Question: So many recipes for almond paste, and it is so expensive, while almonds themselves are not that high. Is it possible to make your own almond paste?
Answer: Yes, it's possible to make your own almond paste. Remove skins from whole shelled almonds by covering the nuts with water in saucepan. Heat to boiling. Drain and slip the skins off by pressing the almonds between thumb and forefinger.
Here are two almond paste recipes, a regular uncooked mixture and a cooked version from "The Cook's Handbook" by Prue Leith (A&W; Publishers: $14.95). The cooked almond paste, the author says, is a softer, more malleable product than the uncooked paste.
ALMOND PASTE sg 11/2 cups whole blanched almonds 11/2 cups sifted powdered sugar 1 egg white 1 teaspoon almond flavoring 1/4 teaspoon salt
Grind almonds in food processor, or portion at a time in electric blender. Combine with powdered sugar, egg white, almond flavoring and salt. Knead to stiff paste. Makes about 11/3 cups. Will keep months in refrigerator if wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or stored in airtight container.
COOKED ALMOND PASTE 2 eggs 3/4 cup superfine sugar Powdered sugar, sifted 3 cups ground almonds 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Beat eggs until smooth in top of double boiler. Stir in superfine sugar and 11/4 cups powdered sugar. Heat over simmering water, beating until light, thick and creamy. Remove from heat. Add almonds, vanilla and lemon juice. Mix to paste. Knead until smooth on board lightly dusted with more sifted powdered sugar.
Q: I made an ice ring mold with some fruits and holly leaves during the holidays, but the mold turned cloudy. Can you please give some pointers on how to produce a clear mold? Also, how do you keep the fruit or other elements in place in the ice?
A: First of all, use distilled water. The impurities and bubbles in ordinary tap water will cloud the liquid. However, even with distilled water, the ice mold will still turn cloudy if it is prepared more than 24 hours before serving.
To prepare the ice ring, place about 1/2 inch of distilled water in a ring mold. Freeze just until a thin coating of ice forms on the surface. Crack the ice with the tip of a spoon, then arrange the garnishes in the water. Each garnish piece should be partially submerged. Freeze until hard. Then add another layer of chilled distilled water, about 1 inch, and freeze until solid. Fill the mold with more chilled distilled water and freeze. Avoid over-freezing by placing the mold in the upper part of the freezer. Use as soon as completely frozen solid or store no more than 24 hours to prevent cloudiness.
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