Saturday, April 2, 2016

Addictive Almond Honey Phyllo Pastry

I made the mistake of making this delicious and addictive confection when we had no plans for company.  Then Robert left for a two-day trip. What can I say?  I like a culinary challenge and this pastry was very appealing in that regard.  I didn't plan for overwhelmingly tempting it would be to have just lying around.  I'm proud to say that there was still some left when Robert got back, but we (okay, mostly I) gnawed our way through all of it, just the two of us.  Not a wise move as the weather warms and bathing suit season beckons!  The recipe comes from the Food 52 website and is called "M'hanncha-Moroccan Almond and Orange Blossom Phyllo Pastry." Mine is a bit more rustic than the lovely photo on the Food 52 website.  That recipe calls for orange flower water, which I did not have.  I did have some rose water, though, which I used, even though I didn't really taste the rose water in the finished version.  I think either one makes a nice addition, but isn't essential.  The cinnamon-almond-honey combination wrapped in buttery phyllo is what makes this pastry impossible to resist.  The pastry is supposed to be sliced in thin wedges like a pie, but Robert and I (okay, mostly I) just pulled at the ropes and ate 2-inch pieces until we got to the center.  Consider yourself warned: make this when you'll have plenty of help to eat it!

1 tablespoon butter (NOTE:  the whole recipe requires about 12 tablespoons butter)
1 cup almonds
7 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 3/4 cup almond meal (see note below)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 whole egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon rose water (optional, but nice)
8-10 sheets phyllo dough, thawed
about 2 tablespoons melted butter for brushing on phyllo
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon rose water
NOTE: If you can't find almond meal, then ground two cups of almond with one or two tablespoons of the granulated sugar in a blender (better than a food processor) until it is a fine meal, being careful not to turn it into almond butter. 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the 1 tablespoon of butter in a pan over low heat and melt.  Stir in the whole almonds and toast until nicely browned and fragrant, being careful not to burn--about five minutes.  Remove from heat and cool.  Place the cooled almonds in a food processor and blend with the granulated sugar until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Add the almond meal, powdered sugar, the 7 tablespoons of melted butter, the whole egg, cinnamon and 1 tablespoon rose water (if using).  Process until it is a well-combined paste.

Open the phyllo package, unroll, cover with plastic wrap and then lightly damp kitchen towel to keep it from drying out.  Take one sheet and place on the work surface with the long side facing you.  Lightly brush with butter.  Take pieces of the almond paste and roll into a log about 1/2 inch thick and line up along the long edge of the phyllo. You'll have to do this in fairly small pieces and press them together to extend across the phyllo sheet.  Roll the phyllo round the filling and brush with butter to keep it flexible.  Coil the roll and place in the center of a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Continue filling the phyllo sheets with the almond paste and rolling up, then linking up the filled rolls with the previous ones to form a tight coil.  This will take about 8 to 10 phyllo sheets.  Brush the finished coil with the egg yolk/water mixture and bake in the center of the oven for about 30 minutes, until crisp and brown.

While the pastry is baking, heat the honey in a small sauce pan just to make very runny and add the rose water if using.  Pour the honey over the warm pastry.  Cool a bit before slicing into small wedges.  This will serve about 10--or, over the course of five days, two adults with sweet teeth who know they should know better but ate it all anyway!

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