Thursday, March 4, 2010

Almonds on the Brain and the Road

Almonds have been on my mind a lot lately...whole unblanched or blanched, slivered or sliced and toasted, they are perfect to toss into a bowl of cereal, on top of a casserole or pilaf or just eaten out of hand,their flavor and nutritional profile are hard to beat. Lots of protein, calcium, iron and vitamin E. I like to keep some in a jar with other seeds and nuts in a jar as high energy road food.

Almond milk purchased in the tetra-paks at the grocery store are too sweet and weak...the homemade kind is so much better. Here's a great detailed tutorial at The Vegan Reader, and how I made almond milk earlier this week. It could not be easier : Pour 1 1/2 cups of whole unblanched or blanched almonds into a jar or bowl, cover with water and soak for 12 hours in the fridge, or up to 3 days ( if soaking longer than 12 hours, pour off the water after 12 hours and then rinse the almonds twice a day ). Toss the nuts into a blender along with 3 cups of filtered water and blend, blend, blend until it's ground up very fine. Pour the contents of the blender into a fine mesh sieve ( or colander ) that has been lined with several layers of cheese cloth and is straddling a bowl large enough to catch the milk. Let it drain for 10 minutes, then twist cheesecloth up so that you can wring out the almond pulp. Keep twisting and wringing until your hands cramp or you're not getting anymore milk. Save the pulp ( it's just enough! ) for the following cookie recipe, which btw, would also make great road food!

Almond Almond Cookies
Adapted from Christina Pirello's recipe for Pignoli Cookies in her wonderful "This Crazy Vegan Life" book. These are a soft, not too sweet cookie. Experiment with the kinds of flours and even the nuts that the cookies are rolled in.
Makes about 25 cookies. Preheat oven to 350.
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/4 cup oil ( sunflower, safflower, avocado, canola...)
1 cup almond pulp
1/2 cup evaporated cane sugar
2 tablespoons brown rice syrup, or maple syrup
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup almond milk ( see above !)
1 cup toasted, chopped almond slivers in a shallow bowl
Whisk together flours and baking powder together in a medium bowl. Combine oil, sugar, almond pulp and syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until well combined and smooth...about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in almond extract and almond milk and let cool for 15 minutes or so. Stir the almond mixture into the flour mixture and combine to make a soft, sticky dough. If it looks dry add a little more milk, if it's too wet, add a little more flour. Roll dough into 1 1/2" balls , then roll in the chopped almond slivers and arrange on the ungreased cookie sheet. Press down a little to flatten them out somewhat and to set the slivers into the cookie. These dont spread out much, so you can space them about 1" apart. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Remove cookies from sheet immediately and cool on a cookie rack.
Try to save some for the road.

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