Pastry technique: Make your own almond flour
December 17th, 2010 | 73 Comments
Right now I’m hard at work on a big, comprehensive French Macaron tutorial. It will be ready in a week or two, so I hope you look out for it.
Meanwhile, I’m going through almond flour as if I had a silo of it in the backyard. Somehow the grocery powers-that-be decided that us regular, hard-working folk will be charged a premium, nearly a mortgage payment, for packaged ground almonds. I guess the simple act of grinding almonds makes them worth twice as much? I’m staging a revolt.
Making your own takes a few minutes and you can get the same fine, light texture as the store-bought counterpart. It’s better to use a blender or a coffee grinder as opposed to a food processor because the result is more finely ground, and keeps the nuts from releasing too much of their natural oils. (But if you only have a food processor, that will still yield a workable result.)
And obviously you’re not limited to just almonds. You can dabble in pistachio flour, hazelnut flour, pecan flour, walnut flour. Some flours will end up oilier than others, depending on how fatty the nut is. Put on your lab coat, er, apron because this allows for flavor experimentation. Build a whole new flavor profile simply by substituting one nut flour for another in, say, a cake recipe. What used to be an almond cake with mixed berry compote, can now become a pistachio cake with sour cherry compote on a whim.
The other day I was glued to the food channel — surprise, surprise — and a famous chef was demonstrating a seafood recipe. I was hoping, perhaps foolishly, to learn a few tips, but he went through the recipe as though reading it out of a book. The instructions were presented as a list of actions — “score the fish, sear it, blanch the green beans, throw them in ice water.” Yes, the directions were all there, but you’d never understand the hows and whys of it from the way he was explaining it. He never touched on why he scored the fish, why he threw the vegetables in ice water. I should mention I used to work for this guy, and I was frustrated with his presentation. I knew he knew better.
It’s like telling a golfing novice that they need to hit the ball toward the hole. Ok, yes, I get that, but what’s the best way to stand, how hard do you hit the ball, which club is best to use? Without learning all the techniques, you’re just blindly going through the motions.
And simply following a recipe is also just going through the motions. How can anyone really learn to bake and do their own flavor variations, and alter a recipe to their liking if they don’t understand the hows and whys of how it works behind the scenes? How each ingredient contributes to the end result?
I’ve been doing recipe tutorials so far, and touching on techniques throughout each one, and as long as I have blood in my veins, those will continue. But I want to share more tips and techniques that I learned over the years so they can be applied to many recipes, not just the one I happen to be showcasing. I’ll be adding a METHODS navigation button on top so the list can be used as a reference. And the almond flour is first up.
Here are a few other inspired, useful tips and tricks that my fellow bloggers have posted. Definitely worth a look.
1. Elizabeth, over at Guilty Kitchen, shows how to make your own brown sugar, if you find yourself without.
2. MarzipanMom explains how to turn any cheesecake recipe into bars.
3. Joy the Baker, makes her own vanilla extract.
Almond Flour (or any nut flour)
Take some blanched nuts, almonds in this case (and they don’t even have to be blanched if you don’t mind the dark flecks you’ll get from the skins.) You can also try using roasted nuts for an earthier-tasting flour.
Throw them in a blender or coffee grinder. I use about a cup at a time. If the machine is overloaded, the blade may have a hard time reaching all the nuts, and the grind will be uneven.
Pulse a few times until they are finely ground. Don’t let it go for too long, otherwise the nuts will release too much of their oils and things will get pasty (which is ok, if you’re going for nut butter.)
Here’s a batch using unblanched nuts in a food processor. Still pretty good, but not as fine. The skins make the flour darker.
Once the nuts are ground, you can pass them through a sifter. I’m shakin’ the sifter.
Whatever larger pieces don’t make it through the sifter can be thrown back into the blender with the next batch of nuts for additional grinding. The finished flour can be stored in ziploc bags, either refrigerated for a month, or frozen for a few months. Make as much or as little as you need.
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