Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Study In Almond Paste

If you've been with the blog from the beginning, can you believe it's been 3 years, YIKES, you may have read my post Mandelhoernchen Melancholy. If you haven't, read it. It is the story of a spectacular kitchen failure. Yes, they happen and they're part of becoming a better cook. And, it's taken me 3 years to revisit that failure. I avoided it at fist because I was gun-shy about the whole thing, the wasted ingredients, the futile effort, the wounded ego. Then I just kind of got side tracked with other recipes and forgot the whole thing.

Flash forward 3 years and I stumble upon the Woodland Bakery Blog and can't wait to try almost all of Gretchen's recipes. Low and behold, many of them use Almond Paste. And I'm a cheapskate, I don't want to spend ten bucks on 7 oz. of dry crumbly grocery store Almond Paste when I can get blanched almonds for $7 a pound. The cheapskate in me overrode the perfectionist in me and I decided to give homemade Almond Paste another go. Seriously, it's been over 3 years, time to get back on that horse and ride. I picked what looked like to viable options and decided to test them out. . .

Recipe #1, find it here: Almond Paste

Ingredients: blanched almonds (slivered or whole, doesn't matter.), granulated sugar, egg whites, softened butter and almond extract.

Start by grinding the almonds and sugar together in a food processor.

You want a fine grind but be careful, if you go too far you'll get almond butter and will have to start over.

Add the butter, egg whites and almond extract and grind until you have a paste like texture. This is where I went wrong. I used the conversion on the back of the egg whites carton and just dumped in the equivalent of 2 egg whites. This was too much. It was a loose almost soupy mess and I started having Mandelhoernchen flash backs. But, I kept my wits about me and fixed it. . .

Luckily I had some of this laying around, which is simply finely ground almonds. I keep adding this, a tablespoon at a time until I got a good Almond Paste texture. . .

Like this. Keep processing until it is smooth. It may take up to 10 minutes. If your processor starts to sound funny, give it a rest for a few minutes and let it cool down. I ended up adding 8 tablespoons of the "almond meal" to get the right texture. If you try this recipe, I would recommend adding 1 egg white at first and then add more as needed to get the right texture.

Wrap the whole thing tightly in plastic wrap and store it in the fridge (up to one month) or freezer (even longer). This recipe yielded 20 oz. So you could divide into 2, 10 oz. portions and freeze.

Recipe #2, find it here: Almond Paste

Ingredients: blanched almonds (Note the recipe calls for whole almonds but since the recipe has the measurements in weight, whole, slivered or ground will all work.), unrefined cane sugar, honey, almond extract and water.

Note: Since the recipe gave all the measurements in grams it was really easy to cut the recipe in half, which I did. I was just trying to conserve ingredients for this "experimental" batch. So, as you look at the ingredients and quantities keep in mind they represent HALF what the original recipe calls for.

Start by grinding the almonds by themselves (no sugar).

Grind until you get the texture of "coarsely ground coffee." Again, be careful not to go too far or you'll get almond butter.

Next, stir together the cane sugar, honey and water and set over medium high heat.

Bring it to a full roiling boil stirring constantly.

Then, pour the boiling syrup through the tube of the food processor, with the processor running, and process until you have a smooth paste.
(I don't have a picture of this because I haven't mastered pouring hot sugar with one hand while holding the button on the processor with my other hand and holding my camera with my other other hand.)

Again it can take a good 5-10 minutes to get a smooth paste. You may want to stop now and again to scrape down the sides and give the processor motor a rest.

Plop it out onto some waxed or parchment paper and form into a log. Remember, what you see here is HALF the original recipe.

Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store in the fridge (up to one month) or freezer (longer).  Half of this recipe yielded 14 oz.

The Verdict:

I liked both these recipes (#1 on the left and #2 on the right). They both produced a good almond paste, way way better than anything I've purchased at the grocery store and way way cheaper. If I had to pick, I think I like #2 a bit better.

Recipe #1 produced a bit grainier paste and had a slight bit of a greasiness to it. Probably due to the butter. This, however, is no "sloppy second". It really makes a great almond paste and I wouldn't hesitate to use it in a recipe. If I had only made this one recipe I would have been more than satisfied.

Recipe #2 produced a much finer product. I suspect the hot sugar syrup helps to lubricate the grinding process. There is a very faint taste of honey which I like and I'm anxious to see how it works in recipes. I like that this recipe doesn't have any raw egg whites in it as I'm prone to pinching off bits and shoving them in my face. I also like that this recipe used fewer ingredients and gave the measurements by weight. I just felt it was more accurate to weigh out the ingredients. 

The bottom line is that both these recipes are good viable options for homemade almond paste. They are both much more cost effective and, in my opinion, better quality, than the grocery store variety. Try these recipes for yourself and stay turned for posts using this awesome ingredient.

Here are the recipe links again:
Recipe #1 (with egg whites and butter) from: Simply So Good
Recipe #2 (with honey) from: Nourishing Joy

No comments:

Post a Comment