For the Pastry Wreath
- 1/4 cup whole almonds
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 5 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons coarse sanding sugar (optional)
For Filling and Decorating
- 1 cup chilled heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
- Orange-Rum Pastry Cream
- Thinly sliced candied orange peel (<a href="http://www.sidwainer.com" target="_blank">sidwainer.com</a>)
- Mint sprigs, for garnish
- Make the pastry wreath: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Trace an 8-inch circle onto a sheet of parchment. Flip parchment, making sure pencil mark is still visible, and place on a baking sheet.
- Coarsely chop almonds with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar in a food processor.
- Bring 1 cup water, butter, remaining teaspoon granulated sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Immediately stir in flour using a wooden spoon. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture pulls away from sides of pan and a film forms on the bottom, about 3 minutes.
- Transfer dough to the bowl of a mixer, and beat on low speed until slightly cooled, about 1 minute. Raise speed to medium. Add 4 eggs, 1 at a time, and beat until a soft peak forms when batter is touched with a finger. (If peak does not form, lightly beat remaining egg white, and beat it into the batter a little at a time until a peak forms.)
- Transfer pate a choux to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip. Pipe a tiny dot under each corner of parchment, pressing to adhere parchment to baking sheet. Pipe dough in a continuous circle, tracing outline, holding pastry bag upright and keeping the pressure consistent. Pipe another ring inside the circle so that the edges touch. Pipe another ring on top of the circles to cover the seam between them.
- Whisk remaining egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water. Brush egg wash over top of pastry wreath. Generously sprinkle ground almonds and sanding sugar over top and sides.
- Bake until pastry just starts to puff, about 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Bake until pastry is fully puffed and golden brown and nuts are lightly browned, about 25 minutes.
- Turn oven off, remove wreath, and pierce top and sides about 8 times using the tip of a sharp knife to release steam. Return to oven, and prop door open with a wooden spoon. Let stand for 1 hour to dry.
- Transfer pastry wreath on parchment to a wire rack. Let cool completely.
- Fill and decorate the pastry wreath: Whisk heavy cream and confectioners' sugar until soft peaks form. Separate pastry wreath into top and bottom halves using a serrated knife. Cut top half into 8 portions, maintaining the wreath's shape.
- Spread about 1 1/2 cups pastry cream over bottom ring. Top with large dollops of whipped cream. Reposition top pieces of pastry wreath over filling. Garnish with candied orange peel and mint.
Once cooled, unfilled pastry wreath can be frozen, wrapped well with plastic wrap, for up to 1 month. Thaw before using, and crisp in a 350 degrees oven for about 15 minutes; Let cool completely before filling.