Almond Overview

Almonds add flavor and texture to foods. In cookery, whole almonds complement chicken and seafood dishes, salads, and vegetables. In baking, chopped, slivered, and toasted almonds are added to cakes, candies, cookies, ice cream, and dessert sauces.

Shelled, Unshelled and Bitter Almonds

Shelled (whole) almonds are sold unblanched with brown skins remaining or blanched with brown skins removed, exposing the white kernel. When purchasing shelled almonds, make sure they are plump, meaty, and crisp. Limp or shriveled almonds tend to be stale. Unshelled almonds should be free from scars, cracks, or holes. Bitter almonds contain a poisonous acid called prussic acid. In large doses it’s lethal, but in small quantities bitter almonds may be used to flavor dishes.

Blanching and Chopping Almonds

Blanche almonds by covering unshelled almonds with boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove one almond at a time from water, peel off skins, and place on paper towels. Let dry for 3 to 4 hours.

For best texture, chop almonds by hand using a large, sharp knife and wooden cutting board. A blender or food processor may also be used to quickly chop almonds. Pulse the machine several times to ensure the best texture. Avoid overblending the almonds, since this extracts too much oil, quickly turning the nuts into a paste.

Storing Almonds

Place raw almonds in cool, dry cabinets in airtight jars for up to one year or refrigerate them in plastic containers for 3 to 6 months. Place cooked almonds in the refrigerator in plastic containers for about 2 to 3 months.

Almond Butter Cookies

Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, separated
2 2/3 cups sifted cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped, blanched almonds
48 unblanched whole almonds

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Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cream butter and sugar together until light in medium mixing bowl. Beat in almond and vanilla extracts and egg yolks. Add flour and salt; mix well. Fold in chopped almonds.

Roll mixture into 1-inch balls and drop onto greased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Use the back of a spoon to flatten each ball. Place one whole almond into center of each flatten cookie.

Bake 12 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Yields: About 4 dozen cookies

Ann Schwartz's work has been featured in children's magazines and 49 cookbooks. The retired English, public speaking, and theater teacher received the Library Advocate of the Year Award.

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