Almond flour is ground up raw, blanched almonds. It can be used just like wheat flour. It is often called for in dessert recipes for its sweet, nutty flavor. Almond meal is like almond flour, but is ground with the skins on. The two are interchangeable, although almond meal may have a grainier texture.
Ground sweet almonds are allowed on alternative diets, whether low-carb or gluten-free. Almonds are high in protein, nutrients, and essential oils. A downside to almond flour and almond meal is that almonds are quite fatty. Foods made with almond meal tend to be high-calorie and rich.
As the subtle, nutty flavor of almond meal goes well with most foods, it can be used in place of wheat flour in a wide variety of recipes. Pancakes, biscuits and even pizza dough can be made with almond meal. The fats found in almond flour bond well to butter and eggs, making it a good candidate for elegant pie crusts and doughs.
Many gourmet pastries, especially those of French origin, are made with almond flour. A French traditional recipe that uses ground almonds is called the Galette des Rois, or the Cake of Kings. This cake is baked in January to celebrate the day when the three wise men visited baby Jesus according to the Bible. Cooks will hide a dried bean or a figurine inside the cake, and whoever finds the prize in their slice gets to be king for the day.
Almond meal can also be mixed with sugar and molasses or corn syrup to make almond paste. This paste is a key ingredient in many popular recipes, like almond macaroons and almond croissants. Almond paste is also used to make marzipan, a type of pastry that is easy to cut into shapes and dye different colors.
Many health food stores sell almond meal in bulk; it can also be found in the baking section of most supermarkets. Ground almonds are more expensive than normal flour. For a cheaper solution, almond flour can be made at home by blending slivered skinless almonds in small quantities in a food processor. To ensure its freshness, almond flour should be stored in airtight containers like Mason jars—the high fat content of almond meal can cause it to go rancid if stored incorrectly. Bulk supplies should be stored in the freezer, where they will keep for up to a year.