Monday, December 19, 2011

Seasonal Goodies: Blanched Almonds

On the Christmas days of my youth, when the kitchen counter was lined with good things to eat, a bowl of Tom & Jerry batter was usually out with a kettle of hot water and bottles of brandy and rum (even the kids ::gasp:: got a little dab just for flavor). This was about the only time in our family that the booze came out, and even then, the Tom & Jerry ritual was done with great moderation. The batter is mostly powdered sugar with egg. Add some hot water and a dab of rum, brandy, or both, and that's a Tom & Jerry. The perfect accompaniment to such a sweet drink was blanched almonds, roasted in butter to a crispy golden brown and salted.

These days we don't do the Tom & Jerry thing. Hubby is a teetotaler, and really, I find that sweet drinks like that are cloying anyway, but the blanched almonds continue because they're just so darned good. There's nothing like them in the stores. They must be made, and since the process is a bit laborious, I only go through it at Christmas time.

Blanched almonds. The vintage Fostoria bowl is traditional, but optional.

Blanched Almonds

Start with as many raw almonds as you want to deal with. Four to six cups is about right for a batch. Put the raw almonds in a large metal or glass bowl. Pour over them enough boiling water to cover them completely. Let them sit until the skins loosen and can slide off easily. Spend the next hour or two popping almonds out of their skins. Refresh with more boiling water if needed. Spread the almonds out on a towel to dry thoroughly. Usually this takes overnight.

The next day, melt a few tablespoons of butter. Put the almonds in a bowl and toss them with butter until they're coated. Spread the almonds out in a pan with sides. Roast in the oven at 350 degrees F until golden brown, stirring every 5 minutes. Depending on the type of pan, this can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. In a glass pan it took me nearly 30 minutes. Check frequently and watch for the almonds to turn golden brown. This is important. They shouldn't just be touched here and there with brown, but should be golden brown all over. They must be roasted to a delightfully crispy crunch. Once they start to turn, watch closely, because they can go from golden brown to over-brown in just a few minutes.

Once they're roasted to a turn, spread the almonds out on paper towels to cool. Sprinkle with salt. Taste them. Now you know why it's important to go through this ritual at least once a year. Try not to eat them all in the same day.

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