Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Almonds, almonds and more almonds!

Almonds go back in history to 1400 BC. In ancient societies the almond had a symbolic value. The Romans showered newly weds with almonds as a fertility charm. Later travelers ate almonds as they traveled the Silk Road between China and the Mediterranean. The almond was first brought to California in the mid 1700's by the Spanish missionaries. Today almonds are not only a healthy food but a valued source of trade.
Almonds are eaten whole, in slices, slivers, chopped, as flour or meal, as paste or butter, as an oil and an extract. It can be used in sweet or savory applications or simply as a snack food. Almonds are a healthy food. They are a good source of vitamin E, fiber, plant protein, calcium & are cholestrol free. Healthy and delicious!
I use almonds in many forms in many of the sweets I prepare. Two in particular that quickly come to mind is: almond biscotti and pignoli cookies. It is the almond version of my biscotti recipes that I go to and are requested the most. The almonds are coarse chopped before adding to this dough. I have found that if whole almonds are used as some recipes suggest the log will crumble when sliced. I also use some almond oil &/or almond extract in this dough. Not only do they taste incredible but the aroma in the house is unmistakable.
Pignoli cookies have just a few ingredients and is simple to prepare. The most important ingredient for success, the ingredient that disdiguished this cookie from all others is the almond paste. Although it is possible to make your own I opt for the commercial version and always have some in my freezer.
Well, that's two of our favorites. What are yours?

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