Thursday, August 9, 2007

Almond Extract

Almond extract is made with the oil of bitter almonds. Bitter almonds, unlike their more common sweet almond counterparts, are very bitter but also poisonous due to the presence of cyanide (eating 20 of these almonds raw is lethal for adults). The poison is broken down when the almonds are processed and also when they are heated from cooking. The sale of bitter almonds is illegal in the United States but in Europe small amounts are added to marzipan, amaretto, and amaretti cookies to heighten the flavor (usually 1 bitter almond for every 100 sweet almonds). “Pure” almond extract is made by combining the oil from bitter almonds with alcohol and sometimes water, whereas "natural” extract has the same major flavor compound, benzaldehyde, but derived from other plant sources. “Imitation” extract is made with food-grade, lab created benzaldehyde. Chemically speaking, all three extracts are the same but taste wise, many people prefer pure or natural extracts over the synthetic imitation.

Almond extract is very potent so a little bit goes a long way (but I certainly don’t mind a little bit more). The flavoring enhances the taste of peaches, apricots, and cherries because the stone fruits are in the same family as almonds. It also pairs well with vanilla, chocolate, apples, coconut, and berries. Interestingly, almonds are also distantly related to berries and roses. Plant family trees are so fascinating don't you think?

So what are your favorite food scents? Perhaps the buttery, nutty fragrance of caramel, the piney smell of rosemary, or maybe the hearty aroma lightly charred Italian sausages with a hint of fennel seed?


Deborah said...

I love to put almond extract in my favorite chocolate cake recipe. Oh, now I am craving it!! I don't even know if I could name my favorite food smell - there are so many of them! But I do love the smell of garlic cooking in butter - it gets me every time!

Anita said...

I love the smell of almond extract, even more than vanilla! Wonderful write-up:) As for other smells, I would have to say melting chocolate and rosewater extract (not together!)

David T. Macknet said...

Thanks for the explanation of the difference.

I'm dying to check in my spice collection & see which kind I have ... but it's on a ship, headed from the U.S. to the U.K.!

The smell of fresh oregano flower-heads when you've also been picking rosemary ... that's the smell. We tried to turn it into cologne, actually, it's such a marvelous smell. Something about the freshly-picked flower-heads of oregano is different.

SteamyKitchen said...

I love almond extract. I need to use it more often, though I don't have many recipes that call for almond extract.

Chocolate + Almonds is heaven

Wandering Chopsticks said...

You make it sound so inviting. But I'm more of a traditionalist. I like plain old vanilla extract. :)

Amy said...

Mm garlic in butter is a good one!

I love vanilla but like you, I love almond extract more. :) Mm melting chocolate!

I'm planning to grow some oregano and rosemary next year, can't wait to smell the flowers.

My favorite use for it is in the Chinese almond jelly/tofu dessert.

Vanilla smells really yummy too. :)

dessertschick said...

I realize I'm a little behind the times, but I just saw this post... I use almond extract in zillions of baked goods: Ricotta Cookies, Almond Cream Tart, Meringue Cookies, and along with Amaretto in Italian Meringue Buttercream, to name a few.

Today, my favorite food-ish smell is combined with a specific time: After I get out of the shower very very late on Sunday morning (because I had the luxurious option of sleeping very very late) and the smell of my husband's French Toast wafts up to me...



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