- Introductory post and an offering
- September 12th, 2009
This comm is a wonderful idea. I love crafting of all kinds, cooking, baking, gardening, photography and just about anything you can do with your hands. I love creating!
Lately, since I was diagnosed a diabetic, I've been very much about low carb cooking (and trying to veer away from gluten), especially baked treats. One of the essential ingredients in low carb baking is almond (or any other kind of nut) meal/flour. Nuts are naturally very low in carbs but unfortunately rather high in fat. But it's a very healthy fat.
The trouble is, nut flours and nut butters are so damn expensive. So I foraged around and found out how to make my own at 1/3 to 1/2 the cost. It's easy and you have the added value of knowing exactly what, and in what proportions, you have in the end product. The only specialized equipment you need is a coffee/spice grinder to make the flour (a food processor - at least mine - just doesn't get it fine enough) and a food processor (you could use a blender but it would be more difficult) to make nut butters.
Blanching almonds: You have to boil them for 1 minute. I found that it needs to be done in small batches so the skins slip off easily. I bring a medium saucepan full of water to a boil. I have a large tea strainer that I dump about a cup of almonds in then set it across the top of the pan so the almonds are in the water. Timer on for 1 minute. Timer goes off and you lift out the strainer and run the contents under cold water for a few seconds then dump the almonds on a towel and blot dry. Dump the almonds on a big plate and go sit in front of the TV. Hold an almond between thumb and forefinger, pointed end pointing away from your palm and pinch. The little sucker just squirts right out so be sure and have your other hand ready to catch it. Then I put the slightly damp, nude nuts on a layer of paper towels to completely dry. If you keep the pan of water on a low simmer, the next commercial break you just crank up the burner and have another batch ready for the next segment of the show. I tried doing a larger batch but when the nuts dry off and cool down they're harder to rid of their skin. When I have a bag done I pop them in a 350 degree oven in a single layer for 2-3 minutes to crisp them up. I store the cooled nuts in a baggy and when I need almond flour (almond meal really) I run several handfuls through my coffee grinder. You have to experiment and gauge how long to grind the nuts. You want it as fine as possible, but if you go too far you'll turn it into a paste. If you do go too far - nut butter! Just run the meal through a fairly coarse strainer of some kind to get out the chunks and larger granules and save them to add to you nut butter processing. Easy and so fresh. And considering a 1 lb bag of almond meal runs about $10-11 bucks locally and I can get the same amount of raw almonds for less than half that, it makes it very worth my while.
Almond butter is even easier: Dump a single layer of almonds (or any other nut for that matter) on a baking sheet and pop it in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 min. You need to pay pretty close attention since they can go from golden roasted to burnt in no time. You'll be able to smell the difference. Stir at least once during roasting. Dump the nuts onto a plate to cool a little but it's OK if they're still a little warm - good even because they'll be softer. Place the warm nuts in the food processor and pulse at first to chop them up. When they're fairly fine, just let the machine rip. It'll take 3-5 minutes and you'll probably have to stop once or twice to knock down the nuts off the sides and depending on how dry they are you might need to add 1-2 tsp of neutral tasting oil (I use walnut oil but canola, sunflower or safflower oil would work nicely too), but it'll soon turn into a paste. Don't get too anxious and add the oil too soon. You might not need it. Just give the nuts time to do their thing. Add a little salt if you like but be gentle, it won't need much.
The almond butter will be gritty and creamy at the same time - not a smooth paste like peanut butter. If you take the time to blanch the almonds before turning them into butter the end product would probably be a lot smoother but not nearly as tasty or nutritious. As a matter of fact, I saw the skins off of the blanched almonds, toast them lightly and throw them in with the whole nuts for an even toastier and more robust flavor. A 12 oz jar of almond butter locally is $6.99 or more. I can make it for $3.49. Again, well worth my time and I know exactly what's gone into it and how fresh it is. I don't know about walnut or pecans yet (but I intend to try) but I understand macadamia nuts and cashews make a nice smooth butter.