Eat Well: Almond Flour Power

The following post was written by WWW.  It is also sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds, official snack nut of the U.S. Ski Team & U.S. Snowboarding*. Our nation's best athletes can be even better with your support. Send your words of inspiration to the U.S. Ski Team and U.S. Snowboarding via the "Inspire Team USA" sweepstakes and you could win a $2000 winter gear gift card and a Blue Diamond Almonds Viewing Kit. 
When I wrote last week’s post, I realized afterwards that I forgot to include one of my favorite recipes of the holidays…Michael Kaiser’s cherry almond cake.  Larry’s mom made it for Thanksgiving and again for Christmas…and I made it for several get-togethers in between.  It is really easy and quick to make, and a huge crowd pleaser.  But what is strange about the recipe is that there are no almonds in it.  Only almond extract.  So the second time I made it, I decided to replace a quarter of the flour (in my case gluten-free flour) with almond flour and the results were equally delicious and of course, more nutritious. 
Almonds are really good for you.  They lower your cholesterol, reduce your risk for heart attacks, contain antioxidant flavonoids and vitamin E, alkalize your body, help build strong bones and teeth, and can actually help you lose weight.  We are big almond eaters in our family.  It is the snack of choice on outings, when watching TV, or for a quick meal on the fly.  But almonds aren’t just for snacking.  They are useful in many recipes, either as a topping or, when ground into almond meal, in baking, as a breading, and in smoothies.  The problem with buying almond meal is that it is expensive and doesn’t have a long shelf life.  It’s also often made from blanched almonds and the almond skin is where most of the nutrition lies. So over the weekend, Rebecca and I decided to grind our own almond meal and make the almond cake with no traditional flour…only ground almonds. The results were delicious but different from the original….more of the consistency of a torte.

Ground almond meal can be used instead of flour in any dessert breads or muffins that don’t use yeast. It can also be used as the basis for pancakes—with or without other flours.  It is an awesome flour substitute for anyone who is gluten free because it doesn’t require xanthan gum or guar gum to hold together.  You can replace all or some of the flour in your recipes and experiment with what works best for you.  If you replace ¼ cup for every cup of flour (either traditional or gluten-free) there will be no noticeable texture change.  As you add more of the almond flour, the results become denser so you can try adding an extra egg or two, especially when replacing all of the flour.

Rebecca and I used a coffee grinder to grind the almonds (I have an extra one that I use for spices or nuts.)  We used whole raw almonds with the skin on. After grinding, sift and regrind all of the pieces that stay in the sifter. 
larger pieces left in the sifter that need to be reground

Be careful not to grind too long or you will get almond butter.
almonds in a coffee grinder: before 
IMG_1331 ... and after

I also made pancakes from the almond meal.  Using all almond meal made a denser and coarser result, especially since I used un-blanched almonds for my almond meal.  Substituting almond meal in Heavenly Ricotta Pancakes works great since the eggs are separated, adding volume to the cakes. 

Here is my first modified version of Michael Kaiser’s cake. You can experiment around by adding more almond flour and less traditional flour and see what you like best (as you increase the almond flour, decrease the amount of sugar since almonds are naturally sweet.) My springform pan broke, so I used a 9 inch cake pan, but it overflowed a bit, so definitely use a springform pan for this recipe!

Cherry Almond Cake 

¾ cup flour (gluten-free or regular)
¼ cup almond flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder 8 tablespoons
(1 stick) butter, at room temperature, plus additional for the pan
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons almond extract
15-ounce can TART red cherries, pitted and drained (do not use cherry pie filling or sweet cherries)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch springform pan. In a medium bowl, combine the flours and baking powder. Set aside.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. 
Add the eggs, 1 at a time, mixing until combined after each addition. Add the almond extract and mix until combined. Add the flour mixture and, using a wooden spoon, mix just until thoroughly incorporated.

The batter should be very thick. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and, using a rubber spatula, smooth the surface. Spread the drained cherries evenly over the batter.
cherry almond
Bake the cake for 60 to 70 minutes, until golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes.

Carefully remove the side of the pan and set the cake aside to cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature. If desired, dust the top of the cooled cake with confectioners' sugar just prior to serving.
(8 to 12 servings)

And here is a recipe for almond pancakes.  Again, experiment around with the combination of almond flour and other flours to suit your individual taste.
Almond Pancakes
1 cup almond flour 2 eggs
¼-1/2 cup milk or almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla Optional:  ½ teaspoon cinnamon and  a few grindings of whole nutmeg

Combine  eggs, vanilla, and spices.  Add enough milk until the batter is a good pancake consistency (not too thick or too thin).  
Pour large spoonful onto hot buttered griddle and cook until brown.  
IMG_1380 IMG_1383
(The almond meal browns quickly so watch that they don’t burn.) Flip over and cook until brown.  Serve with real maple syrup, fruit, and cinnamon on top.
Here are some other of my favorite almond recipes: 


GGC, here. The following is an easy almond/kale pesto recipe c/o Blue Diamond Almonds' High Performance Chef (who is at this very moment prepping athletes at the USSA Center of Excellence training facility and kitchen in Park City, UT.) In Chef Allen Tran's words, “Nutrition is a key component of our athletes’ high performance training program. Our snowboarders and skiers must sustain their energy for long, exhilarating workouts and competition. Blue Diamond Snack Almonds are ideal snacks for our athletes because they are high in protein and rich in fiber which helps them maintain their energy levels.”


What do you like to do with almonds?


P.S. Thank you for all of your kind comments and suggestions last week. I am planning on incorporating them into my 2014 posts! Happy cooking!