Arlette Biscuits

Awake, breathing arlettes. Pastry doesn’t have to be painful.

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Coming across this recipe just once in Waterstones the past weekend was enough to convince me that this was the one and only thing I had to play with and hopefully do justice. So the hands got down to it, butter greased my fingers, and more vanilla-cinnamon perfume filled the air and softened a week-hardened soul.

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A simple matter of roll (tight enough), cut (with a sharp enough knife), bake (and ok, with a watchful eye and well-greased pan). After the pastry mess, of course.

Using a rough puff, go ahead and call me the ersatz princess, but what you see is indeed what you get, with the subtracted effort proving efficient and definitely worthwhile. I modified mine from Gordon Ramsay’s signature rough puff recipe, and found that I did not need as much cold water at the end. I then used Michel Roux’s recipe for the filling, so the insides were well-pressed with plenty of flaked almonds and more sugar. You do need plenty of butter and icing sugar, and if you’re reluctant to get just those two things I have no idea what you’re doing here. I mean sometimes even I haven’t a clue why I channel all my effort into heated baking blabber, but this passion is heated, and I just want you guys to be similarly enthusiastic about it!

The edges, crisp and caramelised, are angry enough to cut through jaws and convince the sharpest of tongues that the language of sugar and butter must never be underestimated. The anger is nuanced, but still there. Each disc wants to be cracked, then dipped in a luxury pool of vanilla ice cream or cream. Your yoghurt can be saved for this too, just crumble each disc between your fingers for some unanticipated granola, and these are your saved mornings, packaged in an airtight containers for the remainder of the month, or at least the next few days.

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Arlettes (makes at least 20; you can bake half and store the rest in the freezer for whenever else you want the babies)

*=vegan substitutions

Ingredients

For the rough puff pastry:

250g flour

250g unsalted butter, reaching room temperature but not entirely soft, cut into cubes (*sub: vegan butter)

pinch salt

100-120ml cold water

For the filling:

30-40g flaked almonds

1 tablespoon cinnamon

300g icing sugar

1 egg yolk (*sub: more vegan butter)

Directions

In a large bowl, add the salt to the flour, then rub the butter into the flour. The cold butter will warm up overtime and the bits will meld easily into the flour. Once the butter has been rubbed fairly evenly into flour (there will still be chunks of butter streaked through the mixture), add a quarter cup of cold water and mix. Add tablespoons of cold water until the dough just comes together. Roll the pastry into a shape that somewhat resembles a sphere or ball, put into the bowl, cover the bowl with foil/cling film and leave in your fridge to rest for a half hour.

Take your dough and place it on a slightly floured work surface. Roll the dough until it’s roughly 20x50cm, then take the top third and fold it down to the centre, and do the same with the opposite third, so you end up with a book with three layers. Roll this out again until its three times the book’s original length. Then fold the same way as before, and put back into the fridge for another half hour.

During this time, preheat your oven to 177C (350F). Grease a large pan, then sprinkle over a small handful of icing sugar (part of the 300g), then shake the pan so it coats it. Put this aside.

Liberally dust your work surface with flour and icing sugar. Roll the refrigerated pastry out on this surface until it’s 4mm thick. Brush the top with egg yolk, followed by the flaked almonds, cinnamon, and half of the icing sugar. You will need the rest for later. Roll the pastry from the long edge until your get a swiss roll-like swirl. Cover and leave in the fridge for 10 minutes (you can cut the log into half or in thirds to fit your pan, or to stuff half in the freezer if you don’t want to bake a whole batch right there and then).

Take out the log and cut it into discs around 4mm thick. Dip your fingers in icing sugar and press the discs on your work surface until they’re around 1 mm thick, then place them onto your pan. Don’t worry if some parts are thinner than others, it just means they will be crisper and easier to break for a more pleasurable mouthful afterwards. Bake for 6-8 minutes, then flip over with a spatula (or something that resembles that particular shape) and bake for another 2 minutes, before removing. They should look outrageously crisp and golden-brown, especially around the edges.

Serve with ice cream and more flaked almonds. They would also, unsurprisingly, pair fantastically with coffee or tea, the bitterness of either allowing for enhanced savouring of the delicate sweetness, each mouth-coating bite of butter.

 

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