Raindrops on roses? Whiskers on kittens? Well, perhaps bright copper kettles (especially if someone else was cleaning them) would qualify as one of my favorite things.

But when it comes to favorite recipes, one particular recipe has stood my personal test of time, and comes immediately to mind when a group of bakers gets together to play the “favorite” game.

My all-time favorite recipe? Almond Puff Loaf.

Admittedly, it’s really, REALLY hard to commit to a single favorite recipe. I mean, how can you begin to choose among creamy garlic-almond soup, four-layer fudge ganache cake, and the perfect oven-warm baguette? Each is divine in its own context.

And I’ll swoon over an olive oil-bathed overstuffed sandwich just as readily as a perfect piece of toffee buttercrunch candy. But if I had to choose… REALLY had to choose… my favorite recipe would be Almond Puff Loaf.

Why? Three reasons. First, it’s a wonderful culinary experience. The textural contrast between tender, buttery, flaky top crust and dense, moist buttery center; the tangy-sweet apricots paired with the rich flavor of toasted almonds; the creamy, almond-scented icing adding the perfect sweet finish… this is pure joy in every mouthful.

Second, it’s much easier to make than it has any right to be, given its layers, its different ingredients, and its fancy appearance. This is MY kind of recipe: I can throw it together in a few simple steps, and the result makes me look like a pastry professional.

Third, and most important, this recipe comes from my mom. I can’t even remember the first time I enjoyed it; just that she’d produce it on special occasions, and I came to associate it with family gatherings, holidays, and Mom.

So Mom, if you’re reading this (and I hope you’ve been able to find the bookmark I set up on your computer): thanks. For this, and the many other things you’ve taught me over the past 50+ years. Happy Mother's Day – you're the best!

Ready to make Almond Puff Loaf? Let’s begin.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) a large cookie sheet.

We'll start with the garnish. Put 2/3 cup sliced or slivered almonds in a pan. Toast them in your 350°F oven for 7 or 8 minutes...

...until they're nicely browned. Remove them from the oven, and set them aside to cool.

To make the first layer – put the following in a mixing bowl:

1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter*, cut into pats or 1/2" cubes
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

*If you're using unsalted butter, add 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Work the butter into the flour until the mixture is unevenly crumbly. That means it's OK to leave some bigger chunks of butter.

Add 1/4 cup cold water.

Mix until the dough is cohesive, though not smooth.

Since you're going to divide the dough in half, it helps to weigh it. But don't worry too much; if you don't have a scale, just eyeball it.

Pat each piece of dough into a 10” x 3” rectangle on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. The pan should be large enough to hold both pieces of dough, leaving 3” on either side of each piece of dough, for expansion.

I'm using an 18” x 13” half-sheet pan here. If you don't have a pan that big, use two pans; these puffs are going to PUFF.

To make the second layer - put the following in a saucepan:

1 cup water
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter*

*If you're using unsalted butter, add 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Heat the water and butter over medium heat until the butter melts, and the mixture comes to a boil.

Add 1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour.

Immediately start stirring; the mixture will be lumpy. That's OK; keep stirring.

Keep stirring until the dough starts to leave the sides of the pan, like this.

Remove it from the heat, and transfer to a mixing bowl. Beat at medium speed for a minute or so, until it stops steaming.

With the mixer running, add 3 large eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Notice the mixture will look slimy when you first add the eggs...

...but will smooth out beautifully as you beat.

Next, a key ingredient: almond extract.

Add 1 teaspoon almond extract.

Don't care for almond flavor? Substitute vanilla extract.

Spread half the batter atop each dough log.

Spread the batter to cover the logs completely.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the puffs are a medium golden-brown.

Aren't you glad you left all that space between the logs?

Remove the puffs from the oven.

While the puffs are still warm, spread them with the jam or preserve of your choice. I'm an apricot lover, so that's always my choice. Except for an occasional foray into raspberry...

Allow the puffs to cool completely, then sprinkle with the toasted almonds.

Combine a heaping 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar; 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract; 1/4 teaspoon almond extract; and 2 to 3 teaspoons milk or water, enough to make the glaze "drizzle-able."

Drizzle artfully over the puffs. I wasn't being particularly artful here, as I was drizzling with my left hand and taking a picture with my right.

For a slightly different look, drizzle with icing first, then top with nuts afterwards (left).

Cut in squares to serve.

See that center? It almost looks like it's filled with pastry cream, doesn't it?

Trust me: you'll think this is an incredibly buttery, tender Danish. But, no rolling... no folding... no fuss!

Almond Puff is delightful at breakfast or brunch, and is tasty any time of the day with a cup of coffee or tea. I hope this recipe becomes one of YOUR favorites, too.

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Almond Puff Loaf.

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About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was an award-winning Maine journalist (favorite topics: sports and food) before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. Hired to write the newly launched Baker’s Catalogue, PJ became the small but growing company’s sixth employee.    ...
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