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VOL. 36 | NO. 5 | Friday, February 3, 2012

Don’t let that almond paste go to waste

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We say goodbye this week to the first month in 2012. I don’t think it is just me, but it seems like time is running past. I imagine 2012 is going to go by quicker than 2011.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned many of the food holidays for 2012. Well, Jan. 31 is National Brandy Day, so if you partake of the spirits, you can lift up a toast to the last day of January.

I would rather celebrate the 30th. It is a holiday of food I love but don’t get to enjoy much (sad face). January 30th is National Croissant Day. I love croissants! Love them. However, due to their lack of nutritional value, and the abundance of calories, I don’t eat them often.

A small (I’m talking “mini”) croissant has 114 calories, six to seven grams of fat, 20 mg of cholesterol and 208 mg of sodium. That doesn’t sound too horrible, but remember, that is a mini-croissant, and the way I like to eat them doesn’t help matters, either.

My favorite way to eat a croissant is just heavenly. Turn the oven to broil. Split croissant in half and place on a cookie sheet. In small bowl, mix some softened butter with a small amount of almond paste. Spread over tops of croissant and broil until nicely browned and crisp. Enjoy with a steaming hot cup of coffee. I tell you, you will never go back to just a plain, buttered croissant.

Almond paste is so sweet; you only have to use a dab or two of it in the butter. It mainly consists of ground almonds and sugar, but it also contains binding agents such as cream, oil or eggs to hold the ingredients together. Almond paste is similar to marzipan, although marzipan contains much more sugar.

If you are going to make this yummy croissant, try to have another recipe on hand that uses the remainder of the almond paste. It is rather costly and it does not keep very long after opening it, if you are not going to use it right away, store it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator until you are ready to use. It sort of reminds me of brown sugar. After it is open for some time, if not stored properly it starts getting hard. The easiest way to prevent having to throw it away is to use it up. And what do you know… I just happen to have a recipe for you to do just that! A good Valentine’s Day recipe.

I also have a recipe for making your own almond paste, if you would rather do that. It is much cheaper than the store bought brand and it makes quite a bit more paste. Have fun with this yummy food.

Chewey Almond Butter Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup shortening

6 ounces almond paste

1-1/3 cups sugar

1 egg

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

In a large bowl, cream the butter, shortening, almond paste and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Combine flour and baking soda;

gradually add to the creamed mixture.

Place teaspoonful two inches apart on

parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake at 400

degrees eight to 10 minutes,or until lightly

browned around edges. Place pan on

wire rack to cool.

Yield: about six-and-a-half dozen.

Homemade Almond Paste

3 cups raw almonds (not blanched or roasted)

3 cups powdered sugar

2 egg whites

1 teaspoon almond extract

To blanche almonds: heat a large pot of water to boiling. Blanche almonds by pouring them into the boiling water. They’ll expand as they boil. Boil for one minute. Drain immediately and let cool for a few minutes. Once cool, peel off and discard skins.

Re-measure the three cups of blanched almonds to make sure you have exactly three cups. Place the three cups of blanched almonds in a food processor and let run until the almonds are crumbly – one to two minutes. Add the powdered sugar and blend one to two minutes, processing the mixture as finely as possible. Add the eggs white and process until they are fully incorporated. Once egg whites are added, the mixture will form a very firm and sticky dough. Store in airtight containers in the refrigerator.

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