Call it Occam’s Cost-of-Living-Crisis Razor: sometimes the cheapest solution is the best one. Or at least, comparable. This recipe started life using pistachios, because I am a simple woman who will always be swayed by the glamour of that specific drupe. As is often the case the easiest recipes require the most testing — and by round three of working out the precise ratio of honey to sugar to oven heat I replaced the pistachios with pumpkin seeds as a less expensive green placeholder. Before you know it, we had a Shirley MacLaine/Carol Haney/The Pajama Game situation on our hands, where the bigtime producers were in town on the one day the understudy went on for the star. The pumpkin seeds performed proficiently, so pumpkin seeds it is.
Rolling stuff up into pastry is a tale as old as time, but I wanted to create something that would place a questioning, haunting memory of the flavour and fragrance of baklava in the eater’s mind, while also being very adorably heart-shaped. As you can see from the photos — and as I freely admit! – these pastry hearts are ramshackle and unique in a way that may require some generosity of spirit. They’re homely. They’re quaint. They’re whatever you need to tell yourself. Somewhere out there in the internet likely exists a method for making perfect, Balanchine-uniform pastry hearts, but neither you nor I are going to find that out here.
These hearts are as charming to eat as they are to behold. Tenderly crisp pastry clenched around chewy, honey-soaked pulverised pumpkin seeds, dusted with a whisper of cinnamon and threaded with orange zest. The buttery nuttiness of the pumpkin seeds provides abundant richness and texture — though if you’ve got pistachios to hand then feel free to use them instead, you won’t be sorry — and the cinnamon and orange waft their perfume with a mysterious elegance.
Somehow they’re fiddly and easy to make at the same time, by which I mean, they take about five minutes but you need your wits about you to manage rolling the pastry edges to the centre, cutting slices, dealing with bits of pumpkin seed falling out and sticky fingers and trusting the process as you pinch the bottom points of the heart shapes and so on. But the taste, and the truly heartwarming sight of all those proudly coiled hearts, puffed up gold and dense green, rewards your toil immediately.
I’d happily serve these with coffee after dinner, and if you want to make a whole thing of it you could go the visually thematic route and offer my Chocolate Caramel Hearts and Marble Heart Cookies alongside. Alternatively, I’d rustle up a quick batch of Nigella’s eternally fantastic Chocolate Pistachio Fudge (using or not using the titular pistachios as you see fit) and pile both on the biggest plate you’ve got, filling in the gaps with whichever delicious seasonal fruit is the least audaciously priced, plus dates, walnuts, and dried apricots, or something to that effect from the bulk bin section of the supermarket, thus letting the hearts shine without any similarly-shaped culinary competition.
Pumpkin Seed Pastry Hearts
Adorable ramshackle hearts made of pastry curled around pumpkin seeds with just a little orange zest and cinnamon. A gentle evocation of the flavours of baklava, and a reminder that it’s useful to always have a package of pastry in your freezer. Recipe by myself.
- 1 square sheet ready-rolled frozen flaky puff pastry
- 1/2 cup (70g) pumpkin seeds
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- the zest from an orange
- a pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons runny honey
- 1 teaspoon milk of your choice
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1: Set your oven to 180C/350F and line a baking/cookie sheet with baking paper. Remove your square of puff pastry from the freezer and sit it on the baking tray to let it defrost, which should only take a few minutes.
2: Place the half cup of pumpkin seeds in a blender or food processor and pulse several times to pulverise the seeds into sandy, textured rubble – it’s fine if there are some bigger pieces here and there but it should be fairly gritty and fine-textured overall.
3: Tip the processed pumpkin seeds into a mixing bowl and stir in the three tablespoons of sugar, the orange zest, and the pinch of salt. Thoroughly mix in the two tablespoons of runny honey till the pumpkin seeds form damp crumbs and resemble a greenish streusel topping. (Also, if your honey is decidedly un-runny, microwave it briefly in a measuring jug first.)
4: Brush the sheet of pastry with the teaspoon of milk, and scatter the pumpkin seed mixture over the pastry in an even layer. Now comes the heart assembly, which I hope I can explain adequately. First, carefully roll the pastry up starting from the side closest to you, stopping in the middle of the square. Now, roll the remaining side towards you, till it meets in the middle, forming two parallel coiled connected tubes of pastry. Brush this pastry log with the two teaspoons of olive oil, and use a sharp knife to cut slices about 1cm (1/2 an inch) wide. These slices should resemble very squat, rounded hearts, so now pinch the pastry at the base of each slice to form the point of the heart. Don’t worry if it looks a little messy or ramshackle or if some of the filling falls out — once baked, the puffed-up pastry and caramelised sugar will bring it all together. You can also give the curved tops of the hearts a gentle pinch/push if they are threatening to fall away from each other. The pastry behaves best when it’s cool, so if it’s a very hot day or everything just feels like it’s getting a bit too warm, place the pastry in the fridge for ten minutes at any point during the heart assembly.
5: Bake the hearts – after shifting them around on the baking tray so they’re spaced evenly — for about twelve to fifteen minutes, or until the pastry is puffed up and lightly golden. Dust the cooked hearts with the 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, and allow them to cool. Don’t worry if the sugar and honey have significantly darkened on the underside of the hearts, so long as it’s not pitch-black it will still taste delicious.
Makes around 16 pastry hearts. Store in an airtight container and consume within a couple of days.
- If you don’t eat honey, replace it with the same quantity of golden syrup. I wouldn’t recommend agave (too sweet) or maple syrup (too liquid), but if you’re in America and can’t easily get hold of golden syrup, then light corn syrup should be fine.
- Should you have pistachios handy, you’ll need 2/3 of a cup of them instead of the half cup of pumpkin seeds, because the latter are smaller and therefore more of them fit into the measuring cup.
- There are usually incidentally vegan puff pastry brands available at the supermarket, so it’s worth checking the ingredients.
- The puff pastry squares are, at a guess, about 25x25cm, if you only have non-prerolled pastry to hand.
For any Americans reading — if it’s not already clear — when I say “pumpkin seeds” I am referring to the hulled kind, which you might also know as pepitas.
Clouds of Dawn by Dead Moon. Fred Cole’s voice was in that Neil Young vein of what you might call particular, but it embiggens the scrappy and plaintive qualities of this excellent song.
7 by Prince. This chorus is so addictive that there has to be a scientific explanation behind it. Perhaps psychological? Something’s going on there!
Let it Dive, by …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, feels like floating happily out to sea towards the sunset while dolphins leap into the air at a safe distance. Those strings! Those drums!
The Last Midnight from Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, performed by Patina Miller in the recent Broadway revival. This song is so immediately sinister and nightmarish with a mere flick of a chord progression and the looming horror of the title, and Patina’s masterful build from soft and measured to massive — and the way she sings “you’re not good you’re not bad you’re just nice/I’m not good I’m not nice I’m just right” sends tiptoes down my spine. I also hugely enjoyed Hannah Waddingham belting this song in green velvet and a Velma Kelly wig, but that production cut the iconic good/bad/nice line and I think the song suffers somewhat for its loss. (And why not make it a tasting flight with Bernadette Peters’ original interpretation: brittle, sardonic, terrifying, truly the owner of this song.)
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