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Roses Are Red, But Almond-Filled Challah Roses Are Edible

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The Valentine's Day realm of Pinterest is a frightening yet utterly addictive place.

There are all sorts of crafts I will never do, all sorts of negligé I feel uncomfortable even looking at, and all sorts of pink-and-red meals I can't imagine bringing to the table (let alone the bed) without Norah Jones playing in the background. (And Norah Jones puts me to sleep.)

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So when Ali Slagle sent me this pin of roll-roses from a Russian website, I felt like I'd been thrown a life-preserver: Finally, a project I simultaneously wanted to do and could do.

Figuring that the basic shaping technique could be applied to any enriched dough that tolerates being worked with and holds it shape well, I made a batch of the incredibly Jessica Fechtor's incredibly light and feathery Five-Fold Challah: It's the lightest, most feathery challah I've ever tasted—it's got springs in its shoes!

But you could use store-bought puff pastry, your favorite brioche dough (everyone has a favorite brioche dough), or Erin McDowell's all-purpose sweet dough.

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Jessica Fechtor's Five-Fold Challah

Jessica Fechtor's Five-Fold Challah by Genius Recipes

Bakewell Tart with Rhubarb-Hibiscus Jam

Bakewell Tart with Rhubarb-Hibiscus Jam by Sarah Jampel

As for the filling, the original recipe, translated from Russian, calls for ricotta mixed with sugar, ground nuts, and orange zest. I went with a batch of spreadable almond cream and chopped apples sautéed in brown butter on the stove until tender.

Then, when the dough was risen and roaring to go, I split it into 18 small lumps (instead of the usual 6 logs) and rounded each dough blob into a neat bun. Then, I rolled each into a small circle about 3 inches in diameter and used a tiny offset spatula to smear the surface with almond cream.

A dozen (challah) roses, please.
A dozen (challah) roses, please. Photo by Mark Weinberg

Next, I made four long slashes at 12, 3, 6, and 9—almost, but not quite all the way to the center—and spooned a small pile of sautéed apples on top. Finally, I wrapped each "wing" around the apple mound, using the sticky almond cream to help the dough stay in its hug (you could also use a bit of water on the edges of the wings to enhance stickiness).

I set the roses to rise in a muffin tin so that they wouldn't unfurl, then kept them snug in their cups for their 20-minute, 375° F bake. You'll see that the prettiest rose in the photo above is in the top row, second from the left. This one was made by our Director of Events Eunice Choi, who rolled the dough much thinner than I did. While her precision and persistence made for a more beautiful shape, her bun was crispier and drier than the others. (You can pick your priority! Or, pick a dough that's less wild than challah and have a tighter shape without sacrificing texture.)

Better than flowers.
Better than flowers. Photo by Mark Weinberg

Loved ones, take note! Give a dozen challah roses. They're less gratuitous than flowers—which are pretty but, come on, don't really do anything (and they're not particularly tasty, either).

While you won't be able to pick up a bunch on your way home from work (last year, on Valentine's Day, I bought up a handful carnations from the bodega and called it a day—Cupid, smite me!), if you start the dough tonight, you can shape them into roses and bake them off tomorrow afternoon.

Of course, if someone wanted to buy me flowers also, I'm not going to argue...

Are you into this whole Valentine's Day thing, or do you think it's, um, silly? Tell us your traditions and feelings in the comments below.