Almond Flour

I’ve mentioned it before as a staple in my kitchen, but I really can’t emphasize how much I love almonds. Raw, roasted, covered in chocolate, in pesto sauces, garnishing cookies, lining cakes–I could seriously go on for days. Almond happens to be one of my favorite flavors in the world. A close friend of my dad runs a contracting business by day, and enjoys cooking by night. In my free time I’d hang out at his place and do random side jobs for him, in exchange for some extra pocket cash. Sometimes I’d be running spreadsheets or writing his checks, but most of the time he had me slaving away in the kitchen. Which never ever felt like slaving away–cooking was the love of his life, and he needed a sous chef. Which is pretty much how I learned to cook.
He introduced me to the florentine recipe, which we fumbled with a few times–miscalculations turned our lace cookies into macaroons on a number of occasions. From the florentine recipe emerged a serious personal relationship with almond-flavored things. One day, he made almond-flavored ice cream, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so smitten for an inanimate thing (for lack of a better word) ever since. These days, I do not own an ice cream maker and must resort to dreaming of the day I’ll have the resources to reunite with that dish. Thankfully, I don’t have an ice cream maker, though. Only the gods know what kind of trouble I’d get myself into if I did.
Nevertheless, almonds have been known for their good flavor, texture, and their health benefits. It seems to be one of those miracle foods (e.g., garlic, prunes, etc.), but better. They’re high in mono-saturated fats, protein, potassium, fiber, and folic acid–regulating cholesterol, improving digestion, and boosting energy as well as brain development. Amazing!

Given this background, I try to include almonds in many of my dishes. The easiest way to do that is with almond flour. Phrased simply: almonds ground down as finely as you can possibly do so. I’ll substitute a portion of what a recipe would normally call for all-purpose flour with a portion of almond flour. It adds a good flavor, a coarse texture, and convinces me that I’m getting better nutrients out of the dishes I make.

Food processor
2-3 cups slivered almonds
It’s simple, really. You just put the almonds in the food processor, and pulse-grind until the nuts are ground into a fine and light meal-ish consistency.
I say pulse-grind because you want the motions of the food processor to be quick, staccato (hello to my fellow piano enthusiasts), and evenly-spaced out. The reason behind this is that a long, constant grind will eventually release the natural oils from the nuts, and turn your flour into a thick paste–also known as almond butter. Which is delicious, by the way. Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of peanuts or peanut butter, so almond butter serves as my heavenly alternative.
If you would like to take the path towards almond butter, simply add a splash of vanilla extract and perhaps a pinch of sugar, slowly, as your flour turns to a paste. It takes about 8-10 minutes to get to that point. If you’re a Nutella fanatic like me, add some cocoa powder to the butter also, to taste. You could have your own almond version of Nutella (which, by the way, is fantastic with crepes).