Saturday, September 18, 2010

May I Take Your Coat?

There are these cookies I want to make... but they require a specialty* ingredient that I don't have, and can't justify spending money on right now. It's also not the kind of thing that can be substituted for or left out entirely either.

It's almond paste.

But these cookies I saw looked so sweet, so simple, so tempting. Sometimes a recipe will call out to me, "bake me up and love me!" and I just can't ignore its plaintive plea. I fight it sometimes, but don't always win. Cookies for some reason seem to call out the loudest. These little sweet things I saw the other day, were downright insistent.

So I came across this recipe, it cried out and was heard. My first thought after, "oh dang, I don't have any almond paste" was, "I wonder if I can I make it myself?". Internet says..... yes!, almond paste can be made from scratch (and pretty easily too). You start with blanched almonds. Stop right there! I didn't have those either... but guess what? I found out that almonds are ridiculously simple to blanch yourself (and way cheaper too).

Directions for blanching almonds are easily found all over the web and (as per usual) each one is ever so slightly different. I decided to go with the method I found in one of the cookbooks on my shelf. Yep, it was there all along...

How To Blanch Almonds
Adapted from In The Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley (2001), page 255
  1. Boil a big pot of water then add the almonds to it.
  2. Wait for one minute... one teeny tiny little minute.
  3. Strain the almonds and put them into a bowl of icy cold water.
  4. Swish them around until they've cooled off, strain them again and put them in a bowl.
  5. Get out two more bowls: one for the naked almonds to go into and another for their jackets.
  6. Sit in front of a favorite movie and mindlessly squeeze the jackets off the almonds.**
  7. Spread the bare almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  8. Dry them in the oven at 300° for about 12 minutes.
  9. Once they've cooled, they're good to go (or wrap them and keep in the freezer for later).
My Notes: I couldn't believe how easy this was, and am completely delighted to find one more thing that I'll never have to pay more for! Woo hoo! Make sure to use a deep bowl when popping the almonds out of their jackets. They can and will attempt an escape. This would be a super fun activity for kids to help with. My inner-kid thought skinning almonds was way cool and totally trippy. If you have the time (and/or kid helpers) you might as well do a big batch of these. I blanched a pound and a half of almonds, which was just what I happened to have in the fridge.

*Specialty... a word synonymous with: expensive, gourmet, exotic, hard to find, something you'll only buy once a year, etc.

**In lieu of a movie, I put this CD on the stereo and envisioned myself as an underpaid underling in a chic Parisian pâtisserie, sitting in the corner, skinning mountains of almonds. Next time I'm definitely putting a movie on instead. It reminded me too much of my last job (the "underpaid underling" part did anyway).
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  1. I love this make your own goodness!! If I ever need blanched almonds I'll give it a try. Paris dreams and all.

  2. This is totally cool! I am sooo going to do this. You're the best, Stephanie!

  3. Kristin: It's SO simple and fun! Granted, it's not something we use often, but it's great to know that we'll never need to buy them (or pass up a recipe if we haven't any on hand)!

  4. Laura: It IS cool... and good clean fun for the whole family! Like a science experiment you can eat!


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