Almond Puff Loaf Bakealong: Challenge #20

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I love this recipe. I love everything about it. Its flavor is a perfect balance of butter, toasted nuts, and fruity sweetness. And its texture? A tantalizing combination of flaky layers and airy pastry: think éclair shell and pie crust combined.

Almond Puff Loaf Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Which is, serendipitously, exactly what this Almond Puff Loaf is: a thin base of buttery pie crust topped with almond-scented pâte à choux. After baking to a golden puff that gradually settles as it cools, the pastry is topped with fruit preserves and garnished with toasted nuts and a drizzle of vanilla icing.

And the very best part of all? Not only is it delicious, it looks like you might have spent hours laboring over something akin to Danish pastry: laminating dough with layers of butter, folding, turning, rolling…

Perish the thought! Almond Puff Loaf doesn’t require a rolling pin, ruler, or special tools or techniques of any kind. A mixer is convenient, but your hands will do most of the simple work here. The hour this treat spends in the oven is the longest part of the process by far.

Almond Puff Loaf Bakealong: It's buttery. It's flaky. It's yummy. It's EASY. Bakealong today! Click To Tweet

OK, it’s delicious, it’s gorgeous, it’s easy — I think I’ve belabored the point enough! Let’s tackle this month’s Bakealong challenge.

Start by preheating your oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a large baking sheet, or line it with parchment.

Start with the bottom layer

Gather your ingredients:

1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) cold butter*, cut into pats or 1/2″ cubes
1/4 cup ice water

*Reduce the salt to 1/4 teaspoon if you use salted butter.

Almond Puff Loaf Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Combine the flour and salt, then add the cold butter.

Almond Puff Loaf Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Work in the butter with a pastry blender or fork, your fingers, or a mixer; the mixture should be unevenly crumbly.

I always use my mixer to combine cold butter and flour, both here and when making pie crust; it does a fine job and is much easier on my wrists and hands.

Almond Puff Loaf Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Stir in the water. The dough will become cohesive, though not totally smooth (due to those random larger pieces of butter scattered throughout).

Divide the dough in half; if you’re using a scale (and I highly recommend weighing, both for accuracy and ease), each half will weigh about 5 1/8 ounces.

Almond Puff Loaf Bakealong via @kingarthurflourWet your hands, and shape each piece of dough into a rough log. Pat the logs into 10″ x 3″ rectangles on the sheet, leaving at least 4″ between them, and 2″ on each side. These puff up in the oven (hence the name), and you need to leave them room for expansion.

Make the top layer

Gather your ingredients:

1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) butter*, cut into pats
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour
3 large eggs, at room temperature; warm them, in the shell, in hot tap water for 10 minutes if they’re cold from the fridge
1 teaspoon almond extract

*Reduce the salt to 1/4 teaspoon if you use salted butter.

In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the water, salt, and butter to a boil. Make sure the butter is completely melted.

Almond Puff Loaf Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Add the flour all at once. Stir the mixture with a spoon or heatproof spatula until it thickens, begins to steam, and leaves the sides of the pan; this will happen very quickly.

Transfer the stiff batter to a mixing bowl, or the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat it at medium speed for 30 seconds to 1 minute, just to cool it down a bit; you want its temperature below 140°F. If you don’t have a thermometer, just stick your finger in it; it shouldn’t be uncomfortably hot, just lukewarm to warm.

Almond Puff Loaf Bakealong via @kingarthurflourAdd the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. At first, the batter will look a bit “slippery.” 

Almond Puff Loaf Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

By the time you’re done, it should be thick and smooth. 

Mix in the almond extract.

Build the pastries

Divide the batter in half.

Almond Puff Loaf Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Portion half the batter onto one of the dough strips, half onto the other dough strip; if you have a scale, each half of batter will weigh about 9 1/2 to 10 ounces.

Almond Puff Loaf Bakealong via @kingarthurflourWorking on one dough strip at a time, use a spatula (or your wet fingers) to spread the batter until it completely covers the dough, including its edges. Smooth out the top as best you can.

Bake until golden

Bake the pastries for 50 to 65 minutes, or until they’re a deep golden brown. If you’ve used Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour, bake for the full 65 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare your toppings

Get the toppings ready while the pastries bake; you’re going to apply them as soon as the pastries come out of the oven.

Almond Puff Loaf Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

You’ll need 2/3 cup slivered or sliced almonds, toasted in a 350°F oven for about 7 to 10 minutes, or until they’re a light golden brown.

If you have a toaster oven, use it. If not, you can toast the nuts in your regular oven with the baking pastries. But try not to keep opening the oven door to check on the nuts; you don’t want to risk the pastries falling before they’re somewhat set.

You can also simply shake the nuts in an ungreased frying pan set over medium heat until they begin to turn golden. This is a little more labor intensive, but it works fine.

Almond Puff Loaf Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

You’ll also need 2/3 cup jam or preserves (about 7 ounces). I love apricot jam for this pastry; apricot and almond go wonderfully well together. But honestly, choose your own favorite flavor. For best results, use something that’s fairly smooth, without overly large pieces of intact fruit.

If the jam or preserves are very thick, warm briefly in the microwave or on the stovetop; this will make for easier spreading.

Almond Puff Loaf Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Remove the baked puffs from the oven.

Almond Puff Loaf Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Add the jam and nuts

Spread each warm pastry with about 1/3 cup of the jam.

Almond Puff Loaf Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Sprinkle the toasted almonds atop the jam; make sure you go to the very edge.

By this time, your beautifully puffed pastries are probably starting to sink; don’t worry, this is all part of the plan.

Transfer the pastries to a rack; this will help prevent their bottoms from becoming soggy. Allow them to cool completely before icing.

Almond Puff Loaf Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

The finishing touch

Make the icing:

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 to 2 teaspoons milk or water (approximately)

Mix the sugar, salt, and extract. Stir in 1 teaspoon milk or water. Test the icing: does it drizzle nicely off the tip of your spoon? If not, add more milk or water, tiny bit by tiny bit, until the icing is “drizzle-able.”

Drizzle the icing — artfully, if you can — atop the pastries.

Almond Puff Loaf Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Pretty good, eh? Not too many big blobs of icing (a sure sign that I’d gotten bored and wasn’t paying attention).

Almond Puff Loaf Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Enjoy!

Cut into squares or strips to serve. Prepare for enthusiastic accolades.

While this pastry is best served the day it’s made, you can store it at room temperature, lightly tented with plastic wrap, for a day or so. It’ll gradually soften up as it sits.

Almond Puff Loaf Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

High-altitude adjustments

Do you bake at altitude? Check out our high-altitude baking tips.

Make it whole wheat

Substitute our white whole wheat flour for all or part of the all-purpose flour in both the bottom and top layers of pastry. The more whole wheat you substitute (and yes, you can go right up to 100%), the less the loaves will puff. They’ll also taste “wheatier,” obviously. But if you’re a devoted whole-grain baker, go for it: you won’t be sorry.

Make it ahead

Make and bake the loaves, but don’t top them with the jam, nuts, or icing. Wrap in plastic, and store at room temperature for up to a couple of days; in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days, or in the freezer for a couple of weeks. If you’re freezing the loaves, wrap them airtight — preferably double-bagged.

Before serving, place the loaves on a baking sheet, tent with foil, and heat in a 350°F oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until they’re warmed through. If the loaves have been frozen, thaw them at room temperature before reheating. Top with jam and almonds. Allow to cool, then drizzle with icing and serve.

Baking gluten-free?

It’s easy: Simply substitute our Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour for the all-purpose flour in both the bottom and top layers.

Baking dairy-free?

You can definitely make this recipe! Substitute vegan butter for the butter in the pastry; and use water or a non-dairy milk (soy, almond, etc.) in the icing. Do you regularly bake dairy-free? See our dairy-free baking series.

Almond Puff Loaf Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Avoiding almonds?

Try topping the pastry with flaked or shredded toasted coconut in place of the toasted almonds. If almond extract bothers you, substitute vanilla extract.

Interested in more? See our complete collection of Bakealong recipes.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Linda

    My Mom has been making these since I was little kid. My sisters and I call them surfboards because they are long and skinny 😊 Mom is gone now, but I made some recently and wow! We put the icing, chopped maraschino cherries and almonds. Brought back such good memories.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Elaine. Towards the end of the post, you’ll find some great tips on freezing this treat: “Make and bake the loaves, but don’t top them with the jam, nuts, or icing. Wrap in plastic, and store at room temperature for up to a couple of days; in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days, or in the freezer for a couple of weeks. If you’re freezing the loaves, wrap them airtight — preferably double-bagged.

      Before serving, place the loaves on a baking sheet, tent with foil, and heat in a 350°F oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until they’re warmed through. If the loaves have been frozen, thaw them at room temperature before reheating. Top with jam and almonds. Allow to cool, then drizzle with icing and serve.” We hope this helps — happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  2. mary m

    just made this today. wasn’t sure about how to do it but followed the directions (both written and photos). ours came out super puffy and one was peach and other was blueberry. we weren’t sure if they tasted good (they did) and i was leary with no sugar but they are sweet enough with jam//jelly and frosting on top. well done.

    Reply
  3. Jill

    I’ve been making this pastry for many years and making two is pretty much a necessity because one will be eaten the first day by 2 people! These are just the BEST!

    Reply
  4. Peter

    This was delicious! Didn’t last long. I varied the toppings of the two loaves, apple preserves I had on hand on one, and an apricot version just because it looked so good in your pictures, and by the time we’d finished taste testing (there were four of us), it was all gone. On my attempt, the bottom layer was wonderfully crispy, which contrasted nicely with the softer chew of the top layer. Not sure if that’s the way it was supposed to be, but we definitely liked it that way. It turned out to be a relatively easy bake, so it is definitely on the repeat list.

    Reply
  5. Ray

    Mine turned out like Cardboard, buttery cardboard. Does the bottom layer need a leavening agent? Is stream really enough?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Shucks, Ray. We’re both surprised and sorry to hear that your Almond Puff Loaves didn’t leave you feeling delighted. The bottom part of the pastry doesn’t require a leavening agent; the top layer of pastry is the part that puffs more notably while the base stays relatively flat. (It becomes a bit crispy and browns as it bakes.) We’re curious to hear more about your mixing method and the ingredients that were used to figure out if there’s something that caused the formula to go awry. We encourage you to give our friendly bakers on the hotline a call at 855-371-BAKE(2253) so we can troubleshoot with you further. We promise you can make a puffy, lovely pastry too! Kye@KAF

  6. Angie

    I decided to try this recipe today. The recipe is lengthy which scared me a bit but after reading the comments and several bakers saying it was easy I gave it a try. I made a half recipe as there is only 2 in our family. I can say it is very easy. I had peach jam on hand and used it. The second layer preparation reminds me of a cream puff recipe. Thought of working the eggs in as I do when making cream puffs but decided to follow the recipe. Delicious! Love KA recipes.

    Reply
  7. Heleena

    I made one with raspberry jam, chocolate chips, almonds and coconut. The other I did the filling for the pop tart recipe (cinnamon, brown sugar) with walnuts on top. The pastry bottom was perfect. Only question, is the batter almost like a custard texture or was it undercooked? I was lazy and didn’t weigh the batter. Also my oven is off so I usually do 25 degrees hotter, but usually that’s spot on for other KAF recipes. I baked for 50 minutes.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Heleena. It sounds like it was underbaked. While the interior of the puff is soft and slightly moist, if it’s custard-like it’s underbaked. If you find it’s getting darker on the exterior before the inside is fully baked, feel free to tent the whole loaf in foil. Annabelle@KAF

  8. Anton

    I’ve never tried to make this sort of pastry and was tempted by the lack of rolling. (My least favorite kitchen activity to be honest.) It came together so easily I was half afraid I’d made a terrible error. But the loaves are super puffy and delicious!! I used black currant jam since it was already in the pantry and the sweet tart flavor is so nice with the almond. Will definitely be making this again.

    Reply

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