Almond Paste

almond pasteNow that I’ve made almond paste, I may never purchase it again. Seriously, this was so easy, I don’t know why I’ve never made my own almond paste before.

This all started with the Heath bit bars I made earlier this afternoon. Searching the pantry cabinet for some pecans, which I thought would add some extra crunch to the bars, I found none…but I did find a few cups of blanched almonds. I didn’t want to add blanched almonds to my Heath bit bars, but I did realize that they, along with a few other ingredients, could be ground into almond paste. Out came the food processor, and a few minutes later – also utilizing the leftover egg white from my Heath bit bars – I had my first-ever homemade batch of almond paste.

So, the question is: what will I bake with it? Almond clouds are a good idea…which only use egg whites and will leave me with some leftover yolks. Which is fine, because the yolks can go into lemon curd. And then, what will I do with the lemon curd? Oh, so many possibilities.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups whole blanched almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract

Preparation

Place almonds in the bowl of a 7-cup food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until almonds are finely ground.

Add 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, egg white, salt, and almond extract. Process until the mixture forms a ball; you’ll need to scrape the sides of the bowl a few times.

Break up mixture and add remaining tablespoon of powdered sugar, which will help make the paste less sticky. Process again; the mixture will return to a ball very quickly.

Carefully remove from the processor and pat with your hands, shaping paste into a log. Wrap in plastic and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Note: this recipe yields 15 ounces of almond paste.

Almond Crinkles

almond crinkles

 

 

 

 

 

Almond paste and marzipan are both confections made of ground almonds and sugar, with some recipes including egg whites as a stabilizer. Throughout the world, almond paste and marzipan are interchangeable, but here in the US, they’re different products for different purposes.

According to American Almond Products Co., almond paste contains equal parts ground almonds and sugar. It is commonly used in fillings for tarts, pastries, and cakes and can be used to make marzipan, which has a higher sugar to ground almond ratio. The higher quantity of sugar in marzipan makes it more pliable and suitable for molding, which explains why cake decorators use it to fashion tiny fruits, vegetables, animals, and all manner of objects.

I had six ounces of almond paste left over from my Christmas baking and had to scour the internet to find a recipe that called for this amount, fortunately finding the simple cookie below. The end result is a buttery, almondy, sugar-type cookie that would welcome a drizzle of melted chocolate.

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 6 ounces almond paste
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups flour

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line several baking sheets with foil or parchment.

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter, shortening, almond paste, and sugar until very fluffy.

Add egg and beat until combined.

Add baking soda and flour, beating until combined.

Using a one-inch cookie scoop, scoop out dough and roll into balls. Place two inches apart on baking sheets.

Bake for 10-11 minutes, until tops are just golden brown.

Cool on a wire rack.

 

Almond Clouds (gluten-free)

 

 

 

 

 

This weekend Mike and I are off to the Clarksville Picnic in my mom’s hometown of Clarksville, Maryland.  The picnic is one of the highlights of my year; it features the white elephant rummage sale, bingo, pony rides, games for kids, a bake sale, a quilt raffle (which my mom won three years ago, and that quilt is now on my bed) and a family-style fried chicken and baked ham dinner.

I love the picnic because it gives me a chance to hang out with my Maryland family, the descendants of the Feaga-O’Donnell clan.  The lynchpin is Aunt Liz, my mom’s twin sister. Yes, my mom has a twin.  And no, you cannot get a word in edgewise when they’re together.

Anyway…Aunt Liz is the youngest of the six O’Donnell kids, and her home, Glyndon, is the center of my Maryland universe.  Tucked into a corner of Montgomery County that hasn’t been developed to death, Glyndon is a classic white colonial with black shutters, a wood stove, and a dog pen that’s been home to many faithful mutts over the years.

Aunt Liz puts on meals like nobody’s business.  Her Thanksgiving dinners are legendary, her breakfasts the stuff of myths.  She’s an excellent cook and baker, but she was diagnosed with Celiac Disease a few years ago.  After mentioning some almond cookies she liked that she’d gotten at an allergy-free store, I decided to go on the hunt for a gluten-free almond cookie that I could make on my own, and I found this one.

Aunt Liz proclaimed it the best cookie she’d ever eaten in her life.  The highest of praise, indeed.

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces almond paste
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • Powdered sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325.

Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

Break up almond paste into pieces.

In a mixing bowl, combine almond paste, sugar, and salt until uniformly crumbly.

Gradually add egg whites until dough is smooth and paste-like.

Add almond extract and beat well.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto prepared sheets, leaving ample room in between; I bake six cookies per sheet.

Using a small sieve, generously dust each cookie with powdered sugar.

Bake for 20-22 minutes, until edges are light golden brown.

Cool for several minutes on baking sheets, then remove and cool completely on a wire rack.

Dust with more powdered sugar if desired.