Unusual Foods: Almond Meal

—by Monica Rojas

Almond meal is simply whole sweet almonds ground up until they reach a texture close to corn meal. It is sometimes confused with almond flour, but they are two different things. Almond meal is made with the whole almond, skins included, and is not ground up as much as almond flour, which is made of almonds without the skin and is ground finer. Almond meal is most commonly used in baking, and is the key ingredient in marzipan. Almond meal’s roots, as used in today’s kitchen, come from France, where it is a common ingredient in pastries.

There are dietary benefits that are now making both almond meal and almond flour more popular. Some companies claim that replacing 25 percent of the flour in your baking with almond meal will add wonderful texture and flavor while reducing the total carbohydrates. It can also be a substitute for wheat flour, making it a very useful tool in gluten free baking and for those on low carb diets.

Recipes

Marzipan
(http://thegracefulkitchen.wordpress.com/2013/03/23/homemade-marzipan/)
300 grams (10.6 ounces) finely ground almond meal
200 grams (7 ounces) powdered sugar (it’s okay to use less, but it will yield less marzipan)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon almond extract 1/3 cup water
Sift together the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Mix together lemon juice, almond extract, and water. Stir the wet mixture into the dry mixture, one teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Form into a log inside a sandwich bag and chill until stiff.

Magically Moist Almond Cake
(http://www.bobsredmill.com/recipes.php?recipe=1298)
3⁄4 cup butter, unsalted
1 cup sugar
1-1⁄2 cups almond meal/flour
1⁄2 cup organic coconut flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
4 eggs
1⁄2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until fully blended. Add milk and vanilla; mix until combined. In a separate bowl, combine flours, salt, and baking powder. Beat the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and beat until creamy. Spread into a greased 9x13–inch cake pan and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. Serve with fresh fruit and whipped cream.

French Macaron*
(http://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/macaron-french-macaroon/)
3 egg whites
1⁄4 cup white sugar
1-2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup finely ground almonds
Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat. Beat egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until whites are foamy; beat in white sugar and continue beating until egg whites are glossy, fluffy, and hold soft peaks. Sift confectioners’ sugar and ground almonds in a separate bowl and quickly fold the almond mixture into the egg whites, about 30 strokes. Spoon a small amount of batter into a plastic bag with a small corner cut off and pipe a test disk of batter, about 11⁄2 inches in diameter, onto prepared baking sheet. If the disk of batter holds a peak instead of flattening immediately, gently fold the batter a few more times and retest. When batter is mixed enough to flatten immediately into an even disk, spoon into a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip. Pipe the batter onto the baking sheet in rounds, leaving space between the disks. Let the piped cookies stand out at room temperature until they form a hard skin on top, about 1 hour. Preheat oven to 285°F. Bake cookies until set but not browned, about 10 minutes. Let cookies cool completely. Create sandwich cookies with the finished macarons.
*Not to be confused with a macaroon.

[Monica Rojas works with elementary-age children, most textiles, and foods.]