Honey Almond Squares + Update

HAPPY 2014!!!!

How crazy/exciting! I hope this year is everything you want it to be—but better—and that you take opportunities for all kinds of new experiences—especially those that scare you (within reason, of course! There’s putting yourself outside of your comfort zone, and then there’s putting yourself in a tank with sharks. Capisce?).

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I figured since it’s the New Year and all, I’d give you a lil’ update on what I’ve been up to PLUS a recipe (nomnomnom). But first can we talk about Google’s logo today? Wuuuut. I mean the numbers’ faces, gah.

Below is the first thing I ate in the year 2014, forever immortalized on the internet! (A very good thing, as now I have a chance of actually remembering…) I hadn’t eaten anything SINCE LAST YEAR UGH so this meal had to be supa yummy. French toast made with a fresh, crusty bread and some colorful berries. And tea, of course. We’re fancy in 2014.

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Last Sunday we had a DEEELICIOUS brunch at my grandparent’s house featuring various fish my cousin had flown in from New York, bagels another cousin brought from Chicago, a blintz soufflé made by my grandma, crackers and a fruit salad prepared by yet another cousin, and honey almond squares (for which you will get the recipe today) made by moi. Whew, what a MEAL! I’ll break it down a little.

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Are you drooling? I’m drooling.

The fish came from a very well-known New York establishment called Russ and Daughters. It also happens that 2014 is Russ and Daughter’s 100th anniversary! Russ and Daughters is renowned for the quality of its fish, and boy, do we know why! From top to bottom (in random order): Nova Lox, Smoked Whitefish, Kippered (baked) Salmon, and Sturgeon. Not pictured was also some pickled herring.

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The whitefish came whole, so here’s a little montage of my grandpa boning it! WARNING: full dead fish alert, not for the faint of heart!

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Since I had to try it all, I came in with a strategy: two bagel halves, two types of fish per bagel. So as to not be confused when one type of fish ended and the other began, I made sure that each bagel half had a white-ish fish and a type of salmon. It ended up kind of like a yin-yang type of thing. Mmmm!

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Now for the Honey Almond Squares, which came from a New York Times recipe. They weren’t something that I normally would have picked out on my own, but I’m so glad that my cousin David found it and emailed it to my grandparents because DANG are they good.

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They get even better over time, too. The flavors of almond, honey, and a whisper of orange really meld with each other and come to life in these little squares.

Please note the word “whisper” in that last sentence. I just love that. I can’t take credit for it, but I love it. I read it in an article a few weeks ago, and I really don’t want to tell you how much thought has gone in to finding the perfect time to use it. Let’s just appreciate it in this here first post of 2014!

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I really get that imagery though, you know? It’s like, I’m telling you what’s in them and I say “There’s definitely honey and almond,” and then I whisper as an afterthought, “and orange.” It’s not like “WOAH THERE’S ORANGE!!” but just as if it’s a bit of a surprise to find that orange flavor.

Yup, it’s January 1st and we’ve already established that I’m crazy. It’s cool. Really.

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These little squares are great, though! The crust is just the right thickness, and it’s soft, which is in perfect contrast to the crunch of the almonds. The honey gives the squares a magnificent sheen, and the overall effect is dazzling. They’re just as much a treat to look at as they are to eat!

Make sure the keep the squares tightly covered once they have cooled completely. It develops the flavor so much more and even improves the texture.

ENJOY!

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Honey Almond Squares
(The New York Times)

Ingredients

Pastry
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. almond meal (see note)
3 T. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. margarine, chilled and cut into cubes
1 large egg yolk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Topping
4 T. margarine
1 cup sliced almonds
1/3 c. candied orange or lemon peel, cut into tiny cubes
1/3 c. sugar
2 T. honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

*Note: If you don’t have almond meal on hand, you can finely grind some sliced or whole almonds in a food processor.

Method
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line an 8 or 9-inch-square baking pan with parchment, letting it hang over the sides for easier removal later.
2. Prepare the pastry: In a food processor, combine flour, almond meal, sugar and salt. Pulse to blend. Add the margarine and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add egg yolk, vanilla, and one tablespoon of water. Pulse to incorporate. add 1 to 2 more tablespoons of water through the feed tube, tablespoon by tablespoon, pulsing until just before the pastry forms a ball. You may not need all the water. I only needed 1 tablespoon.
3. Turn the dough out into the prepared baking pan. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the pan. Place in the oven on the center rack and bake until the pastry begins the brown around the edges, 12-15 minutes.
4. Prepare the topping: In a saucepan, melt the margarine over low heat. Add the almonds, candied peel, sugar, honey, and vanilla extract. Heat just until the ingredients are incorporated.
5. Remove the pan from heat and spread the almond-honey mixture evenly over the pastry. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the topping is a deep gold 12-15 minutes. Once it has cooled, remove from the pan and cut into 25 squares. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

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