My local deli sells a puff pastry almond ring and every once in a while I cave in and buy one for myself as a treat. I buy only one and (oddly) have never served it to company. It's a treat also enjoyed by my BFF since grade 1, so we have surprised each other with this from time to time.
When a store sells a nice treat, we should perhaps just "go with it", but I recently became a bit obsessed with trying to replicate it. This has something to do with the fact that I had puff pastry in my freezer, leftover from xmas baking. I was eating a purchased ring and it suddenly hit me that it was made from puff pastry - which I had. So, what else was in the thing? Almond flavour and some texture other than puff pastry. Ok, that has to be almond paste. All that was left was almond icing and sliced almond garnish.
I first served it to a gathering of high school friends that includes my BFF. We have all been meeting for over 40 years! This got a thumbs up from all and BFF rated it better than the one sold at the deli - blush! (That doesn't mean I will stop buying them.)
Update: Since then I have made them many times, and finally remembered to take some photos of the process. I have also modified a few of the ingredient quantities.
- Preheat the oven to 375 F
- line two cookie sheets with parchment
- toast the sliced almonds
- prep the jam and glaze, or do this while they are baking
1 pkg puff pastry (see Tips)
200 g almond paste
The PC puff pastry comes already rolled flat, measuring about 10' x 10". Have a wee bowl of sugar next to your work station - you'll be using that to "dust" the board, not flour.
Use half of the almond paste (see Updated Tips) per puff pastry roll. Slice the almond paste crosswise into very thin slices. Cover half of the puff pastry with the thin pieces of almond paste, spacing them evenly. Fold over the other half of the puff pastry.
Sprinkle sugar on your work surface, and use a rolling pin to roll the dough back to a 10 x 10" square. You'll be mainly rolling in one direction so as to not increase the width too much. I find that once folded in half, the 10 x 5" rectangle always ends up becoming more of a 12 x 10". That's fine. I then cut 12 strips.
Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut the pastry into strips about 1" wide - if the width stayed at 10", you'll have 10 of them. As mentioned above, I now always find I end up with 12 strips. Twist them several times, join the ends, and press. (Over-twisting may result in a more dense texture.) Place them on the prepared baking sheet and nudge them into circle shapes. If necessary, chill while you are preparing the second batch. I now find I can do this step quickly, the pastry is still cool, and so I pop them right into the preheated oven (375 F).
Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until you are happy with the golden colour. ( I find mine are perfect after 18 minutes.) Rotate the pans at the half way mark. They can "burn" quickly at the end so take care. Prepare the second batch while the first is baking - chilling them if they warm up too much.
1/2 cup jam (apricot or apple)
2 cups icing sugar
1.5 - 2 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup sliced almonds
On the purchased twists, I noticed something shiny under the icing sugar glaze and assumed it must be some kind of jam. My European background made me reach for apricot jam - but... (see Tips below). Blitz and warm the jam (microwave for about 30 seconds). The warmer it is, the runnier it is and the easier to spread. Use a pastry brush to put some on each ring - do this while they are still warm from the oven.
Add milk to the icing sugar a little at a time until you get the consistency you want for the glaze. Add the almond extract sooner rather than later. Once the rings are cool, you can either brush on the glaze, or dip the tops of the rings into the glaze. Place the rings back onto the parchment or on a wire rack until the glaze sets. Sprinkle with almonds as you go along - they will not stick if the glaze has set.
Notes and Tips...
- Puff pastry - I like the President's Choice brand. The pastry is already rolled flat on a piece of parchment. The package comes with two rolled squares and for this I used both. As with all puff pastry it comes frozen and must be thawed. Overnight in the fridge works well. Puff pastry also bakes best if it is cold before it goes into the oven, so depending on how quickly you work, you may need, or want, to chill the prepared rings a bit before baking.
- Almond paste - my deli sells this in a "bar" (about 6' long and 1/2" thick, 198 g). I used one half for each roll of puff pastry. That was another reason why I made a batch from each roll of puff pastry - figured I might as well use up all the almond paste. BTW - almond paste is NOT the same thing as marzipan - here's @kitchn's explanation - in brief - marzipan is almond candy paste and is not used for baking; almond paste has almost double the amount of almonds and is used for baking. After my first batch of these, I could not find the brand name almond paste anywhere - but did find packets of it at a local bulk store. It was great - I used 100 g per puff pastry roll.
- Almond paste - slice or grate? The first time I sliced the paste into 1/4" thick pieces, but now I slice it into thinner pieces. I also tried once to grate the almond paste - easy enough to do, but the pastry did not "puff" up very much - hard to know what caused that, but I went back to using slices - very thin slices.
- Jam - I use apricot jam, but it tends to have chunks of apricot and that's problematic when you're wanting a thin / light glaze. I whizzed the jam in a mini-blender to blitz the lumps. (I may try apple jelly next time.) Microwave the jam for 20-30 seconds to make it easier to spread onto the 'hot from the oven' rings.
- Almonds - I did not toast these, the first time, but now I do. I use a small fry pan and do not permit myself to walk away from the stove!
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