My love of baking came about when I was a sophomore in high school. I had complications from a surgery that was done a few days before Christmas, and those complications kept me from going back to school for almost 3 months. During that time, my parents went back to work and my brother was in school, so I was home alone. Homework only kept me busy for so long, so I ventured into the kitchen. If I remember correctly, my mothers only complaint was that I didn’t clean up after myself (I’m still working on that!). I have been baking ever since!
I have to say though, that having this blog has made me step outside of my baking comfort zone. Past the chocolate chip cookies and plain brownies, I now enjoy making my own marshmallows and caramel. Angel food cakes and ice cream. Decorated sugar cookies and yeast doughs/breads.
I am a part of a few monthly baking challenges. This month, the surprise ingredients for one of the groups- “Behind the Curtain“, are almond paste and pastry. The almond paste has to be homemade and the pastry can be whatever kind we prefer. I had never worked with almond paste before, and now it is something I have made, used, and eaten twice within 3 months time!
I decided to make chocolate almond pastries. I used a “mock” puff pastry recipe from King Arthur Flour, which is very simple to make (though messy) and takes about 45 minutes (instead of a true puff pastry dough which takes a few hours). The center of each pastry has a nice amount of almond paste and a sprinkling of mini chocolate chips. As someone who enjoys sweets, I put no limitations on when desserts (or pastries) must be eaten. These were enjoyed warm the night I made them, and then at room temperature the next day for breakfast!
One Year Ago: Brown Sugar Cookies
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup sour cream
4 oz. raw almonds
4 oz. sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
6 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
To make the dough:
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Using a fork or a pastry cutter, work in the butter until the mixture resembles large pebbles. Stir in the sour cream- the mixture will still be very crumbly. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it until it starts to come together (this is messy, so don’t get discouraged). Pat the dough into a log and roll it into an 8 x 10 inch rectangle (again, the dough will still look like a mess, stay strong and just keep moving forward with the directions!). Lightly dust the dough with flour, then take one of the short ends and fold it towards the center of the dough. Take the other short end and fold it over the first fold (like you are folding a business letter). Give the dough a 90 degree turn and roll out into an 8 x 10 inch rectangle. Repeat the folding sequence. Lightly wrap the dough in plastic wrap, then place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes*.
To make the almond paste:
In a food processor, process the almonds until they are finely ground. Add in the sugar and let the machine run for 1 to 2 minutes. Again, we are looking for a very fine texture. Stop the machine and add in the egg and vanilla bean paste. Turn the machine on and let it run until the mixture is well combined. It will come together like a ball of dough. Move the almond paste into an air-tight container and refrigerate until needed**.
To make the pastries:
Remove the pastry dough from the refrigerator. Unwrap and place the dough onto a floured surface. Roll the dough out into a large rectangle. The dough should be about 1/8 inch thick. Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, even up the edges, then cut 12 equal pieces. Separate the almond paste into 12 equal pieces (the almond paste can get a little sticky- I found that flouring my hands helped to keep this to a minimum). Roll each piece of almond paste into a log and place onto the dough. Note: As you can see from the picture below, I laid my almond paste at an angle, as that was how I wanted to fold the dough. Gently flatten the almond paste. Sprinkle on 1/2 tablespoon of mini chocolate chips and gently press them into the almond paste. Fold up 2 edges of the dough (across from each other) , dab on a little bit of water onto the dough, and press to seal. Move the pastry onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, then repeat with the remaining pastries.
Once all the pastries are on a cookie sheet, place it in the freezer for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 egg with 1 teaspoon water. After 10 minutes, remove the cookie sheet from the freezer and brush the dough with the egg wash. Bake in a preheated oven for 16-18 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Enjoy!
*The pastry dough can be made ahead of time and frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw the dough in the refrigerator overnight before using.
**The almond paste can also be made ahead of time, however, it is best to use it within 4 to 5 days.
I’m linked at: Taste and Tell, The Busy B Hive, The Frugal Girls, Craftionary, Cheerios & Lattes, Pamela’s Heavenly Treats, Call Me PMc, Six Sisters’ Stuff, Susie QTpies Cafe, Create With Joy, Addicted to Recipes, The Chicken Chick.
Made with love, not calories!
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