Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Almond Horns of Plenty

Our favorite local bakery, Butterflake, went nut-free this summer, leaving my husband bereft of one of his favorite treats, the almond horn. I worked with my original sugar cookie recipe, candied some almonds and melted some chocolate chips, and came up with what Alexander referred to as "better than Butterflake." Well, I don't know, because those dudes are expert bakers and I dream often about their Cinnamon Challah, but I am happy I was able to approximate the almond horn at home.

This is a wonderful dessert that can be made several days in advance. Either the dough or the finished product can be frozen, so it is a perfect dessert for Sukkot when you get tired of perfect honey cake, and delicious with tea or coffee.

1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup shortening (I use Earth Balance natural shortening, O-U pareve)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 1/4 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
For topping: 1 cup chocolate chips, melted in the microwave for 30 to 45 seconds
For candied almonds: 2 cups sliced almonds (not slivered!)
1 additional cup sugar
1 squirt almond extract

Mix the sugar and the shortening until smooth, and add the eggs and wet ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix your dry ingredients well, and slowly add to your wet mixture. When the dough comes together, shape into a log, cover with plastic wrap and stow in the fridge for at least two or three hours, or overnight. This dough also freeze very well.

When you are ready to bake, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Unwrap, and roll about two tablespoons worth of dough by hand into snakes about five inches long and about 5/8ths of an inch thick. Set aside.

To candy the almonds, make sure you take precautions to be careful, because melting sugar is very, very hot! In a dry saucepan, add a couple of handfuls of sliced almonds to 3/4 cup of sugar. Add a squirt of almond extract and turn the fire on to medium low, and then raise it if you need to. Mix the items constantly, it will take only a couple of minutes for the sugar to melt. Make sure each almond piece is coated with candied sugar and turn off the fire. Transfer the almonds to a plate. They will stay hot for at least ten minutes so be careful!

Now, roll your dough snakes in the almonds, and place on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan. Tilt the ends toward each other so it resembles a horseshoe. Bake at 400 degrees for at least ten minutes, or until lightly browned.

When the cookies have cooled, dip the ends into some melted chocolate chips, and voila, we have almond horns! You should always make more of these than you think you have to, because they seem to mysteriously disappear around my house.

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