Homemade Almond Paste

An Almond Danish Of Some Sort

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Disclaimer: These are not healthy!  Not by the furthest stretch of ones imagination.  However, they make my heart really happy.  So happy that I currently wear my hair in braids, lips in red, and feet in heels, on a casual Saturday morning, while Octave is napping, and Christopher is working.  I woke up cranky and these beauties turned it all around.  I just had to sweep the floors, fold the laundry, wash the dishes,  and eat three beautiful pasty’s first.  I have never been one for instant gratification, so the fact that they were a labor of love, makes every bite sweeter.

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I have been wanting to make my own puff pasty/Danish/almond croissant-ish, type goodness for quite some time.  I have just been intimidated, and convinced this was not a smart baking adventure for Octave and I just yet.  But the intrigue kept growing, and I found myself laying in bed consumed with thoughts of almond croissants (my favorite)…all. night. long.  I imagined myself oceans away, wearing braids, red lips, heels, and my favorite apron, learning from bakers and artists alike.  I know France is home to the best croissants, but there is just something about the Danes.  I deeply identify with the way they bake, ride, design, dress, view childbirth, and child rear.  The most basic and natural things in life seem to be viewed as normal.  I want to learn to bake where natural is normal, not weird.

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So we finally did it!  We attempted a Danish like dough, with coconut milk, and then added our own twist for the topping.  The good news is, it can only get easier and better from here.  For the first try, I was not disappointed.  Octave was there for every roll, pat, and rise, hence why I am using “we.”  However “we” did not eat raw flour and butter, that was all on her lonesome.  The girl has got this baking thing down.  In fact she asks to bake moments upon waking, and is spending her play time teaching her monkey all the things she is learning.  “Hold on.  Let’s see. Pat it. Roll it. Watch me. Turn it. Mince garlic. Ilovegarlic,” are apparently phrases I say often, because I hear her telling all her plush friends these lovely things.  So daily, we bake and daily we ride, and I hope somehow it evens itself out, because like I said earlier pasty’s make my heart really, really happy, and sometimes I just don’t care to make a healthy version of something that has been working for hundreds of years.  I am starting to think that has got to count for something.

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Dough adapted from Oh Lady Cakes

Pastry Dough

3/4 cup full fat coconut milk (in a can)

2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast

2 cups unbleached flour, or more as needed

2 tbsp. cane sugar

1 tsp. sea salt

1 cup + 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided

Heat coconut milk in a small saucepan.  Use a thermometer if you have one.  You are aiming for 105-110 degrees.  Mix milk and yeast in a small bowl, whisk together and set aside for 15 minutes.  Milk should bubble and be foaming.  If this is not the case, you may want to start over with your yeast, because the end results might not be as good.

Meanwhile in a stand mixer, with the dough hook attachment, combine flour, sugar, salt, and mix on medium speed until combined.  Add in 2 tbsp. of very cold butter, cut into tiny pieces.  I put my butter in the freezer about 15 minutes before I used it.  Mix on medium speed for 4-5 minutes, or until butter has mixed into the flour, resembling tiny little pebbles.  Add in milk and yeast, and mix until just combined.  Dough should just come together.  I only needed 2 cups of flour but you may need up to 1/4 cup more depending on your altitude.  If you do need more, add in 1 tbsp. at a time, as to make sure you don’t use more than you really need.  Form dough into a square, wrap tightly in plastic and let rest in the fridge for 90 minutes.

Remove from the fridge and roll dough into a large rectangle, about 12×24.  Spread the rest of the butter (2 sticks) across 2/3 of the dough.  Fold the third of the unbuttered dough onto the middle third, and fold over once again.  Pinch the sides of the dough together and fold once again, in thirds, only this time the opposite direction.  Dough should now be in the shape of a small rectangle.  Wrap tightly in plastic and chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours.  On a well floured surface, roll out dough into a rectangle.  I was not able to roll it out exactly 12×24 again, but it still worked great.  Repeat the same folding pattern, only this time without the butter.  This is the part I found most challenging.  I had butter coming out on the sides, and was worried I was not doing something right.  Even if you lose some butter and the dough breaks up a little, just work with it the best you can, and keep going.  Repeat the rolling, folding and chilling 2 more times, without butter, and once again wrap tightly in plastic and let the dough rest, only this time, overnight.

The next morning, preheat oven to 375.  On a floured surface, roll out dough one last time.  Dough should be about 1/3 inch thick.  Use a pizza cutter, cut off the rough edges, and create a new clean, even square.  Discard the edges.  Cut dough into squares, a little bit smaller than the palm of your hand.  I lost a little bit of my dough, because I had a little helper by my side but ideally this recipe will make 16-18 pastry’s.  Place pastry squares on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and stick in the freezer while you prepare your almond paste.  Paste can also be made ahead of time.

Using a tablespoon, scoop out almond paste and press into the center of each pasty  Garnish with fresh berries, pears, peaches, plums, or whatever else suits your fancy.  Bake for 14-16 minutes or until slightly golden and crispy.  Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes and garnish with powdered sugar.  These taste best the same day you bake them but can keep in the fridge for a few days.

Almond Paste

1 1/2 cups blanched almonds

1 1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp. almond extract

1 egg white

Place almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor and pulse for 4-5 minutes until nuts are fine enough to look like flour.  The sugar will prevent it grinding into a paste just yet.  Add egg white and almond extract, and pulse for another 2-3 minutes until it forms a ball of lovely almond paste.  The aroma coming out of the food processor is fantastic!  Store in an air tight container until you are ready to use.  This recipe makes a little more than you will need for the pastries.  You can keep for a week in your fridge and use in other baking or store in the freezer.

Garnish

2 ripe pears or other fruit of choice

Powdered sugar