Out of your forehead branch and lyre climb,
and all your features pass in simile, through
the songs of love whose words, as light as rose-
The Gazelle, Rainer Maria Rilke
The party starts at ten to three.
On the second floor, room twenty two
two co-hosts who had come down from Crewe were wondering just what to wear,
to the shindig going on down there.
They collided, both decided to put on Dame Edna frocks,
this was not a ‘do’ for cassocks or for smocks.
Fiesta, a SG travesty, with apologies to John Edward Smallshaw
This pastry is pretty, graceful, messy (if you add a snow of icing sugar as I did). Its names (for the variations of this pastry), in English, Arabic, French, are exotic, pretty, alluring: gazelle’s ankles, gazelle’s horns, kaab el ghazal, tcharek el ariane, tcharek el mssaker, cornes de gazelle.
I saw one variation of this pastry on Linda’s blog, La Petite Paniere, and it went to the top of the baking list. Almonds, orange blossom water, vanilla, cinnamon, and more orange blossom water, can you smell the gorgeous smells?
I used a different recipe from the NYT archives, because it used far less butter in the pastry and avoided a late-night dash to the shop (and here’s a butter-less version). The NYT recipe probably produced a pastry that is less melt-in-your-mouth than Linda’s butter-ful one. Instead, the pastry was shattering-crisp, and scatters icing sugar in all directions when you bite into one.
Messy, and fun, especially at work with colleagues trying to protect silk blouses and ties from the sugary snow storm.
And a sugary snow storm always makes a party better, yes? That is why, as your Fiesta Friday host this week, I’m bringing a few trays of these pastries to crank up the party vibe a notch. If you haven’t been to a Fiesta yet, please do! It’s a lovely bunch of peeps that bring tantalising food, drinks, DIY, sausages, Harry Potter theme park photos, and lots of bloggy love.
Your co-host Margot and I, we’ve even dressed up for this party. Because the only thing better than a sugary snowstorm is a sugary snowstorm on fancy costume. Right my possums (and gazelles)? Ps, don’t you think Dame Edna’s glasses look a little bit like gazelle’s horns? Coincidence? I think not!
Here are my baking/pastry notes. The recipe, with my variations, is at the end of the post.
Pastry notes: I found the NYT pastry a little difficult to work with at first. But after resting in the fridge for a day, it was beautifully pliable, could be rolled very thin, and also sealed easily with a bit of water.
I also tried this with an improvised gluten free flour mix. It was harder to roll out and shape than the regular flour pastry, so the GF version had a thicker pastry layer, and looked more like ovalesque dumplings than graceful gazelle horns. But, it was still pretty tasty, so this recipe has GF potential!
Sugar syrup: I had some honey, rose water and cinnamon syrup left over from an, ahem, interesting tahini cake experiment (which was so unique it may never be repeated). When the pastries came out of the oven, I brushed syrup over them, and dusted them with icing sugar. Since the NYT pastry did not have added sugar, I liked the extra sweet honey note from the syrup.
Shaping: I shaped the pastry in two ways. First was Linda’s method of cutting out rounds of pastry, and folding them over thick logs of almond filling – great if you like a higher filling to pastry ratio. For the second batch, I tried to create longer, thinner shapes like these, with thin ovals of pastry and thinner logs of almond filling – this helped to show off the crispy pastry.
Makes: about 3 dozen gazelles, I mean, horns.
Honey & rosewater syrup
(note this makes a lot of syrup, which you can save for other things, like baklava)
1 2/3 cups white sugar
1/3 cup honey
1 cup water
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp orange blossom water
1/4 tsp rose water
2½ cups (10 ounces, 280 grams) blanched, slivered almonds (or you can use really fresh ground almonds)
3/4 cup (about 95 grams) confectioners or icing sugar
2 tablespoons orange blossom water
2 tablespoons clarified butter, melted
1 egg white
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
2 cups (about 260 grams) plain / all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons clarified butter, melted
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons orange blossom water
½ cup or more of sifted confectioners / icing sugar
1. For the sugar syrup (optional): mix sugar, honey and water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Allow the syrup to boil 2-3 minutes without stirring (if the sugar crystallises on the edge of the pan, brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush). Add the lemon juice and continue boiling for 5-10 minutes, depending on whether you want a more liquid syrup or a thicker syrup that coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the stove and stir in the orange blossom and rose waters.
Allow to cool. In the meantime, make the pastries.
2. For the filling: If using a food processor: pulse together almonds and confectioners’ sugar until powdery. Add remaining filling ingredients and pulse until a stiff paste form. If mixing by hand: in a mixing bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Mix together the wet ingredients in a separate bowl, add to the dry ingredients, and mix with a spoon until a stiff paste forms. For both methods: shape the paste into a ball, wrap well and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (and up to two days).
3. For the pastry: If using an electric mixer, mix flour, 2 tablespoons melted butter, egg yolk, orange blossom water and 2 tablespoons cold water until combined. With mixer running, add 2 to 4 tablespoons more water (one tablespoon at a time), until the dough just comes together. Continue to beat until dough becomes smooth and elastic, about 2 minutes.
If mixing by hand, place flour into a medium sized mixing bowl. Mix the liquid ingredients together, add to the flour, and mix quickly with a spoon until the mixture just comes together.
For both methods: cover bowl with a damp towel or plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours. (I also found that the pastry became easier to work with after resting for a day in the fridge)
4. Prepare to bake, preheat oven to 325 F / 160 C. Grease 2 baking sheets.
5. Make the pastries: Divide dough in half and cover one half with damp cloth. Transfer other half to a lightly floured surface and roll it to 1/8-inch thick. Cut dough into 3-inch rounds with a cookie cutter. Alternately, divide the dough into 18 pieces, and roll each piece to 1/8 inch thick.
Using your hands, roll filling into a ball and place in center of a piece of rolled out pastry – you will need about two teaspoons to fill the pastry, but be ready to add or take some away if your pastries are smaller or larger. Lightly brush border of the pastry with water. Fold the pastry over and press the edges to seal (you can also crimp the edges with a small fork). With tip of a sharp knife, make 3-5 small slits on top of each pastry, or wherever you see an air bubble. Bend pastries into a crescent shape and transfer them to baking sheets. Leave some space between the pastries, although they do not expand during baking.
Do the same with the remaining pastries. Then roll out the second half of the dough, and repeat.
6. Baking: transfer pastries to the centre or bottom 1/3 of the oven. Bake until the edges are slightly golden and the other parts of the pastry are barely coloured, 20 to 25 minutes. Take the pastries out of the oven.
7. As soon as the pastries are out, brush orange blossom water or sugar syrup over each pastry, then dust in lots of confectioners’ sugar, completely the tops of the pastries completely. Alternately you can place the orange blossom water/syrup, and confectioners sugar in shallow bowls, and dip the pastries in each so the pastries will be completely covered in confectioners sugar. Leave to cool for at least a few hours. Decorate with rose petals (optional) and serve.
Tagged: almond, almond paste, baking, cinnamon, cornes de gazelle, Dame Edna, Fiesta Friday, gazelle's horns, gluten free, icing sugar, kaab el ghazal, Novice Gardener, orange blossom water, pastries, rose water, special occasions, tcharek el ariane, tcharek el mssaker