Almond Paste Holiday Joy

Sometimes I find that it is just easier to make an ingredient yourself when you can’t easily locate it.  Case in point the venerable item of almond paste, found in many old school baking projects.  When I was a kid my mom used it to create marzipan fruit which she painted with delicate colors to resemble the real deal.  These dainty tasty treats were displayed on a crystal plate and served to company. I was lucky to get one itsy bitsy peach which was gone in one small bite of deliciousness. Don’t ask me how a woman with seven children found time and energy to make marzipan fruit.  Maybe because she didn’t have a computer or cell phone?

marzipan fruit

Not my mom’s marzipan fruit but still lovely.

Anyway, I wanted to make almond crescent cookies; had baked some last Christmas to much acclaim.  Forgot to get the paste and I was kinda busy cooking up a storm, so I texted my sisters to get some.  They brought almond filling, not the same, not even close. Bummer as we didn’t have time to shop again that day. I returned to the grocery store for the umpteenth time later this past week to get the right stuff and found no plain almond paste, only coconut or chocolate almond paste; weird.  I bought some marzipan, thinking it would do.  Nope.  Not the same; too sweet for a replacement in my recipe. So I googled almond paste and came up with a recipe to make my own.  Back to the store for plain almonds. I bought whole ones, they were out of blanched ones.

almonds

To blanch you heat a big saucepan half full of water to a boil; dump in the almonds and let them cook a couple minutes until they float.  Skim off and lay on a rimmed baking sheet, let cool a bit and then peel the skins off, your nails come in handy for that part. That can take a few minutes, maybe do it while you watch a Christmas movie or special.  Then bake those damp almonds on that rimmed cookie sheet at 170 degrees for 20 or 30 minutes to dry them out.  Do not brown.  Let cool completely before proceeding with the recipe.  FYI: rimmed baking sheets are the best; they bake things more evenly with less burning than plain un-rimmed sheets.  I found two old ones that are sturdy and with 1/3 inch rims, perfect.

blanched almonds

This recipe went together in just 5 minutes once I had the blanched almonds ready.  It makes really great tasting almond paste; better than the redi-made stuff. Good to know, just in case you can’t find any at the store.  FYI: I will post the almond crescent recipe but not today, one post at a time!

shortbread cookie 009

This was a cool experience because I learned something. Before, I just took almond paste for granted; now I know that it isn’t too difficult to make my own and it is really yummy homemade!  A bonus is that I got to use my ancient Hamilton Beach 2 speed processor, a faded refugee from the 1980’s.  It seldom comes out to play except when I make a big batch of carrot soup as I have a mini one that is perfect for most blending jobs.  This time it was the right size, got the job done and that is what counts!

Almond paste

INGREDIENTS

1.5 cups whole blanched almonds

1.5 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1 large egg white, lightly beaten, room temp

1/2 tsp almond extract

Yield: 1 lb (2.5 cups) almond paste

Directions:

  1. Place the whole blanched almonds and 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar in a large food processor (at least 7 cups in volume) fitted with a steel blade. Process the nuts and sugar until the nuts are very finely ground, stopping periodically to scrape the sides of the processor bowl. The sugar will help prevent the nuts from turning into almond butter, but done over process.
  1. Once the almonds are very finely ground, add the rest of the powdered sugar and blend until it is completely mixed into the ground almonds.
  1. Stop the processor and add the egg white and the almond extract. Turn the processor back on and process the almond paste until it comes together in a clump in the food processor.
  1. If it seems very sticky, add a little more powdered sugar, a spoonful at a time, until it is smooth. I didn’t need to do this.
  1. You can use the almond paste at once or wrap it to use at a later date. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then store it in a zip-top bag. Wrapped this way, the almond paste can be kept for up to 3 months in the refrigerator or 6 months in the freezer. Make sure to bring the almond paste to room temperature before using it in recipes.

PS: I forget exactly where I found this recipe, It is by Alton Brown, (my hero) just google almond paste and it should come up!

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