Tag Archives: almonds

Almond Flour and Roasted Apple Scones

7 Jan


There has been an internal debate going on in my head over what to call this particular baked good. Introduced to me over the holidays as a recipe for gluten-free Irish soda bread, the batch I originally tasted was very texturally different than the version seen here. More cakey than bready, and containing raisins instead of roasted apples, the delicious bread, slathered with strawberry preserves, was devoured in the span of a late morning.



What is seen in these pictures is my own version of the bread, made with a very old—and, I suspect, somewhat dehydrated—batch of almond flour that I had sitting around in the refrigerator. The texture of the bread I made was a lot less cake-like than the original, so, in the interest of full disclosure, I feel as though I can’t really call this bread a bread or a cake. Therefore, scones it is!




All that aside, the recipe is also quite delicious. Given to me by a friend who is avoiding gluten consumption, it is not the type of baked good one eats and immediately pinpoints as trying to be something that it is not. Wonderfully nutty, lightly sweetened, and quite toothsome, it is not lacking anything in the way of desirability. If you use fresh almond flour in this recipe, you’ll end up with a treat that has the crumb of a sturdy cake; if you use almond flour that is, ahem, a bit older, the dryness of the flour will result in a drier, though certainly no less tasty, crumb. Truth be told, I loved both versions of this bread/cake/scone. The batch I made was meant specifically for a friend of mine who is diabetic, and therefore has to maintain strict control of her carbohydrate intake. Though she is often deprived of sweets in general, I’d like to think that her enthusiasm over these scones was based more on upfront taste, rather than on relief over finally being able to eat a baked good. In either case, I’ll take it as a good sign that, though I can eat gluten and carbohydrates, I find this recipe wonderful enough to make any time I am craving something warm from the oven.


Last Year: Cod and Leek Chowder

Almond Flour and Roasted Apple Scones

Let’s talk texture for a moment. There are a few different types of almond flour one can use in this recipe, and all of those flours will result in a slightly different baked good. Blanched almond flour (that is, almond flour made with almonds with the skins removed) will produce a more tender product, as will any fresh almond flour that you grind up yourself. Almond flour with the skins ground in will produce a more crumbly baked good, though one that is no less delicious. In regard to terminology, I have found that there is a 50/50 split between companies that refer to their product as either almond flour or almond meal. Without getting into a long discussion about it, the gist of it is, either almond flour or almond meal can be used in this recipe and things will still turn out beautifully.

1 large apple, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch chunks (you’ll end up with roughly ½ to ¾  of a cup—sometimes more, sometimes less—of apple chunks)

2 ¾ cups almond flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons agave nectar (you could also use honey, though be aware that honey will impart a much more pronounced flavor)

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then arrange apple chunks on parchment and roast in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, until the apple chunks feel fairly dry to the touch and are just tinged with a golden hue. Remove apples from baking sheet and allow to cool while you prep other ingredients.

In a large bowl, combine almond flour, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, agave or honey, apple cider vinegar, and lemon zest. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Fold in roasted apple chunks.

On a parchment-lined baking sheet, shape dough (it will be rather sticky) into an 8-inch round. Score the center of the round with a ½-inch deep X. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, then turn off oven and allow round to sit in oven for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before slicing into triangles.

Makes 6-8 scones, depending on how you choose to slice.

Ginger Almond Toffee

12 Dec

It’s not tough to find a specialty chocolate shop in Portland, or in most any other city, I suppose, but it is certainly not easy to find a shop that is not only staffed by some of the friendliest, most knowledgeable chocolate fans around (sidenote: I once knew someone who worked in a chocolate shop and was allergic to chocolate, which is just absurd when you think about it, because wouldn’t you think, and hope, that a chocolate shop, selling chocolate and all, would want to hire people who could, you know, readily sample and talk honestly about  their product without breaking out in a rash?) but also offers a truly creative selection of chocolate treats.  Alma Chocolate, in Northeast Portland, is that chocolate shop.  Sure, everyone makes salted caramels nowadays, but how about habanero caramels?  Or a Thai peanut butter cup, a dream of a chocolate confection that layers your mouth with hits of lime, chili, and ginger?  How about a chevre and black pepper truffle?  Do you see what I mean?  It’s chocolate taken just a step further, from pleasingly creative to utterly inspired.

Though not their most unusual of offerings, Alma’s ginger almond toffee bark is a great example of the way their take on confections can be given a bit of a lift.  The toffee is perfectly melt-in-your-mouth, enveloping large chunks of spicy candied ginger and toasted almonds.  Most people take the timid route with this type of toffee, unfortunately, peppering it only moderately with tiny little bits of ginger, and pulverizing the almonds into an almost powdery layer that only hints at its presence.  But Alma knows better, and they know that if someone wants to eat ginger almond toffee, they want to eat ginger, and almonds, and toffee, each component standing front and center.

It might seem odd to wax rhapsodic about a chocolatier and then immediately turn around and attempt to make their product at home instead of heading out and buying something to support that chocolatier, but, when I have an affection for something, this is how I show it.  If I am truly enamored of something, I like to make it a part of my life, and a toffee of this caliber is most certainly worthy of being part of my life, and the lives of other people I know who happen to be partial to smooth chocolate, rich toffee, snappy ginger, and crisp almonds.

Ginger Almond Toffee

Inspired by Alma Chocolate

1 cup toasted whole almonds

heaping ¼ cup crystallized candied ginger

1 ¼ cups white sugar

¼ cup light brown sugar

3 tablespoons water

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 teaspoon molasses

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon baking soda

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Separate the almonds into ¾ cup and ¼ cup piles.  Chop the ¾ cup pile very roughly, basically just chopping each almond roughly in half (you want these almonds to maintain a good bite).  Chop the remaining ¼ cup pile into a medium-fine dice and set aside.

Coarsely chop the heaping ¼ cup of crystallized ginger.  Line the bottom of an 8”x13” baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper, and evenly scatter the ¾ cup of almond chunks and the chopped crystallized ginger over the parchment.

In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the white sugar, brown sugar, water, butter, molasses, and sea salt.  Over medium heat, cook the mixture, stirring occasionally with a heatproof spoon or spatula, until it turns a rich, dark golden brown and just reaches a heat of 300 degrees.  (This process can take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the heat of your stove’s burner and the heating capabilities of the saucepan you are using.)  Immediately remove the pan from the heat and quickly stir in the vanilla and baking soda.  The mixture will bubble up when the baking soda is added, so be sure to stir carefully but thoroughly.

Quickly pour the mixture evenly over the almonds and ginger.  When the toffee is still hot but just starting to set (about 2 minutes later), sprinkle the chopped chocolate over the surface of the toffee.  Allow the chocolate to melt from the heat of the toffee, then spread the chocolate evenly over the toffee.  Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup chopped almonds over the chocolate.

Allow the toffee to cool completely before breaking into pieces.  If you want to speed up the cooling process, you can place the toffee in either the refrigerator (more patience) or the freezer (less patience).

Spinach Basil Pesto with Lemon and Almonds

23 Jun

Having a child who happens to absolutely love pesto is both a blessing and a curse.  On the one hand, it’s nice to have a child who will stick a toe in the pool of adventure and happily dig into a sauce that is not only bright green, but also more complex in flavor than the average preschooler’s preferred pasta dish of buttered noodles with cheese.  On the other hand, have you ever been driven to eating pesto three times a week because you live with a tiny person who is prone to bouts of tyrant-like behavior when it comes to food?  No matter what the food, if you are forced to eat it enough, its gloss will soon begin to fade.

Maybe it’s just the repeat performances wearing me down, but I’ve long felt that pesto, that much-maligned sauce of the ‘90s, is in dire need of a makeover. Being a sauce of few ingredients, there are as many ways to make pesto shine as there are ways to make it dull and unexciting, and, much to the world’s misfortune, most pesto ends up suffering the latter lot rather than the former.  It’s too oily.  It’s garlicky enough so as to be considered borderline caustic.  It’s bland.  It’s boring.  It’s predictable.

Guess what?  It doesn’t have to be any of those things.  Breaking apart the simple components of pesto and then dressing them up as you put them back together can yield some fantastic results, and the seemingly endless ways one can Frankenstein together a new type of pesto are limited by only what you may or may not have in your refrigerator on a given day.  Starting from a very basic level of pesto-making, just changing up one or two ingredients can provide your standard recipe with a nice bit of change.  Arugula can get swapped for basil.  A handful of fresh mint can join in.  Fresh tomatoes and walnuts can be tossed into the blend.

Though history may have proven that your kid will eschew spinach in its regular form, you can hide a ton of the vitamin and nutrient packed green in your sauce and, so long as you never let loose your secret, no child will ever be able to detect the difference between spinach pesto and regular pesto.  You know that as long as your pesto still looks like pesto, chances are your kid will never be the wiser.  To appease the adult palette, swapping out roasted almonds for pine nuts not only makes your frequent pesto consumption easier on the wallet, but the hearty taste of the almonds plays nicely off of the subtle nuttiness of the parmesan cheese.  Add in lemon zest for brightness, and you’re on your way to something reinvigorated and fantastic.

This is not pesto from a jar, or tired pesto from a restaurant that seemed to run out of menu ideas sometime during the Clinton administration.  This is pesto refreshed, yet still utterly recognizable as an old standby who you will always welcome, albeit now with a tad bit more enthusiasm.

Bonus information!

This pesto freezes extremely well.  I have been known to make several enormous batches of this pesto at the end of our gardening season when I harvest all our greens.  After I make a huge batch (or two) of the sauce, I pour it into individual serving sizes and freeze it.  Though I have absolutely no recollection where it came from, this silicone baking mold is great for portioning out pesto for freezing:

After the pesto has frozen (at least three hours, or up to overnight), I release the pesto from each cup (this process is super easy when using a silicone mold, by the way, because the silicone cups just peel back and pop the pesto right out), then place the pesto servings in a thick Ziploc freezer bag and toss them back into the freezer.

The pesto will last in the freezer for several months.  When you want to use a block of your pesto, just place one in a microwave safe bowl and defrost for about a minute on high heat.  Alternately, if you are good about planning ahead, you can just place one of your blocks in the refrigerator to defrost overnight for the next day’s meal.  The molds I have are able to hold just a smidge more than 2/3 of a cup of pesto each.  2/3 of a cup of pesto will coat a moderately dressed pound of pasta, or you can cook 3/4 of a pound of pasta and enjoy your pasta a bit more heavily dressed.

Spinach Basil Pesto with Lemon and Almonds

¼ cup slivered or sliced almonds

1 tightly packed cup of fresh basil leaves

2 tightly packed cups of fresh spinach leaves

2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped

zest of 1 large lemon

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

½ cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

In a dry pan, toast almonds over medium high heat until they are golden brown.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor or blender, combine basil, spinach, garlic, lemon zest, and olive oil.  Process or blend for 15-20 seconds to combine and chop.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add cooled almonds and Parmesan cheese.  Process or blend for another 20-30 seconds, scraping down as needed, until pesto is uniformly combined and no large chunks remain.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour sauce over your favorite pasta and toss to coat.  Taste for seasoning.

If desired, top with chopped tomatoes, more Parmesan cheese, and additional toasted nuts.

Makes 1 cup of pesto, enough for 1 pound of pasta.

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