Tuesday, July 8, 2008

it's too bad we have plenty of diapers

That is the conclusion my husband and I came to last night, as we sat in the living room after dinner, watching a baseball game online and trading commentary that was, as usual, ever-so-much snappier than that of the actual announcers. 

Our reasoning went something like this: He was craving some dessert, preferably pastry. An almond-and-chocolate bear claw from Whole Foods, in fact.  Which we always buy a pair of (cue Newman from Seinfeld) when we go there to buy diapers.  Thus, especially since I now wanted a pastry too, it was a shame there was no diaper run imminent.  

We hatched all kinds of crazy schemes, starting with driving all the way to Whole Foods right then just for pastries and winding up with quitting our jobs and starting a dessert delivery service ("Do you think people would order takeout dessert?" he said.  Hello!  Raise your hand if you're not currently fantasizing about obscure flavors of small-batch ice cream and brownies knocking at your door.)  Then I said, "Well, I could make a pastry."

For about a minute that seemed like the craziest idea of all.  But then I went into the kitchen and fired up the oven.  I rummaged through the cupboards and chopped walnuts and dark chocolate and threw shredded coconut around willy-nilly.  I rolled out the last sheet of puff pastry from the freezer and, in a drift of flour, brushed it with butter, sugar, and spices and folded it into something like a messy braid.

People, this was so much fun.  It was the antidote to my Memorial Day dessert.  It was possibly the purest, most carefree enjoyment I have had in the kitchen in the past year.  Nobody's empty stomach was waiting for the results of my efforts, and there was no recipe to measure up to.  It was just cooking for the sheer creative pleasure of it.

And that's a good note on which to return to this blog.  We were out of town for part of last month, and then I felt like I'd fallen way behind, and feeling behind is a recipe for procrastination.  I've actually started a post a couple of times since we got back, but each time it felt like a burden and went unfinished.  This is supposed to be fun, right?

Anyway, we stayed up way too late (until 10:05!) waiting for the pastry to come out of the oven, and the result was not at all subtle or refined, but I think it was worth it.

Dark Chocolate-Walnut Pastry Braid

3 T butter
2 T brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 C walnut halves, chopped
2 oz. dark chocolate, finely slivered
1/4 C shredded coconut
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Melt the butter and sugar together in a small saucepan, and stir in the spices.  In a small bowl, mix the walnuts, chocolate, and coconut together. 
On a floured work surface, roll the puff pastry into a rectangle about...um, 14 by 10 inches, I guess?...and transfer it to a lightly greased baking sheet.  Pour all but a teaspoon or two of the melted butter mixture onto the pastry, along the long axis in the center third of the dough.  Put the walnut-chocolate-coconut mixture on top of that.  

Then use a table knife to make about  7 or 8 angled horizontal cuts to make a sort of "fringe" on each of the outer thirds of the pastry.  Lap the fringes toward the center to create a braided effect.  It helps if you've had a glass or so of wine.  Drizzle the remaining butter mixture over the top of the braid.  

Bake at 400 F until you absolutely cannot stand waiting any longer, or about 20-25 minutes. 

1 comment:

Neal said...

I'm still hanging around the Emerald City, at least for the time being. If you feel like a nice summer meal, let me know.