If I had to choose one pastry to eat for the rest of my life it would be an almond croissant. To me, it is pastry perfection: flaky dough that is slightly crisp on the outside yet pillowy soft on the inside, filled with a heavenly concoction of almonds, butter, and sugar. The waste-hater in me is also endeared by the fact that almond croissants are made using the previous day’s leftover croissants, a tidbit I learned from my sister who lived in Paris for nearly a year during college.
My fondness for almond croissants is bolstered by the memories I have of eating them. In high school, my friends and I frequented a a French bakery for after school snacks, putting our newly minted driver’s licenses to the most indulgent of uses. When my sister was living in Paris, I had a two-hour layover in the Charles de Gaulle Airport and she came and met me at the terminal. We hadn’t seen each other in nearly six months, and she brought us almond croissants from her favorite Parisian bakery to share over coffee and catch-up conversation. Four years later, I visited Paris myself and made it a priority to get a croissant from this very same bakery. To this day, I don’t think I’ll ever find anything that rivals its butteriness, flakiness, and all-encompassing decadence.
While I have not yet gained the courage or dough-making prowess to tackle baking almond croissants myself, I recently made a cake that was deliciously reminiscent of the filling of an almond croissant. I found the recipe in a great new baking cookbook and it’s name, “Le Almond,” immediately stuck out to me. This cake uses four pure ingredients for its flavor profile—almond paste, vanilla bean, lemon, and orange—and allows each of them to shine through one and a half whopping sticks of butter and a scant amount of flour, resulting in an exceedingly moist, rich cake. I’d suggest cutting this cake into small squares to serve. A little bit of this cake goes a long way in adding a special sweet touch to a brunch spread and to bringing a little bit of my favorite French pastry to life.
From The Sugar Cube cookbook
Recipe makes 2 loaves (I halved it to make 1)
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 7-oz tubes almond paste, broken into pieces
1 cup + 1 tbsp sugar
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter at room temp, cut into chunks
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 2 oranges
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp water
1/4 vanilla bean
Preheat oven to 325. Butter and flour two 9×5 loaf pans.
For cake: Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl (or use a whisk to mix them together).
Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat almond paste and sugar on low speed until mixture is sandy and only small lumps remain, 3-5 minutes. Turn mixer off and grate zest of 2 lemons and 2 oranges into mixing bowl to catch the oils. Turn mixer to medium and gradually at the butter. Increase mixer speed to medium-high and mix until fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and remix in any clumps. Add eggs one at a time with mixer on medium speed, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Scrape down sides of bowl again. Add in flour and mix in on low speed until just combined. Scrape down bowl one last time and the pour batter into prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake in center of oven until knife inserted in center comes out clean, 50-60 minutes. Cake will be darkish red-brown in color when ready.
For citrus soak: combine lemon juice, orange juice, sugar, and water in medium saucepan. Split vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out seeds. Add seeds to pan along with pod and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 1 minute to thicken and concentrate flavors. Remove from heat and discard pod.
Let cake cool in pan on wire rack for about 20 minutes. Invert it onto a parchment-lined wire rack. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Brush liberally with citrus glaze and let cool completely before cutting into thick slices.