Almond Pockets

Almond Pastries

Sedona’s magic has followed me home.  When I opened my laptop tonight, I had initially intended to tell you about the purpose of my latest visit to Sedona.   Upon realizing the complexity of this almond pockets recipe below,   I hesitated to incorporate a long-winded post about Sedona too and opted to save the tale for another day.  So, no sooner do I resolve to forget the story and focus on the recipe when what comes up on PBS but a First Nations Experience (FNX) program on Sedona’s Boynton Canyon – reminding me that no one puts Sedona on the back burner.  I’m still determined to save my story for another day, but rather than utterly avoiding the  topic of Sedona, I’m sharing a photo from my favorite perch in Boynton at the end of this post.  I know better than to mess with red rock juju when it happens.


Almond Pockets

Adapted from Wayne Gisslen’s Professional Baking

Ingredients

    Danish Pastry Dough
  • 4 ¼ oz. warm water (105 – 110 degrees)
  • 1 pkt rapid rise yeast
  • 18.5 oz. all-purpose flour
  • 1.25 oz. sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • 6 oz. whole milk
  • 10 oz. unsalted butter, softened
  • Almond Crème
  • 2 1/8 oz. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ¾ oz. powdered sugar
  • 2 1/8 oz. almond flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract

Directions

Make Dough: In a large bowl, mix the water and yeast together. Sprinkle about 2 Tablespoons flour over the yeast mixture. Let stand for about 15 minutes. In another bowl, mix the sugar salt and milk together until the solids are dissolved.

Sift the remaining flour and add it to the yeast mixture. Add the milk mixture and begin mixing to form a shaggy dough. Finish by kneading the dough on the countertop until a formed until a ball. Cover and allow to ferment for 40 minutes. Punch down and refrigerate, covered for 1 hour.

Roll in the Butter: Roll the dough into a long rectangle. Smear softened butter over bottom two-thirds of the dough, leaving a margin around the edges. Fold the unbuttered third of the dough over the center. Fold the bottom third on top. Rotate the dough 90 degrees (so the folds are vertical). Complete the first fold: Roll out the dough in a long rectangle. Fold the top third over the center. Fold the bottom third over the top. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Repeat the rolling and folding two more times.

Make the almond crème:  Cream the softened butter, stir in the powdered sugar, almond flour, salt, egg and almond extract.  Refrigerate.

Make the pockets: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll the dough into 20” x 20” square. Divide into 16 squares approximately 5”x5”. Place the almond filling in the middle of each square, Brush 2 opposite corners with egg, fold over the center, pressing down firmly to seal. Proof for 15 minutes.

Egg wash the outside of the pastries and sprinkle liberally with sliced almonds. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.


Kachina

Kachina Woman – Boynton Canyon

Life’s Rituals

I left my mother in her home town, safely nestled at the foot of her parents’ graves.  Yes, my heart still aches with loss, but it is tempered by the feeling of “rightness” in our actions of bringing her home, participating in a ceremony of honoring, and placing a closing chapter on her life.

Perhaps this is what is meant by “closure”.

In the airport, waiting for my flight home, I began thinking about ritual and why it’s an important vehicle to help transport us through life.  How can the simple process of taking someone’s ashes to another location, placing them in the ground and saying a few words (or, in this case, singing a song) make the world appear to realign itself?  It felt like I sent a giant “Namaste” to my mom and the earth and all the mysteries of the universe.

But, still, I’m left asking “why does it work; why is it important?”  Donna Henes says, “Ritual practice is as old as humanity, developing from people’s compelling need to understand and connect with the infinite, archetypal, unexplainable mysteries of life. Rituals offered our ancestors a glimpse of the divine order as well as a sense of belonging to something bigger. It’s a ceremony of sorts which begins with thought, purpose and an identified aim. Also, it’s not passive, but participatory. There is no way to benefit from a ritual by just watching it, or by reading or hearing about it. It must be experienced to be affective, or effective, for that matter.”

Maybe that’s why it works.  It allows us to take a bit of control. We are no longer solely being buffeted by the uncontrollable events and mysteries around us; we are able to take this small ceremony and manage it, focus our attention to it, set an intention and participate towards its fruition.  I cannot control life and death, but I can control this.

The other ceremony that comes to my mind is one I participated in 10-15 years ago.  Up to that point, I had struggled with the repercussions of an abused childhood. I had read books about forgiveness, I had journaled my anger and bitterness in hope of releasing it, I had made excuses for the abusive behavior and I tried repressing the memories as well.  Nothing seemed to alleviate my pain until I found myself, during a vacation, in Sedona participating in a medicine wheel ceremony.  During that ceremony, I was given the gift of allowing myself to leave one large piece of “baggage” behind within the wheel.  At that spot, in the middle of Boyton Canyon, on the hot dusty ground, I set down my bag of anger, hurt, bitterness and grief  – and I never looked back.  I left my baggage in Sedona, the best luggage I could have ever lost on vacation.  Could I have done it without the medicine wheel, without the burning sage, without the ritual, without the intention? I hadn’t been able to before.

Rituals and ceremonies with honest, sincere intention seem to somehow place our personal, spinning world back on its axis. They are a bit of control in the uncontrollable world.