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Almond paste is an absolutely ubiquitous, don't-you-dare-not-have-it pantry staple in our house around Christmas time. Between the Dutch, Swedish, and German heritages that make up our family, almond paste shows up in a whoooooole lot of traditional Christmas recipes.
The problem is – and yes, you've heard this before – it uses refined sugar. A lot of it.
So, what to do when you're planning on giving in to the aforementioned love of almond paste and eating copious amounts of it? You find a method that allows you to use a sugar that's not highly refined.
Yes, you're still eating sugar, and yes, that definitely means some modicum of moderation should be called for, but you will be reducing the absolute havoc that is wreaked upon a body by ingesting highly refined sugar.
But all preaching aside, this method of making almond paste is simple and stunning. In my estimation, it makes a far superior paste to the egg-and-powdered-sugar version that I've made in the past. This tastes like it came straight off the confectioner's worktable in the old-world and it's just the right texture to knead and shape as desired.
And one note about using both sugar and honey – I've tried the recipe using various amounts of each, including JUST sugar or JUST honey, but definitely the best texture and best moisture is found with the ratio used here.
- 250 g (~1 2/3 cup) whole, blanched almonds
- 125 g (~9 tablespoons) unrefined cane sugar
- 37 g (~2 tablespoons) honey
- 45 g (~3 tablespoons) water, more as needed
- 2 teaspoons almond extract OR cherry extract - optional
- If your almonds aren't pre-blanched, blanch them (see directions below).
- Place the almonds in a food processor and grind until they are the size of very coarsely ground coffee. Let sit until the sugar mixture is ready.
- Place the sugar, honey, and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a full, rolling boil over medium-high heat. While it's still boiling, pour the syrup over the almonds, then process until smooth, which usually takes 5-10 minutes.
- At some point in the first few minutes of grinding, add the almond extract through the feed tube so that it gets thoroughly worked into the dough.
- If the dough isn't cohesive after processing for several minutes, add more water 1 teaspoon at a time, letting each addition get fully worked into the dough before adding more.
- Remove the almond paste from the processor and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or a damp tea towel (although it will likely stick a bit to the tea towel - be forewarned). Place in the refrigerator until fully chilled, then use as desired.
How to Blanch Almonds
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil, then add any amount of raw almonds. Let the almonds simmer for about 60 seconds, then drain them and run them under cold tap water to stop the cooking process and completely cool them. Pour them out onto towels and pat them dry. At this point, you should notice the skins beginning to shrivel, so at that point, squeeze and rub each almond gently until the skins begin to peel off. Use the blanched almonds immediately or store them in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 6 months.
I give the amounts in weights merely because I find I have more consistently good results when I use my scale rather than my measuring cup. However, it's certainly easier to use a volume measure, so I've included estimates for those as well.
I originally published this recipe with double the quantities, but a few commenters in the past mentioned that making this recipe burned out their food processors, which absolutely breaks my heart. Thus, to lighten the load, I have HALVED the recipe. If you know your processor can grind through heavier doughs, feel free to double it or simply make two batches.