I didn’t bake with almond paste until a few years ago, and now I can’t stop. Rich introduced me to marzipan (which is almond paste’s sweeter cousin) when we were dating, and I can’t say I was a fan. I’m not sure when that all changed – probably with my first taste of an almond-filled croissant from the French bakery in our neighborhood. Let me say, it is dangerous to have that bakery so close. Good thing their pastries are so expensive!
I used to buy almond paste in the grocery store when it was on sale. When it was fresh it was fine, though not that flavorful. But when it had been on the shelf for a bit, it was hard and tasted even less like almonds. I wished I could find a fresher source, but I never thought to make my own, until I read a few discussions in the home baking forum that King Arthur Flour hosts. It sounded so easy to make – and it is.
Almond paste goes together in no time, and makes the softest, most delicious almondy goodness that you could ever imagine. Okay, that might be a little dramatic, but it is really good.
The basic (and only) ingredients are almonds, sugar, egg whites and almond extract. I use blanched whole almonds. They make a pretty white almond paste, and I can easily pick them up at a global foods market that is fairly close to home. I have searched online and there are companies that sell almond paste made from regular almonds that still have their skins. I need to try it and see how it works. It will be darker, of course. I’m not sure how much the almonds skins would add to the flavor. I do make almond shortbread cookies with natural almonds and they are fabulous, if that is any indication. I’ll make some with natural almonds soon and let you know how it works.
If you have a food processor or blender you can whip up the almond paste in less than five minutes. I usually make about a pound at a time, but you can certainly double the recipe if you have a big enough food processor. Mine has an 11-cup capacity and it might just handle a double recipe. Most recipes call for 7-8 ounces of almond paste. I divide my batch into two halves and store it in the freezer. It takes only minutes to thaw into luscious, soft, fragrant almond paste – ready to use instead of butter and cinnamon sugar in your favorite cinnamon rolls, to layer in brownies or to mix up in a batch of blueberry almond muffins.
Do you like almond paste? Have you ever baked with it? Or are you an almond newbie?
From The Cook’s Life
Makes about 1 pound
Don’t use artificial almond extract. If you can’t find pure almond extract, just leave it out.
1½ cups whole blanched almonds
1½ cups powdered sugar
1 egg white
½ teaspoon pure almond extract, optional
Pulse the almonds and the sugar in a large food processor until the almonds are finely ground. This should only take 1-2 minutes. Make sure the nuts are finely ground, though don’t grind them into almond butter.
Add the egg white and the almond extract and process again until the almond paste forms large clumps.
Empty the food processor onto a plate or the counter and use your hands to press the clumps together into a ball or disk. I like to divide the paste in half, into 8-ounce portions, since most recipes call for that amount.
You can use the almond paste immediately, or store it in the fridge or freezer. I like to wrap each portion in plastic wrap and then slip it into a zip lock bag before freezing. Give the paste a few minutes on the counter to thaw before using, or a few hours in the fridge, if you plan ahead. The paste will keep in the freezer for 4-6 months and in the fridge for a few weeks.