Looking in the fridge I saw an unused sheet of puff pastry. The first sheet became mushroom gruyere tarts a couple nights prior, (that'll be a recipe for another entry) and strangely enough, I had an unclaimed tube of almond paste. The wheels turn, turn, turn.
When I'm in the mood to indulge in the morning standing at the bakery counter, I will almost always choose an almond croissant. Quality croissants, of course. Not the squishy kind from Sam's club - the ones over at Zingerman's, Pastry Peddler or something like that. The dimensions are what get me. The crunchy, almost brittle, flaky, outer layers contrast the not-too-sweet buttery, sexiness of the inside. Everytime, it gets me. Add a smooth and heady almond paste to that mix, and I'm in heaven.
Last night's dessert captured this same sensation. It was deceivingly easy to prepare. After putting this dessert together, I flipped through a cookbook and found a French dessert made almost exactly the same way, except for the circular shape and an extra egg. I invented a Pithivier. Only not really; many had come before mine in Pithivier, France.
Made individually they'd be great for a party. Prepare them ahead of time. Set them in the fridge unbaked for a couple of hours. Pop them into the oven when you sit down for dinner. You'd have oohs and aahhs, and they'd want to know the name of the elf in your kitchen.
Roll out one sheet of thawed puff pastry to an approximately 14 inch square. In a stand mixer combine one roll/tube of almond paste (approximately 7 oz) with one egg and one half cup sugar. To kick it up, add one tablespoon fresh orange zest. Put the mixture vertically in the center third of the square of puff pastry, leaving an inch on the bottom and top. Fold the bottom inch up over the bottom of the almond mixture. Repeat with top edge. Using a pizza cutter, cut the sides into parallel strips. Fold the strips into the center one at a time, alternating each side for a braiding effect.
Brush with heavy cream or an egg yolk. Sprinkle generously with raw sugar. Bake at 425degrees for 20-25 minutes or until dark golden brown. Let cool slightly, but it will be very hard to wait.