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Are you ready to get your almond flour baking skills on?
Last week I taught an almond flour baking class in my home. It’s part of my series of gluten-free cooking classes this year to teach people to bake with gluten-free flours and learn to eat healthy and gluten-free food. I’m not a professional chef, but I do like to cook and share my love of all things gluten-free… plus I love hanging in the kitchen with my GF BFFs.
Almond flour makes baked goods bake up soft and moist and leave no nutty aftertaste. In fact, when I eat baked goods made from almond flour, I don’t taste any almond flavor at all. The fact that almond flour is neutral in flavor is one of the many reasons people love using it in baked goods.
The Benefits of Baking with Almond Flour
One top of having a neutral taste, there are many other benefits to baking with almond flour.
First off, almond flour is naturally gluten-free, so it is a wonderful flour to use in your gluten-free baking. You can make cookies, cakes, muffins and breads all from almond flour. Pretty nifty, right?
The reason people love almond flour is because it’s high in protein and low in carbohydrates. This slows the rate at which glucose (sugar) is released into your bloodstream so you don’t get those pesky blood sugar spikes and crashes. When you enjoy baked goods made with almond flour, you are not eating white flours (which simply convert to sugar in your body), and that’s a good thing.
Almonds also have been recognized as a super food as they support heart health and brain function. Specifically, almonds prevent plaque buildup inside the artery walls as well as contain heart-healthy vitamins such as arginine, magnesium, copper, manganese, calcium and potassium. Almonds, like most nuts, are good sources of brain food because they are high in unsaturated fats and vitamin E.
Some people still shy away from almond because it’s a high calorie and high fat food; however, almonds actually help you lose weight because they curb overeating by making you feel full longer and they keep you from unhealthy snacking between meals since you feel satiated after eating them.
How to Improve Your Almond Flour Baking Skills
Baking with almond flour is quite easy to do, however, it does not generally work as a one to one substitute with wheat flour. I highly suggest you work from recipes you find online, or from Elana Amsterdam’s cookbook, The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook, which is a treasure trove of recipes made with almond flour. However, if you want to adapt a family recipe that calls for wheat flour, try substituting almond flour in the place of wheat flour. You may need more almond flour to get the right texture – and you may have to play around with the recipe in order to get it right.
You’ll notice that almond flour baking requires a lot of eggs. Eggs are essential to giving gluten-free baked goods their shape and rise… so many of my recipes include one or more eggs. If you cannot eat eggs, choose almond flour recipes that only require one or two eggs at the most and and substitute each egg with an egg replacement or flax egg (you can make a flax egg by mixing 1 Tbsp. of ground flaxseeds with 3 Tbsp. water and letting it gel for five minutes). Remember, almond flour does not have any gluten in it to help it hold together, so almond flour baking relies on the other ingredients to bring and hold it all together.
I highly recommend using only blanched almond flour in baked goods as well. Blanched almond flour removes the outer skins of the almond before it is ground into a flour. If you want to make your own almond flour, you’ll want to remove the skins before grinding them (or buy almonds already blanched). Remember, if you process almonds too long in your food processor, you’ll have almond butter (which is delicious too, but not what you’re going for in this case). Almond meal often includes the skins in the flour, so it leaves baked goods with a courser texture and is why I recommend blanched almond flour instead. The skins also contain anti-nutrients known as phytic acid, which inhibit mineral absorption (it’s why so many people suggest soaking nuts before eating them… to remove the phytic acid.)
Finally, almond flour can be stored in a sealed container for 3-6 months in a cool place (I suggest your fridge). If you store it in your freezer, you can extend its life to 12 months or more. Almond flour can go rancid more quickly than wheat flours, so always check your almond flour before using to ensure no spoilage.
Almond Flour Baking Class Overview
At my almond flour baking class, we baked up delicious and nutritious almond flour bread. Look at all these wonderful breads! Everyone got to take home a loaf… but we used my loaf for sampling. I put out some fun spreads sent to me by Rigoni di Asiago, a company that makes wonderful fruit and chocolate spreads. The chocolate spreads were a hit!
Then I wanted to share with the class my favorite chocolate chip almond flour cookie. I’ve made this recipe at least 30 times in my life. It’s a go-to recipe.
But something went awry in the class. In the craziness of getting everything set up, I didn’t leave the butter out to soften. So when we went to use it, it was still hard. I put it in the microwave for a few seconds, but I knew it was too melted to use, but I put it in the recipe anyway. BIG MISTAKE. When you use melted butter in a cookie recipe, your cookies fall flat. Solid butter takes longer to melt, so it inhibits the cookies from spreading during baking. So… instead of perfectly round, soft baked cookies, we ended up with a single cookie blob. That’s what I get for rushing!
Despite the cookies falling flat, literally, they were still delicious. I cut them up in squares and everyone enjoyed them. While my almond flour cookies missed the mark, no one seemed to mind one bit. In fact, I saw everyone enjoying all the almond flour goodies.
These are how the cookies should have looked:
Get the recipe for almond flour cookies.
I want to personally thank Sprouts for providing many of the ingredients (eggs, sugar, vanilla, etc.) I needed for this class, as well as providing all my students with reusable Sprouts bags that included almond butter samples and coconut water.
I also want to thank The ZenSweet Company for its monk fruit sweetener. We made half of the cookies sugar-free, so I used some of the monk fruit sweetener the folks at ZenSweet sent me many months ago. And thank you to Enjoy Life – I used Enjoy Life dairy-free chocolate chips in the recipe (I had a few bags leftover from a prior project).
I have one more gluten-free cooking class planned for 2017 – a gluten-free holiday cookie bake. Please contact me if you’d like to attend (it’s in Denver).
A few more photos from the almond flour baking class: