Friday, January 28, 2011

The Joy of Almonds

Remember this candy ad from 1977?  Catchy tune for sure.  Sometimes you feel like a nut (and opt for an Almond Joy) and sometimes you don't (in which case you go for a Mounds).  So which one is your favorite?  Almond Joy was, and still is, ours, and not just because the zany folks in the commercial acting like nuts seem to be having so much fun.

We were perturbed, however, to learn that one lonely little almond (without its customary salt or chocolate coating) racks up a surprising number of calories - 7 to be precise (Source: USDA).  And who eats just one almond?  In for a penny, in for a pound we say.  Rather than ponder the calorific implication of a solitary almond, consider their licentious history.  Almonds have, at various points in time, been credited with powers of arousal, and the odor of almond oil, is said to be particularly appealing to women. Hence its popularity as a fragrance in body creams, shower gels et al...apparently, we gals can't get enough of its sweet, earthy odor!  And if it's true, then there is certainly a calorie- burning potential of another sort which may follow.  The Joy of......but we digress.

If you don't fancy showering in the stuff, then consider sweetening up your loved one with this impressive 15 minute dessert.  In posh circles this recipe is known as a galette (French for a fancy open-topped pie); we prefer to call it:

Apple Marzipan Tart

1 14oz packet of frozen puff pastry
3 sweet apples  (the Market's produce merchants will provide)
Squeeze of lemon juice
1 7oz packet of ready made Marzipan--sometimes called 'almond paste' (Jonathan Best carries it.)
1-2 Tbsp butter to grease your baking sheet and daub onto the apples before cooking
1 tsp granulated sugar, to sprinkle on the apples prior to baking
1 tsp of granulated sugar to make a sugary wash for edges of pastry

HEAT OVEN TO 375 degrees.

Before starting, read the defrosting instructions on puff pastry packet carefully - the pastry can dry out and become crumbly if you defrost too far in advance!

Peel, seed, and finely slice apples (they will not cook through if chunks are too large).  Drop chopped apples immediately into  a small bowl of cold water and fresh lemon juice to prevent discoloring.  This step also adds a little tartness to counter the sweetness of the marzipan.

Roll out pastry dough sheet--if you're lucky it may well come already rolled!  Aim for about a 10x8inch rectangle.  Cut to size  or attach additional pieces as necessary. (Be sure to pinch the fused pieces together completely or pastry will separate.)   Place the puff pastry on a greased baking sheet.

Roll out marzipan, pressing as thin as possible.  You want to be able to place a rectangle of marzipan that is slightly smaller than the dough on top of the pastry, leaving about an inch around the edge, so that you can twist the crust of the pastry up to a decorative effect.  When you have rolled the marzipan out to desired thinness and size, place it on top of pastry, leaving the edge as described.  Place the finely sliced apples atop the marzipan in a single layer and daub apples with teeny knobs of butter.  Roll the edges up of the pastry to make a border (and stop the lovely fruity juices from escaping).  Sprinkle apples with sugar.

Throw it in preheated oven,  - (puff pastry will turn soggy if the oven is not heated thoroughly).  Cook at 375 for 20 minutes.  Keep an eye on this while cooking.  You want to make sure that the puff pastry rises properly, apples are just turning squidgy and that the marzipan is bubbling beautifully.  When pastry has puffed out nicely, put 1 teaspoon of sugar in small bowl, and pour in a little boiling water to dissolve sugar.  Remove tart from oven and brush this sugary glaze around the edges of the pastry and return to oven for a further 5 minutes.  (This will brown the edges)

Serve hot--either freshly baked right out of the oven or reheated (by putting tart the oven for a few minutes before serving).  Perfect topped with Vanilla ice-cream.

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