About Almond Extract
Its scientific name is Prunus Amygalus Dulcis and it is just as popular as vanilla extract. Almond extract, or extrait d’camande in French, is a combination of bitter almond and ethyl alcohol. It carries a very strong flavor that must be used in moderation. Almond extract is predominantly added in most baked goodies, particularly popular in many Scandinavian recipes. Often used in fairly small amounts of about a half a teaspoon per batch, it is an added ingredient to many recipes made for crackers, cookies, bars, bread, marzipan and even the breakfast treat, French toast. Almond extract is not only used in sweet desserts, Middle Eastern people also add this to their meat stews and curry.
Almonds became very popular in France in the year 1372, when it was discovered that the queen at that time had a vast supply of almonds more than sugar or any other confectionaries. In the mid 1700s, Spanish missionaries brought this fruit to California and the state today is considered a major producer of almonds all over America and the world. Almond is one of the United States’ largest exports. Spain only comes second to being the largest almond producer.
Properties of Almond Extract
Almond extract comes from almond trees which abundantly grow in North Africa, the western part of Asia and some parts of the Mediterranean. Because almond trees can be cultivated extensively, from the warm regions to the cooler British Isles, it cannot be pinpointed as to where it originally came from. Almond trees are moderate in size. It has serrated leaves and its flowers bloom in spring time.
Almonds are fruits that look like nuts or seeds and they are greenish in color. They carry the scientific name Prunus dulcis and they belong to a subfamily called Subfamily Prunoideae (Rosaceae). Almonds are in the same classification as fruits like peach, cherry or plum; but it is distinguished from these kinds by its seed’s corrugated outer shell and its leathery coating. Hence often times it is mistaken for as a “nut”.
Almond seeds or fruits come in two kinds: sweet and bitter.
Characteristics of Almond Extract
- Sweet almond trees grow white flowers.
- The sweet variety are most often added to ice creams and desserts as a nut or fruit or spread into bits.
- Sweet almonds are slimmer and longer compared to the bitter ones.
- Bitter almond trees have pink flowers.
- The bitter variety is a source of almond oil used both for cosmetics and food flavoring.
- The bitter variety also come a lot cheaper and is easier to propagate.
- Bitter almonds have a natural fermented emulsion which can act as a glycoside, especially if mixed with water.
- Bitter almonds may yield a minimal percentage of prussic acid which can become poisonous if taken in very large dosage.
Both almond variety however, are used even as early as the 1900s for medicinal purposes and even today, almonds are fairly popular alternative medicine products since almond extracts and oils are often recommended for use for aromatherapy.
Bitter almond is where almond extracts come from.
Benefits of Almond and Almond Extract
Almond extracts are produced by cold pressing the almond seeds and then combined with alcohol. The end result will then yield a light yellow oily substance which contains a lot of protein and other minerals. Aside from its most common use as food flavoring, almond extract, even in the old times, is also used as one of the basic ingredients for hair care and skin care products.
Almond extract is a popular cosmetic ingredient because it has the ability to seal in moisture and strengthen hair and skin conditions. It is a very rich product that is believed to have natural healing and protecting powers. So powerful that some doctors may even prescribe this for their patients.
The almond fruit in itself is very high in fat, protein and carbohydrate. People who are underweight and have low resistance may actually benefit from this, as almonds are ideal for strengthening the body. Almonds contain amygdalin, which is said to be a good food against cancer. Almonds also help prevent osteoporosis as it also makes the bones and muscles healthier and stronger.
Cultural Significance of Almonds
In many cultures, it is not just a food additive or a medicinal ingredient. The Chinese consider the almond a as symbolic icon for beauty. Christians, at the time of the birth of Jesus Christ, were often depicted in many paintings and artworks as carrying almond branches. Almond, in fact, is often mentioned in the Bible, in many different names. The Jews believe that it is a sign of good luck and they continue to carry this symbol and belief to this very day.
Folklores carry interesting stories of foxes being poisoned with almonds in particular; while a Portuguese legend depicts a love story about a princess who died and left her prince homesick, and in her absence, he plants trees of almond in the entire coastline, which would often bloom and cover the area during spring time, in her reminder. In Greek Mythology, a princess named Phyllis was transformed into an almond tree to symbolize hope.
Almond Random Facts
Fresh almonds are usually greenish gray. A yellow color indicates it is almost rotten.
Blanching almonds involve the following:
- Boiling in water
- Setting almonds aside for a few minutes until they cool
- Then squeezing the fruit by hand to remove the skin
- Laying out the almonds in a sheet
- Blotting with paper towel
- Baking for ten minutes at 325° F.
Whole almonds normally sprout, especially if they are raw. Sprouted almonds are considered more flavorful than the unsprouted ones. However, sprouted almonds only carry a shelf life of at least thirty six hours, and then they become rancid.
Almonds last longer if frozen or stored in a cool place. But packaging must be sealed airtight, as any ice or water that gets into the container will spoil the fruit.
Adding minimal amounts of almond extract to baked goodies with almond fruits enhances the flavor even better.
Almond extracts makes a divine combination when mixed with cherries.
Cooking with Almond Extract
Here you can find a nice selection of
Recipes Using Almond Extract.