It was only a few short weeks ago, whilst enjoying a weekend luncheon (and a delicious bite of quiche!) with my sister and her family, that I remarked how much I love pastry.  My sister simply nodded in agreement.  A nod that conveys many years of recognition and understanding.  No words needed to be uttered.

It is then very surprising that it has taken me so long to bake one of the stars of the Finnish Christmas table.  For some time I have greedily eyed off these tender butter pastries, simply shaped as a festive star, and dotted with a small kiss of sweet prune filling in the centre.  The recipe has long been bookmarked with a clear yellow post-it-note in my copy of Beatrice Ojakangas’, The Great Scandinavian Baking Book.

Beatrice explains that when these prune-filled stars are baked and served, it signals the beginning of the Christmas holidays.  Apparently the day after Christmas is a day for visiting and comparing the quality of the stars from one household to the next.  Everyone has their own favourite recipe, varying from a flaky puff pastry, to a rich and tender butter pastry.

This recipe produces a soft, cream based pastry.  It is incredibly simple to put together, and surprisingly, in the humidity and the heat that is Brisbane this time of year, fairly easy to work with.  A trial run before our Christmas guest arrives, proved very successful.  These little Finnish Christmas stars got an immediate thumbs up from Mr Mélanger.  I will definitely be baking a fresh batch of Joulutortut to surprise my father-in-law on his visit!

{ Joulutortut  :: Finnish Christmas Stars } Recipe by Beatrice Ojakangas from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book

* Ingredients *
2 cups pitted prunes
Water to cover
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, whipped
1 cup softened butter
Beaten egg, for glaze

* Directions *
Cover the prunes with water and simmer slowly until very soft.  Puree and add the lemon juice and sugar.  Cool.

For the pastry, mix the flour and baking powder. Stir into the whipped cream and knead in the softened butter.  Shape dough into a ball and chill overnight.

On a floured board, roll out pastry to 1/4 inch or 6mm thickness. Fold dough into third, folding first one third over the centre, then the opposite third over the centre.  Roll out to seal the layers.  Turn dough and fold again into thirds, making the dough into a perfect square.  Roll out, retaining the square shape, to make an 18 inch or 45 cm square.  Cut into 3 inch or 7.5 cm squares.  With a sharp knife, make cuts from the corners towards the centre of the squares about half way along.  Place a spoonful of the prune filling onto the centre of each square. Shape into pinwheel stars by lifting every other split corner towards the centre onto the filling.  Cover baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 400F / 200C.  Place filled stars onto the baking sheets, and brush with the glaze. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Makes 36