Friday, 20 December 2013

A Special Christmas Treat

Every year at Christmas time my mum used to make, amongst other treats, a Kerstkrans (Dutch Christmas pastry), a VERY delicious and moreish almond pastry shaped into and decorated like a wreath. I thought I'd share the recipe with all the foodies out there in Christmas land. There are lots of you right? Thought so, here goes.
Oven 220C/400F
500g shortcrust pastry (I use sheet pastry these days, but I used to make my own)
200g ground almonds/almond meal
200g castor sugar
1tsp grated lemon rind
1tbsp lemon juice
Pinch of salt
1 egg
1 tsp water, icing sugar, apricot jam, mixed glacé cherries (for decoration)
Mix together the ground almonds/almond meal, and the castor sugar. Stir in the salt, lemon rind and juice.
Beat the egg a little to combine the white and the yolk. Reserve about 1tsp of the egg to use as a glaze. Mix the rest of egg into the almond mixture to form a stiff paste. Get your hands in there! It's crumbly at first but then firms up like a ball of pastry. Form the paste into a ball, place into a bowl, cover the bowl with cling film and place in the fridge until required. Make a few days ahead if possible to allow the flavours to mature.
On baking day, remove almond paste from the fridge half an hour the next step.
Cut a 25cm/10in square of pastry in two to make a rectangle about 50cm/20in long and about 12cm/5in wide, or roll out your pastry to the same dimensions and 1mm/1/8in thick. Join the two halves of the cut sheet by dampening them with water and pressing together to make a firm join..
Dampen your hands slightly to ease formation of the almond paste. Form the paste into a 'sausage' shape about 2-3cm/an inch (no more) thick, to fit on the pastry rectangle. Place along one long edge of the pastry. It doesn't matter if the pastry is too long, it will get trimmed later. Carefully roll the pastry so that the paste is entirely encased. Seal the pastry with egg mixture or water where the edges overlap, making sure there are no gaps for the paste to escape through during baking. Gently roll the 'sausage' so that the 'seam' is underneath and not showing. You need about 2cm/1in of pastry extending beyond the paste at one end, so cut off any excess pastry now there. At the other end, cut the pastry off close to the paste and 'wrap' it over the end of the paste.
Next, carefully curve the 'sausage' into a circle.  Fit the covered end of the paste into the end with the bit of extra pastry and seal well with egg mix or water, again making sure there are no gaps and the seal is firm and smooth.
Glaze the Kerstkrans with leftover egg mix.
Place the KERSTKRANS carefully onto a cold, damp (not greased) baking tray. Make diagonal cuts in the pastry around the KERSTKRANS. Bake in a hot oven at 220C/400F for around 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden.
Remove from oven and leave on the tray until cool.
Glaze with warmed apricot jam. Decorate with chopped, mixed glacé cherries and dust with icing sugar.
Serve, cut into 3cm/1in pieces, with coffee. Yum, yum. ENYOY!
Zalig Kerstfeest,
Merry Christmas.

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