Saturday, January 5, 2013

Spanish Pastry

Yes, these members of the bar-cookie family are as beautiful and delicious as the picture suggests! Spanish Pastry bears a resemblance to a Spanish torte, has the airy crunch of a French cream puff and yet the cream cheese frosting is as one would expect, uniquely American! A culinary hybrid perhaps? Regardless of its origin, this is a gem of a recipe and has been a party favorite (and a closet - last feast before the famine goody before starting a diet) choice for many years. My brother once said he would eat anything frosted with cream cheese frosting (we didn't put him to the test) but his wife rode a bicycle 2 miles to purchase the cream cheese for this recipe. Shared with me many years ago by a European woman who may have had her recipe cards clearly marked with the country of origin, these pastries are comprised of a unique pate choux body, layered on a shortbread crust, baked in 6 inch wide strips, cut into finger-sized cuttings, frosted and finally, garnished with almonds. Add some dried cranberries if you want a festive pop of color for either Christmas or Valentine's. Makes 36 servings.

Spanish Pastry
1 cup soft butter
11/2 cups flour
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp. salt
1 cup flour
3 eggs
1 - 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tab. vanilla extract
sliced almonds

-(Shortbread) In medium mixing bowl, combine 1/2 cup soft butter and 1 1/2 cups flour.  Blend until smooth (add 1 - 2 tab. water if mixture is not smooth.) On cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, pat shortbread into two, 12 by 6 inch strips.

-(Cream Puff Pastry/Pate a Choux) In medium sauce pan, pour water and add 1/2 cup butter and salt.  Bring to boil over medium-high heat until butter is melted.  All at once, pour in flour and stir over heat for 2 - 3 minutes until mixture pulls away from the sides and balls around the spoon as you stir.

-Remove pate a choux dough from heat and place in electric mixture.  Mix for about 2 minutes at medium speed, allowing some of the heat to escape.

-Stir in 1 egg at a time, beating well after each (for about 1 minute on medium-high speed).

-Mound half of pate a choux mixture down the center of each strip and using a knife or cake spreader, cover the entire surface of the shortbread layer with the choux mixture.  Sculpt into peaks.

-Bake in 380 degree oven for about 45 minutes, until puffed and golden.  Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature. (The pate a choux layer may collapse some upon cooling.)

-In a mixing bowl, combine butter and cream cheese until smooth and well blended.  Stir in powdered sugar and vanilla extract.  Frost cooled pastry and garnish with almonds.  Allow to sit for an hour or so or chill, then cut crosswise into finger length strips.  Makes 36 servings.

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