Once upon a time, I thought I brought enough store-bought almond paste to make some Icelandic Almond Rolls to my commercial kitchen for market. Much to my horror, I did not check the contents of the box, and grabbed one that only had half of what I needed.
This error in judgment turned out to be a blessing: it forced me to find out how to make my own almond paste, which was both stupid easy, and made the roll filling even tastier and easier to work with. So unless there’s a super sale on packaged almond paste, I won’t be going back.
You may be asking yourself, what is almond paste, what would I use it for, and why should I make my own? And, like me, who thought for the longest time that they were the same, how is almond paste different from marzipan?
Firstly, almond paste is a combination of ground, blanched almonds (AKA almond flour), sugar, salt, a binder (such as an egg white), and sometimes almond flavoring. You can also make an almond paste that doesn’t contain egg white as a binder – honey or corn syrup might work, although I haven’t tried these.
Almond paste is used in all kinds of treats, from pastry fillings (as in the aforementioned almond rolls) to tortes and tarts (such as frangipane) to fillings for candies and truffles, as well as a base for homemade marzipan. It’s delightful, lightly sweet, and moldable, to boot.
Almond paste differs from marzipan in that it has considerably less sugar (marzipan tends to have a 2:1 ratio with the almonds), and the paste is a coarser product because of this. Marzipan is an almond candy that can be molded more easily into fun shapes and decorations for cakes and confections. This is good to keep in mind if you do, in fact, go out and buy almond paste: make sure what you’re buying is almond paste and not marzipan. Otherwise, you may be in for an unwelcome surprise if you try to bake with it.
Now, as I said before, you can buy almond paste pretty easily at grocery stores, so why would you want to make your own?
- Packaged almond paste tends to be expensive. Like, upwards of $2/ounce expensive. Good almonds aren’t cheap, but buying them (or almond flour) and making your own is still hella cheaper since you’ll make more of it.
- Packaged almond paste is, well, packaged, and often in an non-reusable, non-recyclable foil or plastic bag inside of yet another box. You might use packaged stuff to make your own, but it’s still less packaging per ounce of almond paste.
- Packaged almond paste contains more stuff (preservatives and whatnot) than the homemade variety to make it shelf-stable. Homemade almond paste lasts a good while in the fridge, and up to a year in the freezer (maybe even longer!), so the extra stuff is unnecessary, and doesn’t taste as good.
- Packaged almond paste often doesn’t taste as good as homemade, especially if you’re using the best ingredients you can (as you should always do!). I’ve also found it to be less malleable than homemade, since it’s produced, again, to be shelf-stable.
Speaking of ingredients and taste, you can vary the amount of sugar needed for your own almond paste. I often use the least amount possible to bind the ingredients when making pastry fillings because I don’t like things to be too sweet (and fillings tend to have my adding more sugar to the final product, anyway). However, if you choose to decrease the sugar, keep in mind that the paste will be looser in consistency and will not be as malleable as the 1:1 volume ratio of almond flour to sugar.
All right: it’s time to get right down to the recipe. Go forth, and make your own almond paste and goodies!
Homemade Almond Paste
A very simple way to make almond paste at home! You can grind your own blanched almonds in a food processor to get the required amount of almond flour. You can also vary the amount of sugar based on how sweet and dense you want the paste to be - the more sugar you add, the thicker and sweeter the final product. Feel free to add amaretto or almond extract for more almond flavor.
you will need:
- 1 ½ c almond flour, or 1 ½ c blanched (skinless) almonds to make your own flour
- 1-1 ½ c powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 large egg white
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1-2 tsp almond extract or amaretto (optional)
- If making your own almond flour: place blanched almonds in the bowl of a food processor with the blade attachment. Pulse until finely ground. Watch this carefully so you don’t end up with almond butter instead of flour!
- Either in the bowl of a food processor or a medium mixing bowl, combine almond flour, powdered sugar, egg white, salt, and extract (if using) until a smooth paste forms. (This is more easily and quickly done in the food processor, but I’ve definitely had success just mixing by hand.) Use immediately for baked goods, wrap tightly and store in the refrigerator for about a month, or freeze for up to a year.