How to Make Almond Paste – Or Not!

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2016. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

Almond PasteLast week I posted a recipe using almond paste. One of my regular readers asked me if I had a recipe to make almond paste since it is so expensive. At the time I remembered seeing such recipes so I hopped on the internet and found quite a few.

Most of them featured blanched almonds, powdered sugar and egg whites as the binder.
Armed with a pound of almonds, plenty of powdered sugar and egg whites, off I went.

The first hint of a problem was getting the almonds fine enough. Processor blades dull after a while and I don’t know if they can be sharpened.  I generally just replace mine.  However, since my processor is on it’s last leg, I haven’t and the blade is not as sharp as i would like it.  So I restorted to placing them in a blender with the powdered sugar and it did a great job after a lot of scraping and blending. After the nuts were finely ground, I transferred the mixture to the processor and added the egg white. It balled up into a gorgeous mass and when shaped into a log it looked spectacular.

I went to bed that night happy with my conquest. Almond Paste – DONE!!! When I woke up the next morning I had a nagging feeling of needing to test my perfect product.

The Almond Macaroons were my test. Following my instructions, I added the egg white and instead of the mixture standing up so it could be piped, it oozed. Not a good sign. But I continued on (remember this is a test) and piped them. After a 30 minute wait I baked them where they spread into large, round amaretti like cookies. Not bad, but I was looking for Almond Macaroons.Almond macaroons piped for How to Make Almond PasteBaked almond macaroons for How to Make Almond Paste

Undaunted, I went old school and referred to my professional books. Bo Friberg’s, “The Professional Pastry Chef” had a recipe using a simple syrup as a binder which I much preferred over the egg white.

I also used almond flour instead of grinding the nuts. According to Nuts.com ” Almond flour is a low-carb, gluten-free baking alternative to standard wheat flour. As you might have guessed, this flour is made of almonds (and only almonds), which are first blanched to remove the skin and then ground up to a very fine consistency, similar to that of wheat or cornmeal.”Almond flour for How to Make Almond Paste

After making and cooling the simple syrup, I put the ingredients in the processor and watched happily as the almond paste came together. More firm, I thought. Much more like the real thing. In keeping with my need to test, I made another batch of Almond Macaroons. They held their shape and looked gorgeous on the tray as I waited the 30 minutes before baking them.

When I opened the oven, I was astounded. Although not quite as bad as the first batch, these too, spread out and seemed to melt before setting. These did retain some of their piped shape but, in a couple of words, were really ugly!   I did nothing but take these out of the oven – even though some look like I took bites out of them.  That was later.  However, the good news is they taste fantastic. As good or better than the original recipe made with the purchased almond paste.Second batch of baked almond macaroons for How to Make Almond Paste

This version would be fantastic for marzipan if you were making marzipan since it doesn’t contain egg white. And the cookies would be good in a crumble or crisp. Maybe even in fillings if bolstered by other ingredients. But for baked, stand alone products, not so much.

Finally, I went back to the computer and read about how Solo makes their almond paste. There it was – they cook it. That makes perfect sense as it would dry out the moisture in the paste allowing it to keeps it shape when used in stand-alone products such as cookies.

What I have figured out is there are some things that are better bought, even though expensive.

So here are the recipes and the results. If anyone figures this out and can make my Almond Macaroons with their version, please share with the rest of us. I will happily run it and give you credit.

Almond Paste with Simple Syrup and Almond Flour
1 cup +2 tablespoons almond meal or almond flour (140 grams or 5 ounces)
1 cup +2 tablespoon powdered sugar (140 grams or 5 ounces)
3 tablespoons simple syrup – recipe below
1 tablespoon almond extract

Combine the almond flour and powdered sugar in the processor bowl. Process briefly to mix well.

Combine the simple syrup and almond extract. Stir well. Pour over the dry ingredients in the processor in a circle. Process until it looks like sand. It will not ball up. Almond paste finished in processor for How to Make Almond PasteHowever, it should come together when a small amount is pinched. If it is too dry, add more simple syrup very sparingly, just a bit at a time.

Pour it our onto a work area and push it together. Knead it several times; then shape into a log. It can be used immediately as it is very firm.Almond paste in a roll for How to Make Almond Paste

Use where almond paste is called for.

This can be stored well wrapped at room temperature for a week or so. Store in the refrigerator or freeze for longer storage.

Yield: 300 grams or 10 1/2 ounces

Simple Syrup
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/3 cup +1 tablespoon sugar (75 grams or 2 1/2 ounces)

Put the water and cornsyrup in a small saucepan. Add the sugar and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.Simple syrup for How to Make Almond Paste

Yield: About 1/2 cup

Almond Paste with Almonds and Egg WhiteIngredients for almond paste1 1/2 cups blanched slivered almonds (170 grams or 6 ounces)
1 1/2 cups unsifted powdered sugar (195 grams or 7 ounces)
1 egg white
1 tablespoon almond extract

Place the almonds and powdered sugar in a blender. Nuts and powdered sugar in blender for How to Make Almond PasteBlend until there are no lumps of nuts when rubbed between your fingers. Scrape down often. I poured my mixture into a bowl several times because it cakes on the bottom. It is important to get this mixture silky smooth.

Transfer the mixture to a food processor. Add the egg white and almond extract.Egg white added for How to Make Almond Paste Process until a ball forms.Almond Paste balled up in processor for How to Make Almond Paste

Remove from the processor and place on a piece of plastic film. Shape into a log. Almond paste in a roll for How to Make Almond pasteWrap in the film and refrigerate until firm.Almond paste wrapped in film for How to Make Almond Paste

Use as directed in recipes where almond paste is an ingredient.

Yield: 14 ounces or 400 grams.

Roasted Peaches with Amaretti Crisp

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2016. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

Roasted Peaches with Amaretti CrispThe original recipe for the Roasted Peaches with Amaretti Crisp came from “Bon Appetit” and, of course, I had to dink with it a bit. This topping is so versatile it can be used over other fruit, ice cream or anywhere you want a bit of sweet crunch.

The cookies are readily available in Italian stores (think The Hill in St. Louis) and are great on there own. Low in calories too!  If you are a purist, see my recipe for Amaretti Cookies.

Peeling the peaches for the Roasted Peaches with Amaretti Crisp can be a chore, but if the peaches are ripe, as they should be, the simple trick of popping them into boiling water for a couple of minutes, makes removing the skins a snap. Cut an X in the bottom of the peach skin before dunking it.  Leave it in until you can feel the skins loose. Run it under cold water as soon as it is done and just slip the skin off. Continue reading

Breville Mixer vs. KitchenAid Mixer

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2016. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

Breville stand mixer with attachmentsThere’s a new stand mixer in the kitchen and its name is the Breville mixer. It’s sleeker, quieter, more powerful and all around a better mixer than the KitchenAid as far as I am concerned and I have been baking professionally for over 30 years.

I never thought I would buy anything but a KitchenAid stand mixer. I remember well first seeing a lift bowl KitchenAid K5A on Julia Child’s TV show. I was just beginning to realize that food was to be my career with the emphasis on baking and pastry. It helped that Julia was able to teach so well – and I devoured every word and every recipe. Not only was she able to bring a whole new food culture to America but she did it in such a way that she was able to make you believe you could do it too. She was my first teacher and she lit a fire inside that still burns today.

At the time there was no internet, no easy way to find information. I finally tracked it down and I remember being horribly upset because it was so expensive and I couldn’t afford it. Shortly thereafter my husband came into a small inheritance which he was happy to share. I used my cream colored K5A until just recently when I finally came to terms with the fact that I had to let it go. I used that mixer more than normal – much, much more than normal and it never ever let me down. I bought an extra bowl, whisk and paddle beater so I wouldn’t have to wash the bowl when two were needed to complete a recipe. Continue reading

Chocolate Strawberry Ruffle Cake

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2016. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

Chocolate Strawberry Ruffle CakeThis Chocolate Strawberry Ruffle Cake  came about when a friend of mine was gathering items to auction off to help someone.  She wanted a spectacular, showstopper of a cake  cake that would draw a high bid.  I was happy to donate the cake.  I had made the cake, filled it and frozen it a week earlier. The day came to finish it and the night before she was to pick it up,  we lost all power – for 19 hours.  I couldn’t open the freezer or fridge until the power came back on.  So this Chocolate Strawberry Ruffle Cake never came to fruition for the auction.

This is another example of a cake made from recipes already on the blog.  One of the reasons I love baking and pastry is that it is infinitely changeable.  The chocolate cake is one of my base cakes that I use over and over in different versions. Continue reading

No Bake Peanut Butter Bars

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2016. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

No Bake Peanut Butter BarsThese No Bake Peanut Butter Bars are quickly put together and just as quickly eaten. These can go on a picnic or serve as dessert for an outdoor dinner. If you love peanut butter cups these are a bigger, better version. These No Bake Peanut Butter Bars fall into the ridiculously easy category and are great for something to do with the kids department.

I will be demonstrating these Thursday, June 2nd on KMOV-TV’s Great Day St. Louis at 9:00 a.m.
Continue reading