Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Flour Power - Grinding Almond Flour

Something has been tugging at my subconscious over the last week.  I am sure the seed was planted when I made Maple-Nut Macaron and, having Maple Butter-Creme remaining, Dios Torta.  Both of which contained Walnut "flour", though the Macaron could have just as easily utilized Almond Flour or Hazelnut Flour.  Thus, I began contemplating Nut Flour.

True, you can grind nuts fairly finely in a food processor, if there is enough sugar to prevent "butter" from forming as the oils are released and the nuts heat up.  The chopping of the blade and the swirling around the processor bowl causes a lot of friction which heats the nut's oils.  But what if your recipe is devoid of confectioners' sugar?  Well, there is the smashing method for the softer nuts, like Walnuts and Pecans, wherein you place nuts in a zipper bag and crush them, like cookie crumbs, with a rolling pin.  This too causes some friction and actually squeezes the oil out of the nuts leading to a slightly "sticky" nut flour/meal.

And that is the underlying problem... 

True nut flours are light and airy, just like wheat flour (thus the term "flour") and neither the crushing method nor the processor method make fine, fluffy "flour" out of nuts.  They really produce more of a "meal".  This is not really an issue for me, in most cases.  I tend to use nut meal a lot as a coating instead of bread crumbs, but sometimes you NEED the flour.  So how do you get it?

You can buy it, of course, if you can find it.  There's nut "meal" a plenty on the market, but the finer ground flour can be troublesome to track down.  It's available on the internet, but I get tired of having to "order" everything ALL the time simply because I cannot find a local distributor.  I am one of those people who needs to see, smell and touch what it is I am purchasing when it comes to food.  Nuts go stale fairly quickly after shelling & grinding, and I don't want to end up with a 15 lb bag of stale flour.

For the home cook who doesn't need 15 lbs of flour at a time, there are the nut graters... Not grinders, but graters.  (available on Amazon)  Composed of a fine grating cylinder ensconced in a plastic housing with a hand crank and a hopper for gravity feeding that can clamp to your counter.  You feed the nuts into the top, crank the handle and fine nut flour drifts out the side and into your bowl.  I decided that it was kind of a uni-tasker, as Alton puts it, so moved on to other pursuits.

Then, the other night, I awoke from a dream at 3:30 in the morning, completely gobsmacked by the implications of my subconscious nighttime revelation.  I've noticed that I often experience food related epiphanies in the middle of the night.  (yes, I do dream about food.... a lot... when I am not dreaming about computer geek stuff)  The point is, that I woke with a single thought in my head.

"HEY, I have a rotary grater for Parmigiano-Reggiano!"

Satisfied, that I had solved one of the "great mysteries of the baking universe" and restored peace to the kitchens of the world, I returned to my slumber.

Thus it was, the next morning, armed with raw almonds, a cheese grater and a lot of elbow grease, I manufactured my own Almond Flour.  (technically, I should have blanched them first, but Almonds don't have the extremely bitter skin that Hazelnuts have, so I didn't worry so much about it)

Almond Flour

What you need:
Almonds (or other nut of your choice)
Rotary Cheese Grater (with the fine cylinder attached)
Elbow Grease
Zipper Bag for storage

It helps if you know how much flour you are gong to need, by weight.  Since the whole almonds would weigh the same amount.  That is the nice part about weights in baking.  If your recipe is based on volume measurements, like most American recipes, you are going to have to kind of guess a little.  1 cup of whole almonds will be almost 1 3/4 cups of almond flour due to the amount of "air" you are incorporating into the finished product. (I need 200 grams or 7oz of flour, so I grabbed 200 grams of whole almonds)

Cold, not frozen, nuts work best, as there will still be some heat produced by the spinning grater drum. (it's primarily a precaution)

So, simply fit the smallest grater blade into your rotary grater.

Add almonds.

Press down gently on the arm and turn the handle. (and turn and turn and turn and turn and turn and re-fill the hopper, and turn and turn and turn)

Yes, it's a little bit of work, but it only took about 10 minutes of grating to produce 7 oz (200g) of Fluffy, Light, Finely ground Almond Flour!

As opposed to the much coarser "meal" you often find in the grocery store... (even though it is often labeled as "flour")

Since the flour will begin to go rancid quickly after being so finely ground/grated, I suggest moving it to a zipper bag and storing in the refrigerator or freezer until needed. (even if it's only overnight, 'cause fresh is always best)

Now I'm ready for another Torte.



Patti T. said...

I have a grinder just like that. Waiting to see what you do with this nut flour.

Shane Wingerd said...

I may have to postpone the torte for a couple days. There has been an outcry for more Macaron. Luckily, I decided to test this method on Pistachios as well. Grating pistachios causes a little bit of static, so you have to whack the grater every once in awhile to knock the built up flour out of the cylinder. Other than that, it worked just as well. So I will be making Pistachio Macaron before I get back to my torte. :)

Anonymous said...

Discovered this exact thing about 15 years ago. Used it for pistachio crusted flounder, among other things, back when I had time to cook.

Carrie said...

What a fabulous idea!! Not that the 'meal' is anything to complain about, but having a finer texture for some baking would be worth the effort. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Thank you thank you!! After refusing to purchase small bag of almond flour from local grocery store for $50, your 3am brainstorm is truly successful. I have already phoned two gluten free families and we are all overjoyed. Well done.

Candied Nuts said...

Great post.. You shared really wonder full blog thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Years agi I bought an old Moulinex electric grater set on ebay - it had a fine grate drum just like your hand held one. It finally gave up the ghost & I just bought a new Caso electric grater on Amazon, with a fine, coarse and slice drums. It makes the fluffyest (sic) perfect size gratest walnuts for tortes and nut cakes. Pricey ($89.00) but wonderful & worth every penny. Check it out. J.A.