Almond paste is one of those ingredients that can be hard to find and a bit pricey, yet when a recipe calls for it, there is no substitute. Most often found in marzipan, almond paste has a variety of uses for the home baker. Used as a filling for many pastries, it can also be crumbled down and/or mixed with other ingredients to impart an almond flavor.
Up until this week, I never thought about making almond paste at home. I bet you probably didn’t think it about it either. I had found a recipe from Tartine, one of the most wonderful dessert cookbooks out there. There was an Almond Breakfast Cake in there calling my name, but it required almond paste. Off I headed to our local grocery store, but was super disappointed to find no almond paste. To get it shipped to my home immediately would have cost, not to mention the stuff already costs a lot.
King Arthur Flour sells their almond paste for $9.95 for 10 ounces. Typically in the grocery store you can purchase 7 ounces of various brands for about $8-$10. Now while King Arthur’s brand is awesome, (I’ve used it before with great results), I just can’t purchase as much as I would like even on sites like Amazon where you can buy other varieties in bulk.
I went back home a bit disgruntled until I realized a blessing in disguise. Here I am trying to cut out all processed foods in my diet, and yet I’m trying to buy almond paste….duh. I then did a lot of research and needed to understand what’s actually in almond paste. The basis is slivered blanched almonds and sugar. The almonds are ground down into almond meal (also known as almond flour). From here recipes can vary, but a binder in the form of corn syrup, egg whites, cooking oil or cream are used. I did find out that most commercial almond pastes can use peach or ground apricot kernels to help keep costs down…..not acceptable when it’s called almond paste guys.
When I was digging around for recipes, it was important to me to use the best ingredients in my home, but also to try and make a gluten free, and if possible, a semi-non-perishable version. In the end I settled on the recipe by Jacques Torres aka Mr. Chocolate and master pastry chef. His binder used honey of all things, and I was pleasantly surprised on how the floral notes of the honey sung through and provided a greater depth to the almond paste that I could have ever imagined. While his recipe is almost vegan (depending on where you stand on honey), this version pretty much hit all the areas I required. Below you’ll find the recipe from Food Network and Jacques Torres. By the time everything was said and done, this recipe warranted about 32 ounces and only cost me $15.00 with organic ingredients. Now that I have a lovely excess of almond paste, you may be wondering what I’d use almond paste for.
One of my earliest memories of almond paste came from my favorite birthday cake and favorite flavor combinations, all thanks to my Mom. She started with an angel food cake of which she sliced horizontally. In the middle she’d add almond paste and raspberry jam. She would heat the almond paste up slightly, and then roll it out to layer it evenly between the cake slices. She’d assemble the cake, coat the cake with fresh whipped cream with a little extra almond flavoring, and serve immediately…..Yum, I so need to make that again.
Other uses for almond paste include a filling for croissants, ability to make Italian almond cookies or almond cloud cookies. You can also pickup a copy of Tartine and make their Almond Breakfast Cake. I also like using a portion of it in pie crusts, or in crumb topping. The beauty of the recipe below is because it doesn’t contain egg whites, so it will absolutely stay in the fridge for longer period of time until you decide what to do with it!
So thank you Food Network and Jacques Torres. Go out and conquer those almonds!
Homemade Almond Paste
I cup plus 3 tablespoons (250 grams) Sugar
1/4 cup (75 grams) Honey
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons (100 grams) Water
3 cups plus 3 tablespoons (500 grams) blanched, whole, Almonds or equivalent of Almond Flour
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (50 grams) Kirsch or simple syrup, optional*
Scant 1/4 cup (50 grams) butter*
Place the Sugar, Honey and Water in a saucepan and bring to a strong boil. Place the Almonds in the food processor and grind until coarse. Remove the boiling Sugar from the heat and pour over the coarse Almonds. Blend until smooth. This may take 10 minutes or more, depending on the strength of the food processor. Remember, food processors are not usually strong enough to yield the same consistency as the almond paste that you can buy. If your mixture is too thick and the food processor is straining, you can add a little Kirsch or simple syrup to the processor. Add the liquid slowly and stop when the processor is moving more freely. The quality of almond paste is determined by how smooth the consistency is.
Wrap the almond paste in plastic wrap and allow it to cool. When you are ready to use it, knead in the butter. The butter makes it smooth and not so sticky.
*I didn’t need the simple syrup or butter, my two batches turned out great!
Recipe courtesy Food Network and Jacques Torres