Sunday, April 22, 2012

Almond Flours

One of the more difficult tasks of being grain-free is finding a good substitute for breads, muffins, wraps and the like.  For me, coconut flour, flaxseed meal, and almond flour have been good solutions.  I have listed some of these items in my amazon store.

Almond flour, is the easiest and most versatile of all of my alternatives listed above.  Especially since I've found three different varieties of almond flours that work differently in recipes. 

NOW Foods Almond Flour is the nuttiest and grainiest of the flours I use.  It has a coarser texture than the others that makes it very well-suited for pie crusts. 

Bob's Red Mill Almond Flour is finer in texture than NOW Foods - this is my go-to flour when baking.

But some of my recipes work out better with an even finer texture almond flour.  I discovered by accident that I could make a really fine almond flour when trying to make almond milk for the first time.  As you can see by the picture above, this flour is noticeably finer than the other two.  This is the flour I use when making my Cheesy Biscuits and it does make for a much fluffier biscuit than if I used one of the other almond flours.

The best part of making your own almond milk is that you do end up with your own almond flour - it's like getting two products for the price of one!!  Make sure you buy raw and not roasted almonds.  Here's the process:

Almond Milk
  • 1.5 cups whole or slivered RAW almonds (you can either buy them with or without skins)  
  • Water for soaking (optional) 
  • 4 cups water
          You will also need:  blender, strainer, large bowl, cheesecloth/cotton dish cloth, 
          cookie sheet

If you buy skinless almonds, you can move onto the next step.  If, however, you buy almonds with the skin on them, you'll want to remove those first.  It's not hard, just takes a little time.  Blanch your almonds in boiling water for 20-30 seconds - doesn't take much to loosen the skins.  Then you can "pop" the almond out of the skin by squeezing it.  You may need to work on some more than others.  I do recommend using skinless almonds as you will end up with a whiter and less starchy flour later.

My next recommendation is to soak your almonds for at least 4 hours or even overnight.  You can skip this step, but soaking them first makes the almonds softer and easier to blend.  Put your almonds in a pot and cover with cold water. 

Once the almonds are soft, drain all of your soaking liquid.   Put your almonds in your blender and add one to one and a-half cups of water.  It is easier to blend the almonds into a smooth paste if you don't use the entire four cups of water at the beginning.  Blend for one to two minutes, or until it is a nice, smooth paste.  Now you add the remainder of your water.  I sometimes don't add the entire four cups of water - my resulting milk is a bit thicker and richer this way.  If I want to use the milk for drinking, I can always dilute it later.
Your almond milk is basically finished right now, but it is really chalky and grainy....not something you would really want to drink.  So the next step is to strain out all of the almond solids.  Take a large strainer and line with either a clean, cotton dish cloth or several layers of cheesecloth and place this into a large bowl.  I prefer to use a cotton dish cloth as I think it's easier to strain out just the milk than with cheesecloth - your mileage may vary.  Use what works for you.

It is easier to work with this mixture if you only pour a small amount of your almond milk through the cloth of your choice and strainer into the bowl.  Gather all ends of your cloth and start twisting the ends together.  Some milk will strain out into the bowl.  Now really twist and squeeze and twist and squeeze and twist and squeeze until you can't get anymore liquid out.  Turn out the remaining almond solids onto a cookie sheet and repeat the process until you have processed all of your almond/water mixture from your blender.  I like to strain the milk one more time after this.  Pour your almond milk back into the blender - you will also get most of the remaining almond paste out of your blender this way.  This time, you can probably pour all of the milk through your cloth and strainer at one time because most of the almond solids have already been removed.  Gather up the ends of your cloth and twist and squeeze and twist and squeeze and twist and squeeze until you get all of the milk out.  Again, turn out the solids onto your cookie sheet.

Your almond milk is now done!!  If you want, you add honey, a sweetener of your choice, vanilla, cinnamon etc.  I prefer to keep my milk plain and flavor as I use it if I want.  This will keep about a week in your fridge.  I have found, however, you can freeze it and then thaw it out for later use.  I like to freeze it in one-cup containers - I like these Ball 8 ounce freezer jars.

Almond Flour 

By now you have cookie sheet loaded with globs of almond paste.  Time to make flour!  Spread out the solids as much as you can and place your cookie sheet into a 200º oven.  Bake the almond flour until it is totally dry - this may take up to an hour.  Stir and turn the solids frequently.  If you notice the flour starting to brown, turn off the heat totally and finish drying with the oven turned off.

Once this cools, you have little nuggets of dried almond flour.  Put these nuggets in your blender or Magic Bullet and process until a fine powder.  Voila!  Home made almond flour!

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