Sunday, April 10, 2016

How to make Blanched Almonds

Thank you for being patient. 

I know I haven't been posting as punctually or as interestingly as usual. There's been a lot going on around here and I'm just trying to get used to it all. Everything is new right now - new city, new home, new job and new recipes!

After three years living abroad, I'm back reunited with my baking equipment. I missed my coloured plates, my tart pans and my favourite spatula. I'm learning how the afternoon light comes through my windows and what angles make my cookies look their best. I'm also learning that I can still eat four cookies in one sitting. That kind of skill never wears off.

Now that all of my cupboards are full, my cake pans are stacked and the empty boxes are gone, I can settle back into comfort baking! I'm still working on stocking my pantry but I'm nearly there. One thing I do have is a giant bag of almonds not just because I love eating them, but because I love to bake with them too.

I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to make macarons with extra egg whites from another recipe and never had almond meal in the pantry. I always have a big bag of raw almonds for snacking though. So annoying. Today is no exception. I have egg whites, I have almonds, but I have no almond meal. I've made macarons with ground raw almonds with the skins on... they taste great, but they lack the delicate, refined look and fine texture of the original.

Almond meal made from blanched almonds is a great ingredient for baking. It blends readily into batters and doughs and gives a more sumptuous texture and richer flavour. Down side? It can be pricey. Those smooth pearly kernels have a reputation of being fancy because they are usually associated with artisanal chocolates and European tortes. Fortunately they really just are exactly what they are - blanched almonds. You can make them yourself at home without having to pay the marked up price for the labour of boiling water. I'm sure you are just as capable of that.

First bring a pot of water to a full boil.

Add your raw natural almonds and boil for exactly 1 minute. Just 1 minute. The brown skins loosen up brilliantly and the smooth almond kernel pops out so easily that you will probably pelt a few right across the kitchen! Guess how I know that?

Don't boil them for any longer or they will become too soft.

Easy done! No fuss, but a lot of fun.

Once you've squeezed every ivory-coloured nut from its skin, lay them out on a baking tray to dry. Then you can pulverize them in a food processor until finely ground.

A recipe that makes great use of almond meal but is often a pain to find in stores is marzipan - a sweet almond paste used by pastry chefs and chocolatiers to make confectionery and all sorts of truffle fillings. In the coming weeks I'll show you how to make marzipan at home, and how to make a simple small batch of macarons.

I've also started on Instagram. I know! I'm so old and lame and I've totally missed the boat. But if you would like to follow my baking/fooding/eating life as a pastry chef, then you can find me here @christina.marsigliese

Stay tuned. Stay hungry. Stay sweet.

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