Why You Need to Bake With Almonds More Often
Cinnamon swirl almond cake. Photo: Danya Dhanak
Almonds are the new baking ingredient on the block, and guess what the best part is? Making almond flour! It is as simple as finely grinding dry almonds to a flour-like texture. Using almond meal and blanched almonds in desserts isn’t new – macarons, marzipan and even our local badam katri or barfi are made with ground almonds. Still, the gluten-free trend has sparked a wave of new sweet treats made with almonds that were traditionally made with maida (all-purpose flour).
Going gluten-free is all the rage these days, but there’s more to almond flour than just being another (gluten-free) alternative. It gives you the flexibility that all purpose flour doesn’t. If you’re a novice baker, there’s less chance of you messing up and overworking your cake batter into a tough, dry cake. The ground almonds add a layer of flavour without the sometimes-artificial taste of almond extract. Nutritionally, the richness of protein, vitamins, minerals and good fats in almonds makes almond flour a healthier choice. As a result of the vitamin E and naturally occurring oils, the texture of an almond-flour based cake or cookie tends to be much richer and moister. While combining your ingredients too, you’ll realise that the batter will look and feel very different from a wheat-based batter.
This grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free cake is an easy foray into the world of baking with almond meal and flour. It’s superbly light, moist and scented with warm cinnamon - as perfect for Saturday afternoon tea as it is for a Christmas dinner.
Recipe for Cinnamon Swirl Almond Cake
150 gm almond flour (raw ground almonds)
100 gm sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 heaped tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
2. In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon powder and 2 tsp of sugar. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed with an electric beater until they form peaks – about 2-3 minutes. Incorporate half the remaining sugar and pinch of salt and beat till combined.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk the yolks, the remaining sugar, vanilla, almond flour and baking powder till just combined. The mixture will be sticky and thick.
5. Fold the egg white mixture into the yolk mixture.
6. Pour half the batter into a well-greased 9-inch cake pan. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar. Pour the remaining batter on top and bake at 180C for 35 minutes.
1. Work with room temperature eggs, that way the egg whites will rise faster.
2. Separate the eggs carefully. Everyone has their preferred method; I’ve found that the good old-fashioned method of cracking the egg into my hands, allowing the white to drop into one bowl while holding the yolk works best for me.
3. Allow the cake to cool completely before removing it from the pan.
4. The same recipe works great for a plain almond cake (just skip the cinnamon) or a lemon almond cake (skip the cinnamon, add the zest of two lemons to the yolk mix).
The author recently moved back to India after studying at the University of Michigan and working at Goldman Sachs in New York. She shares recipes and travel tips on her blog The India Edition.