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Almonds

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Almonds

Almonds are the nutmeat found inside the pit of the dry fruit on almond trees.  Almonds are the number one ranking nut crop in the United States and grown in the State of California.  Worldwide, they are cultivated in Australia, South Africa, Asia, Sicily and France.  Ivory-colored with a pointed, oval shape and smooth texture; almonds come in sweet and bitter forms.

The sweet almonds are what most people are familiar with and used by bakers.  They have a delicate taste that is wonderful when used in breads, cookies, cakes, fillings, candies confections, and decorations.  Sold whole, sliced, slivered, or ground with skins on or off (blanched), and their flavor intensifies when toasted.  For this reason toast the almonds first before using in a recipe.  To toast, spread on a baking sheet and place in a 350 degree F (180 degree C) oven for 5-10 minutes until lightly brown.  Watch carefully as they can burn easily.  Cool before using.  They are best stored in the freezer in airtight plastic bags or containers.

 

To blanch whole almonds, place in boiling water for about 1 minute.  Drain and place in ice water to stop further cooking of the almonds.   Peel the skin off with your fingers.  Bake them in a 350 degree F (180 degree C) oven for about 5-10 minutes, or until almonds are dry, but have no color.

Bitter almonds are illegal in the United States.  They have a stronger flavor than the sweet almonds but also contain prussic acid, which is toxic when raw.  The acid's toxicity is destroyed when the almonds are processed.   Bitter almonds are mainly used in extracts and flavorings.  They are prized in Europe and sometimes a little is added to almond meal and marzipan to intensify the almond flavor.

Almonds are used to make almond paste and marzipan.   Almond paste is a combination of equal parts ground blanched almonds and sugar, mixed with glucose, corn syrup or egg whites. It is pliable with a sweet almond flavor and grainy texture.  Sold in cans or tubes, I recommend using the can variety as it has a superior taste.  Almond paste is used in pastry making and confectionery to cover cakes and pastries, as well as forming into different shapes and figures.

Marzipan, on the other hand, is a cooked mixture of finely ground almonds, sugar, and water.  Slightly sweeter with a smoother texture, it is firmer than almond paste but is still pliable.  It can be colored and rolled out to cover cakes and pastries, or formed into shapes.  It comes in plastic- wrapped rolls.

Blossom of the almond trees, April's gift to April's bees."

- Edwin Arnold

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Almonds

1 cup slivered = 120 grams

1 cup sliced = 85 grams

1 cup coarsely chopped = 85 grams

1 cup finely ground = 100 grams

1 cup powder fine = 85 grams

- Almonds are used in both sweet (dessert making) and savory dishes (thickeners for sauces, used in stuffings for meats).

- Many cuisines use ground almonds in place of flour. 

- Ground almonds can be mixed with water to make almond milk.  The Persians and Arabs made almond milk thousands of years ago and in early China infants were feed almond milk. 

- Almond trees were brought to New England in the 1840s but the climate was not conducive for growing almond trees.  Eventually they made their way to the Central Valley of California which has the perfect climate for growing the trees. 

- There are different varieties of sweet almonds, some sweeter tasting than others.

- Almonds are harvested once a year.

 

 
 
     
 

 

 

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