Tag Archives: almond

Gazelle’s Horns and Fiesta Friday: a party with a sugary snowstorm

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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-
petals…

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

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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.

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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!

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Wanted: one egg, for an almond plum tart

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The egg went AWOL while I made a plum almond tart.

The egg rolled under a bunch of herbs, apparently under the impression we were playing hide and seek. It didn’t make a sound while I whizzed the almond mixture together, or while I pressed it into a tart base. It was only after the tart became gloriously golden and puffed in the oven that the egg peeked around some parsley leaves with a discreet Jeeves-like cough.

Oh hello baker, did you want me 40 minutes ago?

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We didn’t take the almond tart to a picnic (I made some muffins instead, wholemeal, with banana-date jam, chocolate chips, peanut butter). But it seemed a pity to have a tart go to waste, so with suitably gallic shrugs, we dug into it that night.

The tart was … surprisingly good. Loose, moist, messy crumbs clinging to sweet, tart, squishy plums. A marriage of shortbread and almond torte. A concoction of ground roasted almonds, raw sugar, cocoa nibs, cardamom, rose water and lime zest.

I’m not advocating that you leave the egg out of pastry from now on, but I may have found a new favourite crumble topping.

I made the tart again last night with pluots, and remembered to add the egg (woot!). The resulting tart looked much more like an almond torte or a simple frangipane, and still had those deep dimples where the plums / pluots sank into the almond mixture. Work colleagues ate all of it within 2-3 hours – so I don’t have a photo of the real tart (and didn’t get a slice myself, hrmph), but I think that means the tart was a success.

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A Sicilian Christmas: buccellato

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I was walking through the maze-like backstreets of Newtown, and stopped in my tracks. In the air was a scent that was heady, sweet, fresh and just dive in and luxuriate. I think, am almost sure, it was the scent of jasmine flowers.

The memory of it so strong that I was still thinking about it days later, when I read about jasmine scented confectionaries and pastries that were made in Sicilian convents. Jasmine-scented ricotta, Sicilian pastries, the legendary fruits of the nuns’ labour. These ideas lingered like a line of poetry or music. Like a food earworm.

I didn’t have jasmine water, instead, I had lots of Sicilian pastries bookmarked under ‘must make this soon, really soon’. One of the recipes was Buccellato. 

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That’s how two of the Sicilian Christmas/new year ‘cakes’ found their way into our Christmas gift boxes, along with other goodies like thousand-layer spiral mooncakes (pictured above). I made a Sicilian version of Buccellato based on a recipe from Manu’s Menu, which is more like a giant cookie log with a fig-chocolate-wine filling. After I made it, I realised it’s like a larger version of the cuccidati or fig cookies from the Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) group, using a recipe from Baking with Julia.

Another version of Buccellato, from further North in Italy, is a yeast cake with the filling ingredients folded into the dough (see here, for example). But I couldn’t go past a Sicilian recipe just now, especially something that can be described as a giant cookie.

It’s a forgiving recipe. My circles weren’t perfectly circular, the pastry was perhaps unusually dimpled, but they still had an appealing home made look. The original recipe has an apricot jam glaze topped with pistachio and glace cherries. I also drizzled royal icing and sprinkled over finely grated dark chocolate. Gilding the lily? Me?

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A Winter’s Tale: sesame-almond, fig-raspberry tartlets

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This week’s Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) challenge began as a quick fig and raspberry tart, and ended with me as a culinary flaneur, discovering food ideas containing sesame, almond, figs, and raspberries. Oh, I also turned them into tartlets.

Sesame and almond pastry made me wonder. An unfamiliar combination, it looked chunky, flecked with almond and cinnamon, “rustic” (that over-used word). Lightly toasted, a nutty fragrance fills the kitchen and trickles through your lungs. The scent of sesame promised exciting things from exotic locations.

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Then, I looked at the raspberry and fig filling and wondered some more. Figs and sesame, raspberry and fig – I get that. But raspberry and sesame? Delicate raspberries with the bold, strong flavours in the pastry? Curiouser and curiouser.

The recipe for the fig and raspberry crostata asks for fresh figs and fresh raspberries. It’s still winter in our corner of the world, and the fruit shop was charging $4 per fig. Per. Fig. Yikes! Unwilling to spend my weekly coffee budget on a few under-ripe figs, I substituted dried white figs, plumed up in warm water and scented with cardamom and cinnamon. In keeping with the winter theme, I added raspberry jam to the fig compote instead of fresh raspberries, with a generous splash of lemon juice.

Raspberry jam, dried white figs and lemon juice creates a sweet-tart reddish gooey mess, which bubbles up during cooking to leave strands of caramel around the lattice pastry. Its relative simplicity showed off the enriched textures and flavours in the pastry: toasted sesame, toasted almonds, cinnamon. In these tartlets, the pastry wants to be the star.

This mix of textures and flavours make these tartlets grown-up’s treats. Sweet and tart jam and caramel. Crunchy, sesame-fragrant pastry. These tartlets piques your curiosity, then invites you to linger, smell, nibble, and then taste.

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