A Sweet Easter Treat

Here’s how I know I’m not in France anymore: it’s Easter morning and I’m baking.  In France, where practically no sensible person bakes at home except for the simplest of treats, Shel would be strolling to one of the 15 bakeries in town to pick out something special for Easter brunch.  Here, even though I won’t be eating it, I’m up early baking something that I hope will be delicious enough to put on the table.

Actually, I started out the morning with my nose buried in the King Arthur Baking book, trying to find a recipe for which I had all of the ingredients in the house.  Being totally unaccustomed to baking these days, my cupboard is a bit light on sweet ingredients.  Finally, I settled on the recipe for Almond Puff Loaf.  It’s a very unusual recipe, consisting of a sort of pie crust, topped with a sort of unsweetened pâte à choux dough, topped with jam and icing.

It bakes up to be not the world’s loveliest pastry to look at, but it has, according to Shel, a deliciously crispy bottom layer, topped with a tender dough that is neither cakey nor bready.  The unsweetened dough, combined with the sweetness of the jam and icing, make it not too plain, not too sweet, but just right.  The recipe calls for apricot or raspberry jam, but since what we had was strawberry jam and orange marmalade, I combined those, to evidently very good effect.  Shel’s an almond lover, so I’ve adjusted the recipe at his request to get more almond flavor in there.  Happy Spring Holidays to you, wherever you are, whatever you eat, but don’t hesitate to make this anytime you want something special to serve with coffee or tea.

Almond Puff Loaf
adapted from the King Arthur Baking Cookbook

For the Pastry
1/2 pound butter (2 sticks), divided use
2 cups flour, divided use
1 1/4 cups water, divided use
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

For the Topping
10 ounces jam, half strawberry, half orange marmalade, or use your favorite
1/2 cup sliced almonds

For the Icing
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 Tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 375°.

Cut one stick of the butter into 1 cup of the flour with a pastry blender until coarse crumbs form.  With a fork, blend in 1/4 cup cold water and work the dough lightly until it forms a ball.  Divide the ball in half.  Place a Silpat on a baking sheet and pat each half of the dough out into a long strip about 3″ by 11″.  I used a very small rolling pin dipped in cold water to smooth the dough out.

Bring the remaining cup of water and the remaining stick of butter to a boil in a small saucepan.  When the butter is entirely melted, pour the contents of the pan into the bowl of your mixer.  (In theory you can also do this by hand, but I really recommend using the mixer to get a smooth dough) Add the remaining cup of flour all at once to the mixer and beat thoroughly at medium speed until the flour is blended in.  Beat in the almond extract, then add the eggs one at a time, beating very well after each addition.  Continue beating until the mixture loses its curdled appearance and you have a bowl of smooth, creamy dough.

Spread half of this dough on each of the two dough strips, smoothing the dough lightly down over the sides of the strips so that they are entirely covered.  Bake until they are puffed and golden brown.  In my oven this took 45 minutes, although the original recipe calls for a full hour of baking.  Keep your eye on the oven to be sure you don’t over-bake the pastry.

Remove the pastries from the oven and immediately frost them with the jam.  Let them cool completely.  Stir together the icing ingredients and drizzle the icing over the pastry.  Sprinkle with the nuts.  Eat with pleasure.

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12 Comments on “A Sweet Easter Treat”

  1. Linda Mounday Says:

    wow Abra, that sounds absolutely scrumptious! I’m printing the recipe for future use … happy easter to you and Shel….

  2. Wendy Says:

    this looks like bauernfruhstucke which Dayne and his mom always bake for xmas morning! It’s a tradition with them (although it’s German and she is Finnish)

  3. Abra Bennett Says:

    It’s weird, Wendy, but when I Google bauernfruhstucke I get recipes for a dish of eggs, bacon, and potatoes. Help us out, German friends!

  4. zuleme Says:

    When we had two friends from Brittany visiting last summer they made kuign amman (spelling [probably isn’t right). This is the Breton butter cake, which you have probably tried. It is amazing how basic ingredients, flour, sugar, I think an egg, and a shocking amount of butter are transformed into something divine and really bad for you. And if you don’t have the technique right, you get a solid mass of yuck.
    Olof loves almonds too. For my Swede (and his parents) I make a batch or two of semlor. This is a sweet bread you make balls of and bake quickly in a hot oven. Then you cut the rolls in half, scoop out some of the bottom half, mix the crumbs with marzipan and put that back in. Then you add a layer of whipped cream and put the top back on with another scoop of cream on top. The whole thing goes in a bowl and gets cinnamon and some sugar dusted on top and then, you add hot milk.
    This is major comfort food, Swedish style and, like Breton butter cake, is really bad for you. I only baked one batch this spring but it is fun to see how happy the parents get when they see it coming.
    I can send you the recipe if you want to try it. It is very simple.

  5. Debra Lane Says:

    Abra, I’m amazed you can bake these wonderful creations and not partake. I’d rather give up any savory carbs any day for a bit of something sweet. You have will of steel!

  6. Abra Bennett Says:

    Zuleme – you can see my kouign aman here https://frenchletters.wordpress.com/2008/08/08/un-gout-de-bretagne/ I wish you would post your semlor recipe here. It sounds fabulous, and I’m sure that lots of readers would enjoy it.

    Debra – I don’t taste sweets because then I’ll crave them. For me, the best policy right now is just to admire them from afar.

  7. Wendy Says:

    you’re right Abra! I just told Dayne and he said his family must have messed up on the name a long time ago and just always called the pastry this. His recipe just says Norwegian coffee cake but it looks exactly like yours- except they decorate it with red and green sprinkles for xmas! haha!

  8. heidih Says:

    Actually bauernfruhstucke just means farm breakfast (bauern = farm & fruhstucke = breakfast). Lovely improv Abra. Strawberry & orange sounds like a nice balance and the color is great.

  9. Heinz Says:

    “Bauernfrühstück” is a dish of eggs,ham or fried meat and potatoes.
    In some areas in Germany, the blessing of food at the devine service is common at green Thursday or at Holy Saturday whereby traditional Easter- Food ( cured cooked ham, sausages, tongue, horseradish, eggs and a sort of plaited yeast bun) are blessed. This food blessing (Swięconka) is a Polish custom at easter . At the Holy Saturday in Catholic and in few orthodox churches this religious service is celebrated, in which foods are blessed, that was brought by the believings in baskets. These blessed foods are then consumed to the breakfast at the Easter Sunday in the circle of the family. This procedure was taken over by German Catholics and celebrated in a slightly different manner. I think because of that, Wendy’s family had Bauerfrühstück in mind. There is another nice Easter tradition for kids. With the kids, the “Eierpecken” is very popular: Every participant receives an egg and knocks it with that one of the other participant. Whose egg remains to the end entire, will win.

  10. Maramara Says:

    I enjoy your posts! I’m brushing up on my French cooking, studying French too on Babbel.com (http://www.babbel.com).
    They have a lot of food vocabulary there. It’s cool to learn the cooking and language in tandem.

  11. Abra Bennett Says:

    That’s funny, Heinz, because the Dutch have that egg-smashing custom too. I think they call it eiertikken. I wonder how that got started.

  12. Laura baker Says:

    These look beautiful AND tasty. Can’t wait to try ‘em.

    Some very interesting information here, and a very interesting blog too.

    I will have to bookmark this and stop by more often.


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