12 oz tart cherries (fresh or frozen, thawed)
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1/3 Cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/4 tsp Almond Extract
1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, thawed
1/2 Cup semisweet chocolate chips or roughly chopped chocolate chunks, divided
Demerara Sugar, for sprinkling
Allow frozen cherries to thaw (or fresh pitted cherries to drain) in a sieve or strainer set over a similarly-sized bowl, catching any juices that drain into the bowl below. Measure out 2 Tbsp of the juice (or cherry juice plus enough water to make 2 Tbsp liquid) into a small bowl, and whisk with cornstarch until a smooth mixture forms.
Combine cherries and granulated sugar in a saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat. As the pan begins to simmer, add the cornstarch-cherry juice to the saucepan, and stir constantly as fruit returns to a boil. Cook fruit mixture until thickened, another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove saucepan from the burner and allow cherry filling to cool. Transfer cooled fruit to a storage bowl, cover and refrigerate until thoroughly cooled.
(Filling can be made a day ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to assemble).
When you’re ready to make the braid, preheat oven to 425° F.
Roll out one sheet of puff pastry a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, until the dough is approx 10″ x 10″. Using a straightedge or ruler and the tip of a paring knife to lightly mark the dough square into vertical thirds.
Next, rotate the dough 1/4 turn, and use the same technique to mark the pastry horizontally in evenly-sized strips, about 12 to 16 total. Use your sharp knife or rotary cutter, cut along the horizontal markings on the outside left 1/3 and right 1/3 of the pastry (leave the center third intact and uncut).
Trim and remove the corner sections from each of the 4 corner strips. Transfer the sheet of parchment paper, with the scored pastry dough on top, to a baking sheet.
Spread half of the cooled homemade cherry filling evenly in the center section of the pastry. Sprinkle with 1/4 Cup of chocolate chips or chunks.
Weave or braid the pastry around the filling:
Fold the top flap down over the filling. Then, gently lift and drape the top left strip over the center filling, folding it slightly on a diagonal so it matches up with the next section down. Press lightly to adhere. Then fold the top right strip over the center and down in the same manner. Repeat with the remaining strips, alternating left and right down the length of the pastry to form a braided pastry. Before you fold the second to last row, fold up the top flap over the filling, then fold one of the second to last strips diagonally over it, pinching the edges to seal. Trim off the last strips and discard.
Combine the egg with 1 Tbsp of cold water, whisking briskly until thoroughly combined. Use a basting brush to paint a thin layer of this egg wash on the pastry, then sprinkle the top of the braid with sugar.
Bake pastry for 18 – 20 minutes, or until top of the braid is golden brown and flaky. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Repeat as desired for second pastry. Make ahead: the cherry pastry filling will also keep, covered, in your refrigerator for up to 2 days, or can be frozen for up to one month for later use.
Adapted from Love and Oil