One of the lesser-known French pastries is Bostock. Perhaps it’s the funny name that doesn’t sound very French, as pain au chocolat or chausson aux pommes do, that’s been keeping it out of the spotlight. True, the name does sound like a Swiss bouillon mix and although I’ve read it’s from Normandy, I haven’t found any conclusive evidence of that. But wherever it’s from, the good thing about Bostock is that it’s one of the easiest desserts to make and doesn’t require rolling out any pastry, spending a day making brioche, or rely on any fancy techniques. It’s one of my very favorite things to eat.
Bostock was likely invented to use up leftover brioche that bakeries had on hand after they closed their doors. Bakers everywhere are naturally thrifty and this is a clever way to use up leftover bread, whether it be brioche, challah, or any firm-textured white bread, such as pain de mie.
A travel writer I know recently posted a mini-rant against recipes that call for using a stand mixer, saying the authors should offer alternatives for those who might not have one. That’s fair enough, I suppose, and I try to let people know when they can mix or beat things together in a bowl with a spoon or spatula, although sometimes it’s pretty easy for people to figure it out for themselves. But tossing it back to him, perhaps travel writers, instead of only listing airlines that fly to places, also list trains, buses, ships, and hiking routes that take people to the same place? If we put everything possible in a recipe, most recipes would be pages and pages long.
Like taking the plane (carbon-footprint issues aside) a stand mixer is the faster, more efficient way of getting there for this almond paste-based topping, although those with patience and moxie could beat it by hand. I add a few drops of almond extract as the pâte d’amande that’s most common in Paris doesn’t have a high almond content (usually around 33%) and I like mine with more almond flavor.
Supermarket almond pastes in the U.S., like Odense and Solo, have good almond flavor and don’t need it. If you want to go the semi-pro route, premium brands like Amoretti and American Almond Products (67% almonds), are available, although the latter is now only sold in 7-pound tins. But it’s quite good and that was what I used when I baked professionally, so if you have friends who bake, it might be worth splitting a tin.
Most almond extract is made from bitter almonds and a little goes a long way, so use it sparingly. You can also add some orange flower water to add some flavor, which compliments the almonds nicely, and is a lovely touch.
While Bostock is mighty fine all on its own, it’s a great accompaniment to a fruit sorbet or a fruit salad for dessert with the brioche providing texture and crunch from the crust, and the almond paste giving it some richness. It pairs well with everything from plums, peaches, and nectarines to berries, pears, and melon.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons, plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon rum, kirsch, or amaretto liqueur
- a few drops orange flower water, (optional)
- 6 slices brioche, challah or firm-textured white bread, such as pain de mie, cut in 1/2-inch (2cm) slices
- 6 ounces (170g) almond paste
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- a few drops pure almond extract, (optional)
- 1/2-3/4 cup (40-60g) sliced almonds
- powdered sugar
- In a small saucepan, heat the 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar with the water, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add the liquor and a few drops of orange flower water, if using.
- Preheat the oven to 425ºF (220ºC). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or leave it unlined) and place the slices of bread on it.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or by hand in a medium bowl with a spatula, beat the almond paste with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, the eggs, and a few drops of almond extract, if using, at medium-high speed until smooth. But avoid whipping it up; mix it just until most of the lumps are removed. (A few little ones won't matter.)
- Brush each slice of bread generously with the syrup, enough so it saturates the bread all the way through. Spread each piece of bread with the almond topping then sprinkle sliced almonds over the top.
- Bake until the tops of the Bostock are well-browned. I begin checking them at the 6-minute mark but they can take up to 10 to 12 minutes so best to rely on visual clues rather than precise minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature.