We cooks are curious people who are constantly on the prowl for interesting ingredients. Once we discover something unfamiliar, we love to start experimenting with it. Recently, I’ve been on an almond flour kick. Almond flour is nothing more than ground almonds. Once difficult to find, it has become widely available in recent years due to the demand for gluten-free ingredients.

There are several different types of almond flour, and choosing the right one is crucial to the success of your recipe. Blanched almond flour has had the brown skin removed, and that is generally what you want — but it is important to be aware of the grind. Some almond flour is coarsely ground and will sometimes be labeled “almond meal.” It produces a gritty texture in baked goods. For this month’s recipes, you need a blanched, finely ground (or “super fine grind”) almond flour.

Almond flour is often used with other ingredients for gluten-free baking, but that hasn’t been my focus. I like almond flour for the taste payoff it can deliver, so I’ve used it in combination with wheat flour in baked goods. Since almond flour has no gluten, it can take some trial-and-error to find the correct proportions when substituting almond flour for wheat flour in recipes. Not enough almond flour and you don’t get the flavor you’re looking for, too much and the recipe just doesn’t work.

The recipe for almond pound cake is pretty close to the classic version of pound cake, but a fourth of the wheat flour is replaced with almond flour. Experienced bakers may be horrified at the amount of pure almond extract in the recipe, but the rich butter and egg batter holds it in check. Eggs provide the only leavening, so it’s important that they are thoroughly beaten.

The frozen almond cream is a light and refreshing creation that is lovely either on its own or served with berries or with pound cake. You can use either fresh egg whites or those that are sold in a carton, but it’s important to read the label since some brands are not suitable for whipping.

The almond cookies are a snap to make, and they will be particularly popular with those who love marzipan, since they have a bit of that taste.

The blueberry almond pancakes are a great way to start the day. The recipe calls for two tablespoons of wheat germ. It’s not absolutely essential, but it is amazing how just a small amount of wheat germ will improve the flavor of any pancake recipe.

Cooking Tip
When measuring flour for a recipe, scoop the flour with one measuring cup, then pour it into another. Level the measure with the back of a knife or thin spatula. This will give you a more accurate measure because flour tends to compact when scooped.



Almond Cookies

    ¼    pound unsalted butter, softened
    1    cup sugar
    1    egg
        grated zest of 1 lemon
    ¼    teaspoon pure almond extract
    ¼    teaspoon salt
    1½    teaspoons baking powder
    1    cup blanched, finely-ground
        almond flour
    1    cup all-purpose flour
1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly grease two baking sheets.
2. In a mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add egg, lemon zest and almond extract and mix well. Add salt, baking powder and almond flour and mix to combine. Fold in all-purpose flour.
3. Take a piece of dough about the size of a walnut, form into a ball and place on baking sheet. Repeat, leaving adequate space between each. (A half-sheet pan will accommodate 12 balls of dough.)
4. Bake until lightly browned around the edges, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer cookies to a cooling rack. Repeat until all the dough is baked.
Makes about 40 cookies.


Blueberry Almond Pancakes

    ¾    cup all-purpose flour
    ¹⁄³    cup blanched, finely-ground
        almond flour
    2    tablespoons wheat germ
    1    tablespoon sugar
    2    teaspoons baking powder
    ½    teaspoon salt
    2    eggs, lightly beaten
    ¾–1    cup milk
    2    tablespoons melted butter
    1    cup blueberries
1. Combine all-purpose flour, almond flour, wheat germ, sugar, baking powder and salt in mixing bowl. Whisk to combine ingredients. Add eggs, milk and butter, stir to combine. If batter is too thick, add additional milk. Fold in blueberries.
2. Grease grill or pan lightly and heat. Cook pancakes until lightly browned, then turn and cook briefly on the other side.
Makes 4 servings.


Almond Pound Cake

    ½    pound unsalted butter, softened
    1    cup sugar
    ½    teaspoon salt
    4    large eggs, room temperature
    1    teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1    teaspoon pure almond extract
    ½    cup blanched, finely-ground
        almond flour
    1½    cups all-purpose flour
1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Butter a large loaf pan.
2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a bowl using a handheld mixer), beat butter, sugar and salt until light and airy, occasionally scraping down the bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating for a full minute after each addition. Scrape down the bowl between additions. Add vanilla extract, almond extract and almond flour, mix to combine. Using a rubber spatula, fold in all-purpose flour until combined.
3. Turn batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Place loaf pan on a heavy baking sheet and bake in preheated oven until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 60-70 minutes.
4. Place pan on a cooling rack for about 20 minutes, then run a spatula around the edges to loosen cake Turn out cake and cool completely on a rack.
Makes 1 cake.


Frozen Almond Cream

    4    cups whole milk
    1    cup sugar
    1    cup blanched, finely-ground
        almond flour
    4    egg whites, room
1. Combine milk, sugar and almond flour in a saucepan over medium heat, whisking frequently, until mixture is hot. Pour into a bowl and cool. Strain through several layers of cheesecloth. Refrigerate until cold.
2. Beat egg whites until stiff. Fold in milk mixture with a rubber spatula. Process in ice cream freezer according to manufacturer’s directions. Serve immediately or transfer to containers and freeze until firm.
Makes about 1 quart.