Ciao Italia Family Classics
Mary Ann returns to her family's humble beginnings to bring us a treasure trove of more than 200 time-honored recipes.
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Makes 2 Loaves
For these elegant and wonderfully scented almond breads, use a good commercially prepared almond paste, such as Solo, or make your own. Almond paste can be stored in the refrigerator for weeks or in the freezer for months. Jam can be used in place of almond paste, as can ground walnuts and raisins.
1 recipe Simply Sweet Dough
3 cups almond paste, homemade or store-bought
1 egg, slightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 to 4 tablespoons milk or half-and-half
Lightly spray two baking sheets with vegetable oil spray.
Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 3 to 4 minutes, until smooth and no longer sticky. Divide the dough in half and cover one half with a towel or bowl.
Roll out the other piece of dough to an 18" round. Spread 1 1/2 cups or the almond paste evenly over the dough to within 1/4 inch of the edges. Starting at the edge nearest you, roll the dough up tightly like a jelly roll, tucking in the ends as you roll. Pinch the seam closed and put the dough seam side down on one of the prepared baking sheets. Shape the dough into a candy cane, wreath, or S shape; if you've made a wreath, pinch the ends to the dough together and tuck them under to seal the seam. Cover with a clean towel and let the dough rise for 45 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough and almond paste.
Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
Brush the tops of each bread with the egg wash. With scissors, make a few decorative slashes lengthwise down the center of the candy cane shape, or cut 1/2-inch slashes about 1 inch apart around the edges of the wreath or the S shape. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the breads are a rich brown on both the top and bottom. Cool the breads on wire racks until just warm.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix the confectioners' sugar with the almond extract and just enough of the milk to make a smooth glaze. The glaze should be just thick enough to flow slowly off a spoon.
With a spoon, drizzle the glaze over the warm breads. Let the glaze dry completely. Serve the breads warm or at room temperature. The breads can be frozen, well wrapped in heavy-duty aluminum foil and then in plastic bags, for up to 2 months.
This recipe is from WHAT YOU KNEAD by Mary Ann Esposito, published by William Morrow and Company, Inc., in 1997.
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