Almonds made easy
By Jane Dummer
Almond flour is a nutritious and versatile option for your baked goods.
What pops into your mind when you think almond flour? For me, it’s my recent trip to California that included the Almond Board of California sponsored event “The Almond Harvest.”
As the gluten-free trend continues, bakers require ingredients that are easy to use, versatile and have a great taste. It’s a bonus when the ingredients have good nutrition profiles too. Shobna Kannusamy, owner and head pastry chef of SOIRETTE Pastry Boutique in Vancouver, has been using almond flour for over four years.
“Almond flour is very high in protein, low in carbohydrates, and low in sugar. It’s gluten-free, fragrant and moist,” Kannusamy says. “Plus, it’s full of monounsaturated fats and is high in magnesium and manganese. Almond flour is a great alternative and can be easily worked into recipes.”
Almond flour comes in varying qualities and granulation. And we know it’s not a direct one-to-one substitution of almond flour for traditional all purpose or pastry flour. SOIRETTE is famous for their macarons, so I asked Kannusamy about using almond flour in her recipes.
“Recipes for the macarons are very straight forward as they have few ingredients, which is why high quality ingredients and proper methods are key. The meringue needs to be strong and have the correct volume. The almond flour needs to be fresh, smooth and free of clumps to work in a macaron batter. Macarons come in varying colours these days, but the real test is with plain macarons, where you can observe the granulation of the almond flour. We process our almond flour further to get the best results. They also don’t bake for too long, so that we can prevent discolouration.”
Over the past five years, I’ve heard from artisan and home bakers that almond flour offers a desired taste and texture not available from most other gluten-free flours. Kannusamy agrees.
“We also make a gluten-free chocolate torte using almond flour. In this case, the almond flour is actually toasted first to enhance its nutty flavour and dry out the moisture. It is then mixed into a batter of melted chocolate with eggs and folded into a meringue at the end for lightness. This cake bakes for at least an hour in a moderate oven, and has a melt-in-your-mouth feel, as it is served warm. It is one of the most delightful desserts we have and one of our top sellers!”
As a writer and food traveler, I was thrilled to be at this year’s Institute of Food Technologists’ Annual Meeting & Food Expo (IFT) in Chicago in July. It was IFT’s 75th annual event, with more than 23,000 food professionals from around the world getting a first-hand look at the latest trends, which included gluten-free ingredients and applications. I had the opportunity to meet and interview Jeff Smith, director of marketing for Blue Diamond Global Ingredients Division at the Expo.
“Almond flour has a rich and buttery taste that is slightly sweet,” Smith explains. “It has an incredibly smooth texture, unlike many gluten-free flours that tend to be gritty and rough or have an ‘off taste.’ Due to its taste and texture, it is an optimum flour substitute, and works in both sweet and savoury options.”
After my Almond Harvest experience, I connected with Smith again to get more details about their almond flour research. Smith described his experience with almond flour granulation.
“From our extensive market research, we found that there was not a consistent standard for how almond flours were distinguished in terms of granulation. The artisan baker who produces products such as macaroons desires truly extra fine almond flour. After our research and product testing, we established a standard for extra-fine flour that was above the other products we tested.”
As consumer demand ignites more innovation in the gluten-free baking sector, it is safe to say almond flour is a great option to meet nutrition, taste, and ease of use for both the artisan and the large-scale commercial bakers.
Jane Dummer, RD, is known as the Pod to Plate Food Consultant. She collaborates and partners with the food and nutrition industry across North America. For more ingredient information and to sign up for her newsletter, please visit www.janedummer.com.