I love almonds.
Every morning, both Sweet Shark and I eat a handful. Actually, it amounts to 1 ounce. According to experts (whoever they may be), almonds are one of the power foods that are super good for us.
So, when I can, I love to use almonds in desserts ~ it makes me feel like the dessert is good for me. Like the sugar, flour and butter are out done by the almonds.
O.K. I may be kidding myself, but I’m not kidding you about how good this dessert is. I found it in Patricia Wells‘ The French Kitchen Cookbook. I love her recipes with French country flair and Provençal ingredients. If you look in the cookbook for the recipe, you won’t find it under Almond~Honey Squares; Patricia calls them Chestnut~Honey Squares, since it calls for chestnut honey. It’s not likely you are going to find chestnut honey anywhere, (at least I never have), so I changed the name to fit my favorite nut.
So let me show you how I made Almond~Honey Squares ~ little bites of almond heaven.
A few ingredients need some explanation:
- Use unrefined cane sugar, not refined granulated sugar. Why? It’s healthier for you. I looked it up here. What you want to look for in the grocery store is raw Turbinado sugar or organic sugar.
- Almond meal (also called almond flour) is ground almonds; the almond meal adds flavor to the pastry dough and lowers the amount of wheat flour in the recipe.
- Try to use local or intensely flavored honey; I used Texas wildflower honey.
- The recipe calls for candied orange or lemon peel; I couldn’t find that at our Central Market (for those of you not in Texas, Central Market is an awesome grocery store (owned by HEB), sort of like Whole Foods, that has unbelievable produce, meats and seafood. So I made my own version and I’ll show you how I did it.
Making the Candied Lemon Peel
- Make simple syrup ~ simple syrup is usually made with equal parts granulated sugar and water. Because I wanted a thicker syrup, I only used 1/4 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar.
2. In a small saucepan bring the water/sugar to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
3. When the water is clear, your simple syrup is ready.
4. Pour the simple syrup into a bowl and allow to cool.
5. If not using immediatley, pour into a plaster squeeze bottle and store in the fridge until needed. It will keep “forever”.
6. For the lemon peel, I used a channel tool.
7. Place the lemon peel in the bowl of simple syrup to coat the peel. Isn’t the “peeled” lemon cute?
8. Using tongs, place the coated lemon peel on a piece of waxed paper. I let the lemon peel sit overnight.
9. After you remove all the lemon peel, wrap the lemon with plastic wrap so you can save it for the juice.
Making the Almond Pastry
- Gather your ingredients. As I measured the flour, almond meal, and sea salt, I combined them in one bowl. After I took this photo, I decided to use my Texas wildflower honey.
2. Place all your dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the chilled butter cubes and pulse to combine into coarse crumbs. Add the egg yolk, vanilla extract, and 1 tablespoon of water. Pulse to incorporate. If the dough seems dry, you can add another tablespoon or 2 of water, but I didn’t find it necessary.
3. Use foil to line the baking pan, pushing into the corners and sides. Be careful not to poke with your fingernails. The original recipe called for a 9 1/2 X 9 1/2-inch square pan, but I used a 7 X 11-inch rectangle.
4. Spread the dough on the bottom of the pan. Using plastic wrap to help spread the dough makes it really easy and keeps your hands clean.
5. When the dough smoothly covers the bottom of the pan, remove the plastic wrap and bake at 400 degrees for 12 ~ 15 minutes. 14 minutes worked for me. Then remove from the oven. The crust should be light golden brown. You can really smell the aroma of the almond meal as the pastry bakes.
Making the Topping
1. While the crust is baking, prepare the topping. First cut the candied lemon peel into small cubes. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat, add the sliced almonds, Turbinado sugar, honey, and vanilla extract, and stir to combine. Spread the topping over the baked crust.
2. Bake the Almond~Honey Squares in the 400 degree oven for another 12 minutes, until the topping is a deep golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. Remove the pastry from the pan by lifting up the ends of the foil. Peel the foil away from the edges of the pastry. Using a sharp knife, cut the pastry into squares. I cut my squares 1 1/2-inches and got 18 with some edges let over (They taste just as good as the squares.) You could cut them 1-inch wide and get 24 squares.
3. I used 2 squares per serving. Aren’t they pretty?
I love this dessert because it’s not too sweet. It has a bit of a crunch and the almond~ honey combination works beautifully together. You could also serve the squares with a little dollop of whipped cream. Or make a sandwich with ice cream. Yummy!
Here’s the Almond~Honey Squares recipe:
Let me know what you think!