Saturday, July 23, 2011

Almond Joy with Recipes for Almond Tart, Almond Party Mix and Almond-Stuffed Dates

Almond and Berry Tarts to Go
 Almonds are probably one of the most universal foods used in celebrations. Many different cultures are nuts for this nut as a symbol of hope, renewal and happiness.

The almond’s connection to marriage is particularly strong. Some traditions are based on there being both bitter almonds (unavailable in the U.S.) and sweet, so they use this relative of the rose and peach as a reflection on the duality of marriage. Others view almonds as symbols of prosperity, fertility and economic security.

Almond customs at weddings, engagement parties and other ritual events surrounding marriage include tossing almonds and coins at newly married couples, serving sweetened rice or couscous garnished with almonds at nuptial events, and offering confections made from almonds. The most famous of these is probably candied Jordan almonds served or given at weddings. The name Jordan is a corruption of the name of the variety of almond (jardin) first used to make this sweet.

Below are some almond-based treats for whatever you are celebrating.  This column is adapted from one that first appeared in j. weekly.

Almond Tart with Strawberries
8 servings

This is my adaptation of a recipe I first made in a cooking class in Paris. Use your favorite tart crust in a 9” removable bottom pan or use a homemade or purchased pie crust in a 9” deep dish pie pan. If you need a crust recipe, check out the easy no-roll crust recipe I learned when I first made this tart.  If you can’t find almond meal (made with unblanched almonds) or almond flour (made with blanched almonds), grind raw almonds in a food processor until fine and powdery.

1 uncooked tart or pie shell
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup almond meal or almond flour
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 Tbs. flour
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon rum or brandy
1 lb. strawberries

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Prick tart or pie shell all over with fork. Place tart or pie pan on baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes or until just golden. If using a frozen pie crust, follow package instructions. Remove from oven, place on rack and let cool completely.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix the sugar with the almond meal. Add the butter and thoroughly blend using fork, pastry blender or fingers until the mixture is evenly combined. Add the egg, flour and rum. Mix well. Place in prebaked crust on baking tray. Bake for 20-30 minutes. The filling should be set but still soft and have risen slightly and the crust should be lightly colored. Cool for 2 minutes on a rack. Wash, drain and remove stems on strawberries. Slice them in half if large. Arrange berries on top of baked tart, pressing slightly into the filling. Let cool. If using a removable bottom tart pan, remove outer ring before serving.

Anya’s Luxe Party Mix with Almonds
Makes about 2 cups of mix

Anya is a friend of mine who is a creative pastry maker and chocolate confectioner. This party mix calls for the best ingredients you can find. To see how I've made this mix with other combinations of nuts and dried fruit, click here.

4 oz. dark or bittersweet chocolate chopped into 1/4” to 1/2" inch chunks.
3/4 cup dried pitted cherries or dried cranberries
1 cup (shelled) whole roasted almonds
1/4 tsp. canola or extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp. or to taste finely ground sea salt.

Combine the chocolate, dried fruit and almonds, drizzle the oil over the mix and toss well. Sprinkle in salt and toss again. Serve in a bowl or small individual dishes.

Almond Stuffed Dates
Makes 16

Many Jewish cultures serve confections such as this at weddings and other lifecycle events. Almond paste is available in the baking section of many supermarkets. Do not substitute marzipan.

16 large Medjool dates (about 12 oz.)
1/3 cup almond paste
8 whole raw almonds (shelled)
Sugar, optional

Cut a slit into the long side of the date, making a deep opening that goes almost from one end of the date to the other. Remove pit. For each date take 1 tsp. of almond paste and roll into an oval. Press inside date opening. Gently squeeze sides. Slice each almond in half. Press half almond on the top of almond paste filling for each date. Refrigerate until 20 minutes before serving. If desired, roll stuffed date in sugar to lightly coat just before serving.


Faye Levy said...

I have a question about your note not to use marzipan.
I was just reading this article:
"What is the Difference Between Marzipan and Almond Paste?"

So the difference isn't clear. Are you referring to Odense products, and the point is not to use marzipan because theirs has more sugar, and the result would be too sweet?

FJKramer said...

My don't subsitute line is standard when I use almond paste.
I find most marzipans are sweeter, have less of an almond taste and sometimes have additional ingredients, so I throw in my do not substitute disclaimer. In this recipe it probably wouldn't make a difference. However, I did not test the recipe with marzipan so I wouldn't want to claim it would work the same.

I usually use love n bake brand when I can find it -- here's a link that supports my observed differences:

I do think brands do vary, though,

Anna Mindess said...

Hi Faith, I love your explanation re: the connection between almonds and celebrations. Fascinating.