If you’re like me, you may not consider using an ingredient in a recipe because it costs more than you’re willing to pay. But, if we learn how to make some of the foods we consider a “luxury”, we can possibly save enough money to give it a try!
One of the food items I have been really interested in using is almond flour. Many folks are using almond flour or almond meal as a substitute for wheat flour when possible. There are two reasons why I wanted to try this. One reason is that almonds naturally are rich in nutrients. The other reason is that almond flour is a low-glycemic food, as opposed to flour. These both were reasons enough for me to investigate making my own almond flour. Nutritious, delicious, and low glycemic. So, what is almond flour or almond meal?
Probably the most popular use for almond flour is in coatings for baked and fried fish and chicken. Think of it as cornmeal, basically. Almond flour can also be used like bread crumbs as a filler/binder in meatballs, and the like. Also, consider using almond flour or almond meal as a topping for your casseroles instead of the traditional breadcrumb and butter mix. Almond flour can be used to replace regular flour in quick breads and muffins, but not in a dough-type bread.
Now, if you go to a health food store or specialty shop, you can find almond flour and almond meal, but the price is a bit high, especially if you’re comparing it to wheat flour.
Almond flour or almond meal is made very simply by pulverizing almonds. The product produced by grinding up blanched almonds (the white kind) is almond flour. The product produced by grinding up raw almonds (the brown kind) is almond meal. Either way, the consistency is not powdery like regular white flour; it is similar to cornmeal but has a somewhat moister feeling due to the natural oil in almonds.
With that said, my friend and I experimented with creating our own almond meal. Once again, the trusty Magic Bullet was put to work.
Using raw almonds to produce almond meal, we started out filling the larger container of the Magic Bullet about 3/4 full, and quickly realized that was a mistake! The instruction booklet (which we read after starting, of course) clearly states that you should not try to grind more than 1/2 a cup of nuts at a time.
As you can see, once we dumped out the almonds that exceeded the 1/2 cup limit, the grinding worked fairly well. The fact is, a food processor or full-sized blender might have worked a little faster, but the convenience of the Magic Bullet was worth a try. It did make a racket as the blades tried hard to crunch up those almonds. Maybe a little pre-chopping would have helped, but in the end, the Magic Bullet did the job and the almonds were pulverized in 1/2 cup increments quite successfully.
One note, however, don’t blend the almonds too long or you’ll eventually end up with something like almond butter, which isn’t bad either, except if it’s not what you wanted.
Now, can you actually save money on almond flour or almond meal if you grind your own?
Yes, indeed. The yield was 1 to 1 – in other words, we started out with 1 1/2 cups of almonds and ended up with 1 1/2 cups of almond meal. Since you can buy 32 ounces of almonds for about $10, and a 32 ounce bag of almond flour can cost about $27, I guess if you want to cook with almond flour, you’re much better off grinding your own. I have not yet shopped around to see just how cheaply you can buy almonds in bulk or almond flour in bulk, but I’m guessing the price difference between making your own almond flour and buying it pre-packaged is just going to become more evident.
Later that week, I used some of my almond meal to coat some chicken cutlets, and they turned out juicy inside and crunchy on the outside, exactly as I wanted. Just like with flour, I added a little salt and pepper to the almond meal, coated the chicken cutlets, and put them on a shallow baking sheet in a hot oven, about 375 degrees, for about 20 minutes, turning once. You do get a nice nutty flavor, although it is subtle.
This is my challenge for you today – if you’re interested in cooking with almond flour or almond meal, give this method of producing your own a try. The price is right, the flavor is wonderful, and the nutritional value is worth the trouble!