Sweet almonds are among the most commonly used nuts. Ground almonds are used in baking while almond flour is substituted for flour to create dense, moist texture in cakes and cookies. Almonds are also used in savoury dishes.
Almonds can be used as decoration or for pastries such as praline or Italian torrone, or for macarons and marzipan. In savoury dishes they're used for stuffings to salads. Some recipes use toasted almonds which intensifies their flavour and gives crunchiness and more colour.
Almond are available year-round and you can find them in their hard shells, but mostly they are sold shelled in several forms: whole, slivered and thinly sliced.
When buying almonds, look for unbroken nuts. Avoid those discoloured or shriveled. Choose almonds that are sweet and crunchy. Rancid nuts have a bitter oily taste, so avoid them.
To skin the almonds at home, blanch them by puring boiling water over and letting them sit for several minutes before slipping off the skins. Leave them to dry but if you use them right away, dry them on the frying pan for several minutes.
To toast almonds, spread them in a single layer on a baking tray and bake on 180 C until fragrant and lightly golden.
Because they contain oils, almonds can go rancid. Keep them in a cool and dry place for up to a few months. If stored longer, place them in an airtight container in the freezer.
Almond are great addition to the cookies like in our almond polenta cookies, orange curd thumbprint cookies, chocolate almond biscotti and Sicilian almond cookies. They goes also in muffins like in our chocolate almond muffins.