size, straighten the edges and make the corners even. Use a sharp pizza wheel to cut the dough into two 6 × 15- inch (15 × 38-cm) strips, Cut each strip into 6 to 8 triangles, each with a base of just under 4 inches (10 cm..
  4. To form the pastries, place one of the triangles on a work surface, with the 4- inch side toward you. Gently pull the 2 corners closest to you outward to make the base about 6 inches (15 cm) wide. Place about 2 tablespoons of the chilled walnut filling on the dough, leaving about a ½- inch (1 cm) border from the 6- inch (15-cm) edge. Fold the dough up over the filling and press it into place. Roll up the dough from the side nearest to you, gently pulling on the point of the triangle with the other hand as you roll. Form all the crescents this way.
  5. Place a pastry on one of the prepared pans and curve the ends in front of it to form a crescent shape. Arrange 6 to 8 crescents on each pan. Chill the formed crescents for at least 1 hour, covered loosely with plastic wrap.
  6. About 20 minutes before you are ready to bake the crescents, set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 375°F (190°C).
  7. Carefully brush the crescents with the egg wash, making sure to dry the brush on the side of the container to avoid having the egg wash puddle under them.
  8. Bake the crescents for about 15 minutes, then switch the bottom pan to the top and vice versa, turning the pans back to front at the same time. Bake them for 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until they are deep golden.
  9. Slide the crescents, still on the paper, from the pans to racks to cool.

Serving

These aren’t really a dessert—you can serve them for breakfast, brunch, or tea.

Storage

Keep the pastries loosely covered on the day they are baked. Wrap and freeze for longer storage. Defrost, reheat at 350°F (180°C) for 10 minutes, then cool before serving again.

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