Waiting to pay for my loaf of sourdough bread at Brick House Bakery a few mornings ago, a display of simple, square pastries sprinkled with almonds and sugar caught my eye. The name “Bostock” mean’t nothing to me, so I bought one. And fell in love. According to the description it was: “a toasted slice of brioche, doused with rum syrup, and topped with almond frangipane, and baked to a golden brown. Contains nuts.”
Back at my computer I did a quick search to discover more. To my surprise, there was very little – and, although always described as a traditional French pastry, almost all of the enthusiastic “this is delicious” recipes came from the US.
.Sarah Jampel, writing on Food 52, offered the most thorough review, admitting that she had never heard of a Bostock until she picked up food blogger Tara O’Brady’s “Seven Spoons”. Research quickly brought her to Francis Lam’s piece on Salon in 2010, Flo Baker’s recipe in SFGate in 2011, Chad Robertson’s in "Tartine Bread" in 2010 and Ciril Hitz’s version in " Baking Artisan Pastries and Breads" (2009). (Thank you, Sarah, for leading me to all of these.) and then follows (in 2015) with her own version of “Lemon Bostock with Roasted Concord Grapes.”
Without giving a year, Atelierchristine says she first discovered Bostock or brioche aux amandes at Jean-Phillipe Patisserie in Las Vegas, then later spotted it in Pierre Hermes in Paris as “brioche au sirop d’amandes et fleurs d’ oranger, crème d’oranger, amandes affilees.”
Delicesparis spotted le Bostock a l’amande at one of the most famous pastisseries in Paris, Fauchon, where she saw also, but did not taste, a version with hazelnuts.
Now in all my years of more or less commuting to Paris I ate many treats from both Fauchon and Pierre Hermes, but perhaps I was too focused on the chocolates (and the macaroons) to be distracted by aux amandes. Silly me.
The great American food magazines were on the trail, too. Saveur Magazine called the Bostock “a sweet and crunchy breakfast pastry with roots in Normandy” and offered a cinnamon/apple version with a splash of apple brandy added to the frangipane cream. Equally adventurous, Bon Appetit packed its version with walnuts instead of almonds and topped it with glazed fresh figs.
Martha Stewart put the Bostock on television in “Martha Bakes” (episode 605) and hers is the recipe, available on the website, that I decided to make at home first.
So delicious. And while there are several steps involved in putting it together, very easy. Especially if you buy the brioche from a good bakery, or, as I did, use a “pain au lait” (a light, sweet but firm white bread) from the French bakery stall in my favourite farmer’s market.
Note: I plan to work my way through all the other Bostock recipes above, with time.
Bostock or Brioche aux Amandes
with thanks to Martha Stewart
FOR THE VANILLA SIMPLE SYRUP
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
FOR THE ALMOND FRANGIPANE
2/3 cup blanched whole almonds, toasted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon dark rum
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
FOR ASSEMBLING THE BOSTOCK
One 3/4-pound loaf brioche (or pain au lait)
1/2 cup apricot jam
1/2 cup unblanched sliced almonds, for serving
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Make the simple syrup: In a small pot, combine sugar, 1/2 cup water, and vanilla bean; cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes.
3. Make the frangipane: In bowl of a food processor, combine almonds and sugar and process until finely ground. Add butter, egg, flour, rum, salt, and almond extract, and process until frangipane is smooth.
4. Assemble the bostock: Slice brioche into eight 1-inch-thick slices. Brush both sides of each slice with simple syrup; place on prepared baking sheet. Spread each top evenly with 1 tablespoon jam and then 3 tablespoons frangipane.
5. Bake until golden brown, 13 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.