Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Eating Paste - Almond Paste

Seriously, if the paste I used in Kindergarten tasted like this, I would have been a paste eater!

Almond Paste and Mazipan are often confused.  While they are closely related, they are two very different things.  The primary difference is the sugar content.  Almond Paste is pretty much a mixture of 45-50% Almonds and 50-55% Sugar.  That is it.  Maybe little bitter almond extract but it's not required.  Marzipan, on the other hand, usually contains over 70% sugar.  What it really boils down to is that Almond Paste is the key 'ingredient' to making Marzipan along with additional sugar, and sometimes egg whites.

I have purchased Almond paste many times over the years.  Odense and Solo being two of the biggest.  But recently, when I started computing how much it was costing me, I was slightly horrified.  Odense usually comes in a 7 oz tube for about $8.99 while the Solo can, being 8 oz, usually sells for $10 or more.  Maybe it is the part of the country I live in; I don't know.  Suffice it to say, it has become extremely cost prohibitive.  When this happens, I usually resort to making my own.

Luckily, Almond Paste is extremely easy to make.  You don't need any special equipment, other than a food processor and a candy thermometer.  As far a "skills" go, well if you have made fudge, then you can make Almond Paste... If you have ever made boiled Fondant then you can make Almond Paste.  For all almond paste really is, a boiled fondant that contains finely ground nuts.

So what was the final verdict?  The flavor is the same, though it IS a little stiffer than store bought due to lack of "Glycerin" and other additives.  As far as price goes... I spent $4.03 on ingredients.  I am sure if I had blanched my own almonds instead of buying pre-blanched, slivered almonds, the cost would have been about $1 less.  But I got 1 lb of Almond paste for $4.03...  That is a significant difference in price; .25 cents per oz. as opposed to $1.25 per oz. or 1/5th of the price.  I no longer have to break the bank to make Banket. THAT makes me happy.  As far as time from start to finish... It took all of 30 minutes, and 15 of that was waiting for the almonds to cool after I toasted them.  THAT makes me ecstatic.

Almond Paste

8 oz (227g) Blanched Slivered Almonds
7.1 oz (200g) (1 cup) Granulated Sugar
2 TB Honey (mild flavored such as Orange Blossom or Vetch)
2 oz (65ml) (1/4 cup) Water
3 TB Confectioners' Sugar
1/4 tsp Almond Extract (be sure it's made with bitter almonds)

Spread the slivered Almonds evenly on a baking sheet.

Toast the Almonds for 6 minutes at 350 degrees. (Lightly toasted only... Cause you will be adding really hot syrup which will also "toast" the nuts)
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine Sugar, Honey and Water in a small saucepan.

Place over medium flame and stir until the sugar dissolves.
Once the syrup begins to boil, insert a thermometer.

Cook the syrup to soft ball stage or 238 F (114 C) degrees.

While you are waiting for the syrup, place the cooled Almonds into the bowl of your food processor and pulse them a few times to break them up a little bit.

Add the Confectioners' sugar.

Process the Almonds and Confectioners' Sugar until the nuts are finely ground but have not begun turning into Almond butter yet. (While Almond Butter is tasty, this wont work if you grind them that fine)  The Cornstarch in the Confectioners' sugar will absorb some of the oil and allow for slightly longer grinding before the "Butter" stage occurs.

Once the syrup is up to temperature, turn the processor back on and slowly drizzle the hot syrup into the almonds through the feeder tube.

Continue processing after adding the syrup until a "dough" begins to form in the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a piece of waxed paper (it will be slightly oily) and begin to knead it (careful cause it's hot)

Once it's fairly smooth, add Almond extract

Knead the extract into the paste and continue kneading until the paste begins to stiffen, but is nice and smooth.

Form into a disk, and wrap in the waxed paper, followed by a secure wrapping of plastic wrap; store in the refrigerator for a couple hours.

I like to form mine into 4 oz chunks and store in a plastic container in the freezer for up to 6 months. (Because I have to keep it out of sight so I don't keep picking little pieces off and eating them)

And there you have it...  From here, you can make several desserts, such as Almond Pastry Cream, Marzipan (by adding Confectioners' sugar and an egg white), Bear Claws, Almond Croissants and Banketstaaf; or you can make the Tri-corn cookies (Parson's Hats) I have planned for later.



Bob said...

I don't think I've ever used almond paste, let alone made my own. Heh, frankly I kind of just want to take a bit of it as is...

Patti T. said...

I think like Bob I would just like to snack on something that good. Another great idea from Shane. I am so glad that you blog, love following you. Wait, did that make me sound like a stalker??? Well, you know what I meant.

Culinary Alchemist said...

Patti - HA HA HA I DID know what you meant. And thank you!

Bob - Yes, it's really dangerous to have around. I must confess that I have eaten 3oz of it, which means I now have to make more before I can make the Banketstaaf. oops!