Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Chocolate almond pastry
Since the season of "let's stay out until the wee hours enjoying lingering sunlight and being social butterflies" is behind us, that means we're officially into "all I want to do is hibernate at home and consume belly-warming drinks and meals while wrapped in a blanket on the couch" season! You know, when discussions of weekend plans with friends involve the word "sitting"... and it should be given the same respect as any other errand or social engagement. My friends and I, you see, we don't mess around when it comes to our leisure time.
If one errand involves significant elbow grease, you can be sure the following chore is light on effort and heavy on pleasure. I apply the same theory to food, which is why it saddens me when people get so anxious about having company for dinner and convince themselves they can't possibly do it. I find that, often times, the cook is concerned with making each component of the meal a show-stopper. That kind of challenge is sure to drive even the most accomplished chef crazy. See any episode of Chopped on Food Network for further proof... who on earth wants to sweat, curse, and generally freak out like that over a meal? Not me and, I'm betting, not you.
The dinner for this particular week was a little time-consuming but toooooooootally worth it (coming later this week!), so I knew I wanted to utilize a few shortcuts for the dessert. The ultimate shortcut for dessert, in my humble opinion, is puff pastry. I used it recently for the apple peanut butter tart and was so happy with it that I dug out yet another recipe hiding in the black hole binder. This recipe belongs in the same category, titled "delicious desert, minimal effort." Prep pastry, chill, bake, top with chocolate and nuts, bake, cut, and serve!
Oh, and the taste? Holy pastry. The flaky and buttery crust topped with melted chocolate and honey and chopped toasted almonds. While it's a perfectly great dessert, I'm going to venture that this would make an equally decadent breakfast with a cup of coffee or tea. Something to warm you all over before you head out into the world for cool fall temperatures and real responsibilities. Even better if you didn't have to go anywhere at all. Because the best way to enjoy a dessert is to eat slowly, let it linger, and relax while reliving it all over again... unless there is another piece left, then I'd say to gobble that bad boy up and repeat. :)
Chocolate Almond Pastries
(adapted from Martha Stewart Living, December 2009)
A few notes: To thaw the pastry in its package, either leave it out for 30 minutes at room temperature or put it in the refrigerator overnight until you're ready to use it. You can prep and fold the pastry ahead of time. If you're going to leave it in the freezer for more than 30 minutes, cover with plastic wrap. Also, feel free to try any kind of chocolate -- super dark, white, or even those fantastically gimmicky and so delicious swirled chocolate chips.
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from a 17.3 ounce package), thawed
1 large egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash
Sanding or granulated sugar, for sprinkling
1 1/2 ounces (about 1/4 cup) semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 Tablespoons whole almonds, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 450F. Arrange puff pastry on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Fold each edge in to form a 1-inch crust. Prick middle of dough all over with a fork. Brush edges with egg wash and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Freeze for 15 minutes.
Transfer baking sheet to oven and bake until pastry is puffed and golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cover center evenly with chocolate. Drizzle with honey.
Return to oven and bake until chocolate melts, about 2 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack. Sprinkle almonds over chocolate, and cut into serving pieces. If you're feeling extra indulgent, top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and another drizzle of honey!