Our favourite café in Mexico city was a morning amble down quiet Condesa streets. Every morning we stepped around shop owners washing down the sidewalks, everything was always fresh and gleaming. The waiter tolerated our abominable Spanish and brought us espressos and ridiculously good croissants. Something we didn’t expect to find in Mexico, but it is always pleasant to have presumptions obliterated, especially when it is obliterated by flaky, buttery pastry.
The seats of the café looked into the kitchen where we watched a beautiful girl through the glass. In a crisp white apron she folded and refolded puff pastry. Behind her a boy washed and dried salad greens so delicately, treating each leaf as something precious. She laughed at us when she realised we were watching and we shyly went back to our espressos. But it was so lovely to see her there painstakingly making the puff by hand.
When we returned next all the croissants were sold, so we tried a cardamom almond scroll, which used the same light pastry. The cardamom and almond married perfectly. The paste was a soft treasure inside the crunchy pastry.
Sarah and I have replicated the concept of the cardamom scroll in the recipe below, but we haven’t replicated that exquisite pastry. We’ve made a cheats version. Sacrilege I know, but the day we set aside to make the puff pastry was one of those freakishly hot days we had recently, and we just didn’t think the puff would stay cool enough. So forgive us please, and give this a try, it’s freakishly easy.
Cardamom Almond Scrolls
Processor Puff Pastry
From Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess.
250g white flour
pinch of salt
250g cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 cm slices
squeeze of lemon juice
5-6 tbsp iced water
Pulse the flour and salt together in the processor, then add the cold butter and pulse 3-4 times. The pieces of butter should still be visible. Turn out into a large bowl and add lemon juice and enough iced water to bind the pastry.
Combine lightly with your hands and wrap in clingfilm and rest in the fridge for an hour.
Dust a clean surface with flour, roll the pastry out into a long rectangle, and fold in three like a business letter. Roll into a rectagle away from you. Now fold in half. Turn clockwise. Repeat twice turning every time.
Wrap again in the flat rectangle and rest for another half hour in the fridge.
Cardomom Almond Paste
1 cups of almonds
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp demarera sugar
seeds of 4 cardamon pods, dry toasted and ground in a mortar and pestle
2 free-range eggs
While the pastry is resting place the Almonds, roasted and ground cardamon seeds, in a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Add one egg, sugar and vanilla extract and pulse until the mix forms a chunky paste.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
In a separate bowl whisk one egg until one colour.
When the pastry has finished resting take it out and roll until 5mm thick and a long rectangle.
Cut a strip from the bottom about 7cm wide on the long side of your rectangle of pastry you have rolled out. Brush lightly with the whisked egg and then spread the almond paste to the top half of the strip you have made, from one end to the other. You should have a long strip of pastry, with half almond paste along the length. Roll the pastry, from one short end to the other, carefully, making sure it stays uniform in depth.
You should have a scroll!
Push the loose end down on the edge of your scroll and secure with egg wash. Place on a greased baking tray with the almond-y side up. Brush liberally all over with the beaten egg. Repeat!
Bake until puffy and golden, about 30 minutes.