I try to keep my wheat-free flours to a minimum. I like to have a few, easily-available ingredients handy and that’s it. When I started on this wheat-free journey, I bought all kinds of flours to experiment with: sorghum, millet, brown rice, white rice, sweet rice, potato starch, etc. Not only do the costs of such a variety of ingredients add up, but most are highly perishable and need to be used within a few months. That’s not so bad when you only have one or two ingredients to use up, but my stock was getting out of control. And then I started veering away from non-wheat grains, so I was left with a lot of flours cluttering up my fridge and not being used. Oh well, you live and learn, right?
One ingredient that has remained in my pantry (and my fridge) is almond meal/flour. It has a neutral taste and lends itself very well for baked goods such as breads, muffins, cookies, and crusts, and it also works great as breading for things like chicken nuggets or fish sticks.
The difference between almond flour and almond meal is simply this: almond flour is almonds without the skin ground into a flour and almond meal is almonds with the skin on ground up. Almonds without the skin grind finer than those with the skin, thus the distinction of flour vs. meal. The meal is coarser. But you can get it fairly fine if you sift your meal.
I started off making my own simply by grinding whole almonds in a coffee grinder. This works pretty well, but my grinder is tiny, so it was a bit tedious to make a few cups. I then graduated to making the meal in my blender, which works great.
I buy a three pound bag of whole almonds at Sam’s for about $12. This is cheaper than buying almond flour already milled. There is a distinct difference, though, between making your own meal and buying the flour. I have made breads, cookies, pizza crusts, all with the almond meal. And they were great. I decided to buy some almond flour to see if there would be a difference in the texture of the recipes I made. And there definitely is. The breads are much fluffier and have fewer holes. The cookies seem to hold together better. I really love using the flour. I use Honeyville and have heard nothing but great things from other bloggers about this flour. But if you don’t want to make the investment, try almond meal and see what you think.
When making my own meal, I grind several cups at a time and store it in the fridge. I keep the remainder of the whole almonds in an air-tight container in the pantry. I keep a container of my purchased flour in the fridge, also, and store the remainder in the freezer. This extends the life of the ingredients.
I find that the blender works better than the food processor for making almond meal. Here’s what I do:
-Put about a cup of raw almonds in the blender (be sure the only ingredient listed on your bag of almonds is almonds. No oils, etc.).
-Turn your blender on for about 10 seconds at a time. Between bursts, take a knife and move the almonds around, away from the bottom/blade. Blend some more. You want to be sure that you don’t over-blend, or else you will turn your almonds into butter instead of meal.
-After blending several times, sift your meal into a bowl to separate the meal from the larger nut parts. The large parts can go back into the blender to see if they will get any finer. You’ll end up with some that just won’t get smaller. I save those in the fridge and use them in recipes that need nuts, top my salads with them, or toss them into my morning flax cereal.
I hope that you enjoy almond meal and flour as much as I do!