These beautiful Chinese/Japanese pastries are originally filled with sweet bean paste made from red, black adzuki beans. Although the paste is available to buy from Asian food shops, having my family's taste preferences in mind I decided to play it safe and give them a dessert I knew they would love. Besides, using almond paste would also give those who don't like or can not easily get their hands on the bean paste the opportunity to to enjoy them.
200 gr plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
100g chilled, cubed butter
3-4 tbsp cold water
150g finely ground blanched almonds
150 g sugar
enough beaten egg to bind
beaten egg yolk
poppy seeds or black sesame seeds
chocolate powder - to flavour the paste - optional
You will also need 3 round cookie cutters - 9 cm, 5 cm and 2 cm
For the pastry rub in the butter with flour and salt until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add enough water to make it all come together. Wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.
For the almond paste mix the dry ingredients in a food processor if possible, then little by little add the beaten egg, until you get a compact texture. You will probably need about 30 to 35g of egg. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate - it will keep for at least two weeks, so you can do this well in advance.
Preheat the oven to 180/350F/gas 4
Divide both the pastry and paste into 12 equal portions. Since you will have about 330g of pastry and the same amount of paste, each portion should weight around 28g.
Use 9cm round cutter to cut the pastry - roll each piece roughly to that size, then cut it out for neater finish.
Make balls from almond paste, roll them in chocolate powder if you wish, place in the middle of your pastry cut outs, press slightly and bring the pastry together then seal it. Flatten it a bit to a diameter of 5cm, sealed side down - use the 5cm cookie cutter to check the size and shape.
Now take a 2cm cutter and press very lightly into the top of the pastry. Use a sharp and pointed knife to cut through the pastry from the edge of the circle to just under the base. Cut 12 slices.
Place the pastry on the baking sheet and press lightly again to separate the "petals", then brush the centre with beaten egg yolk and sprinkle seeds over it.
Bake for 20 minutes. Leave to cool on a wire rack