Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Almond Custard Buns

There's one thing I know I love, and it's almond pastries. Give me an almond croissant, almond frangipane, financiers, almond tarts and I'm a very happy girl. There's one thing I also know about my family: they love me most when I make them almond pastries, so what can a girl do but make some almond pastries for her family?

The other thing I know is that almonds are expensive - especially almond flour! Which, sucks because I use almond flour ALL of the time. I'm a lucky girl who was fortunate enough to have Oh Nuts! provide me with plentiful amounts of almond flour to satisfy all of my almond-related baking needs. I'm not even just saying this because I was fortunate enough to get their products sponsored, but because their products are awesome quality. Their almond flour is perfectly and evenly ground, and I cannot say the same when I try to ground almonds myself. They also have great prices, compared to Bob's, which I've also tried. Safe to say, if I ever need almond flour again, I know where I'll be purchasing it from ;)

But, on to my FAVORITE recipe on earth, at the moment anyway... almond custard buns! This is the easiest and most delicious pastry I've ever tried. Literally, the whole thing is pulsed together in a food processor, quickly mixed together and refrigerated for up to 4 days. So if you're in a real pinch, you can make this days ahead and not even worry about it! It's truly sublime...

I added my two favorite things inside: custard and almond paste, baked it and blissfully enjoyed the fruits of my labor... over and over again.

P. S. Stay tuned for the coconut-raisin custard version of this pastry!
P. S. S. Purchase from Oh Nuts! here.

Almond Custard Buns
Yields: 24 buns
Adapted from here.

For the food processor Danish pastry:
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup milk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
4 1/2 cups white bread flour
2 packages (1/4 oz.) rapid-rise yeast or 2 tbsn. fresh yeast
2 tsp. salt
6 tbsn. sugar
2 cups/ 4 sticks unsalted butter, cold, cut into thin sliced

For the almond filling:
1 7 oz. package almond paste
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. almond extract

For the custard:
1 small package French vanilla instant pudding
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup sliced almonds, divided
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1 egg, whisked

To make the bun dough, pour the water and milk into a measuring cup. Add the egg, beating with a fork to mix, set aside. Set a large bowl near your food processor. Using your food processor, pulse the flour, yeast, salt and sugar to combine. Add the cold slices of butter, process briefly so the butter is cut up a little, though you still want to see visible chunks of at least 1/2" pieces. Transfer to the large bowl and quickly add the contents of the measuring cup. Use your hands or a rubber spatula to fold the ingredients together, but do not over mix. Expect to have a gooey mess with some butter lumps in it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, place in the refrigerator and leave it overnight or up to 4 days. 

To turn the dough into pastry, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. Dust your surface with bread flour and split the dough evenly in half, then roll each half into a 20" square. Fold the dough into thirds, like a business letter, turning it afterward so that the closed fold is on your left, like the spine of a book (it will still look very messy). Repeat this process 3 more times with each half; each time the dough will get smoother and better looking. Wrap each rectangle in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Or refrigerate half to use now and freeze the other half to use later.

To make the almond filling, cream together the almond paste and butter in a food processor until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time until well combined. Add the almond flour, all-purpose flour and almond extract and pulse until combined and smooth. Set aside until needed. To make the custard, combine everything in a medium bowl and mix until combined and starts to thicken, about 3 minutes. Refrigerate until needed.

To assemble the buns, working with one rectangle of dough at a time, roll the dough into a 20" x 8" rectangle or loosely so. Spread half of the almond filling mixture across the whole rectangle. Spread half of the custard mixture on top of the almond filling, then sprinkle the whole surface with slivered almonds and 1/4 cup sugar. Roll the entire thing up like you would when making cinnamon rolls, long side in. Use your fingers to pinch the end of the roll into the dough to seal it, to ensure custard doesn't escape. Using a sharp knife, cut the long log into 12 equal pieces and place, swirl side up on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining rectangle of dough. You can separate each bun, leaving them 3" apart or you can have them all touch sides. It does not affect the baking time but it is up to you whether you want them to be separate or communal. Let the buns rise in a warm place for 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Before baking brush the buns with the whisked egg and sprinkle with more sliced almonds and sugar. Bake for 18 - 22 minutes or until golden brown.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mint Lemon Drops

Gosh, I just don't know what's up with me! I just haven't been in the mood to blog much lately, and cook/ bake really either. I mean of course, I've been cooking and baking, but mainly out of necessity and even then, I haven't had the chance to photograph any of it - for months! Hopefully I'll be out of my slump soon, but until then, I have a couple backlogged posts that will be showing up.

To me, mint and lemon is the perfect summer combination and whether its summer or not, this cocktail is so simple that it's the perfect porch sipper. It's January for peet sakes and we've been having uncomfortable warm weather - uncomfortable mainly for me because I'm longing for a cold, rainy winter  where I can don scarves and boots. But might as well make the best of it with something like this to sip on!

Mint Lemon Drops
Yields: 1 serving

2 shots vodka
1 large lemon, juiced
1 tbsn. sugar
1 bunch of mint leaves, roughly chopped, plus extra for serving
lemon wheels or twists, for serving

In a shaker filled with ice, add the vodka, lemon juice, sugar and mint. Shake vigorously for about 1 - 2 minutes until very cold and combined. Strain into a martini glass. Top off with a lemon wheel, twist or fresh mint. You can also sugar the rim, if desired.