Monday, December 21, 2009

How much fun is blanching almonds?

How much fun is blanching almonds?
Quite a lot of fun.
And that is a good thing because I have been a frequent almond-blancher of late.
Why frequent?
It goes back to a discussion last week of the numerous & multifarious holiday baked items that are piled in ancient tin boxes in the pantry, and CSB’s lamentable observation that there was not a macaroon among them.
No macaroons! Zut Alors! Heaven forefend!
It seems that macaroons are de rigueur for the holidays in the hallowed halls of Bedford and the Colony Club.
I have nothing against macaroons. I am fond of them, but that is not saying all that much since my sweet teeth are famous on seven continents.
But what kind of macaroons? When I think of macaroons I think of coconut. I am fond of coconut, in more or less all its permutations, harking back to travels along the Atlantic coast of Costa Rica and stopping every few miles at a roadside stand to buy yet another pipa for my son who had just discovered these local delicacies and had no sense of moderation. Pipas are whole young coconuts with a straw stuck through a hole in the outer shell so that you can drink the coconut water. Young T’s overindulgence in pipas en route to Cahuita had the should-have-been-obvious result.
But CSB does not like coconuts. (I have noted that certain otherwise perfectly reasonable people have an inexplicable aversion to coconut, my sister among them. She has other strange predilections I will not mention here.) The macaroons to which he longingly referred could only be almond macaroons. And this presented a problem, because it seems that in all my vast experience I have never properly made almond macaroons.
I made the first batch with Odense almond paste, and the less said about them the better. I blanched the almonds to put atop the macaroons, but they could not save the day. They could however amuse me. The point of blanching almonds is to promote ease of skin removal, and that skin removal is what is so much fun. With just the slightest pressure of thumb and forefinger, the wily little almonds just pop out of their skin and fly all over the kitchen. (This excited Daisy and Bruno until they realized that nuts were not squirrel meat or old cheese.) Further fun can be had by learning to aim the flying blanched almonds. At first I was delighted to watch them vault into the mixing bowl, but then I got ambitious. I aimed for the recycling bin and achieved the floor. I aimed for the rosemary plant and achieved the floor. I aimed for Daisy’s open mouth and achieved the rosemary plant. I aimed for CSB’s coffee cup, and the results are not yet determined.
For the second batch of macaroons I followed a Martha Stewart recipe. Because Martha Stewart knit ponchos when she was in prison and I happen to be a first-class poncho knitter, so this seemed an appropriate choice.
Her recipe does not call for almond paste but instead for pulverized blanched almonds; as you can imagine, this involved blanching many almonds and this was so entertaining that I became giddily optimistic for the results of these macaroons.
Did I over-blanch the almonds?
Is it possible to over-blanch almonds?
Or did I skimp on the sugar?
Should I have snuck in some almond extract even though Martha doesn’t call for it?
I have another recipe I will try tomorrow. This one calls for pulsing the blanched almonds together with the sugar, and I anticipate enjoying pulsing as much as I enjoy blanching.
It also calls for almond extract.

1 comment:

Rebecca Rice said...

I applaud you for blanching almonds, and for making macaroons, as I have done neither!

Is there a patron saint of cookie baking? Someone who never served jail time, so she can be a better role model than Martha Stewart for all us Christmas cookie monsters?