Almond cream is a simple treat with a myriad of ways to use it. At its most basic, it’s a sweetened pastry-style cream that contains either finely ground almonds or liquor that has been flavored with the seed. Home cooks use almond cream between layers of a cake, to fill tarts, to top pies, and for berry mouse cups. Bartenders create a variation that is made with heavy whipped cream and almond-flavored syrup.
The sweet, creamy texture of almond cream lends itself to any number of variations, and while it ends up on many types of dessert, it can be used to top waffles or pancakes, spooned over a bowl of fresh fruit for an easy lunch, or eaten by the spoonful in the middle of the night when no one is looking. A Spanish version with Arabic roots, called bienmesabe, includes lemon zest, simple sugar syrup, and cinnamon in addition to ground almonds and is commonly served as a topping to ice cream.
Not to be outdone, the French have perfected a frangipane pastry custard that adds egg, butter, and vanilla to finely ground almonds and flour. The tart is a snap to put together because these ingredients are processed all together into a velvety, rich paste then plopped into tartlets. In spite of the small amount of effort the tartlets require, the results are both exquisitely lovely and dreamily smooth.
Fortunately, a few adjustments can transform a yummy but wicked almond cream into something so nutritionally sound a person can actually feel virtuous while licking the bowl. Substituting ricotta for the heavy cream and artificial sugar or the the naturally sweet herb stevia to a handful of roughly ground almonds does the trick. If that isn’t quite rich enough, a drop or two of almond extract will seal the deal.
Even vegans needn’t suffer from almond cream withdrawal. A dairy-free variation can be constructed with almonds, almond extract, and agar-agar flakes in addition to maple syrup, for healthy sweetening, and water. This version is a bit more complicated and requires cooking and straining, but the results are yummy and luscious.
Liquor or ice cream drinks are even better with a dollop of almond cream made with ogeat syrup. This syrup, a favorite of bartenders everywhere, is composed of sugar and ground almonds together with either rose or orange water. Historically, barley was also part of the mix, but most brands of the syrup today do not include it.