Almonds are believed to be among the oldest cultivated foods in history and are mentioned in the Old Testament. The almond originally came from the Middle East; specifically, countries like Syria and Turkey. It would eventually spread to Europe and Africa.
Almond flour and almond meal both refer to two versions of the same thing — ground almonds. The main difference being the size of the grains, with almond flour being the finer of the two. Nut flours made with almonds or pistachios were a product from the Middle East introduced first to Italy and then to the rest of Europe from there. The format by which almond flour was introduced to Europe was in a Middle Eastern cookie called maccherone by the Sicilians. These cookies would spread to France via Catherine de Medici in the 16th century. They would evolve into what we now know as macaroons. They would not reach England until almost 300 years later.
With the popularity of low-carbohydrate diets in recent years, almond flour has once again become a trendy ingredient. You can trace its resurgence back to the newfound awareness of celiac disease and gluten tolerance of the early 2000s.
Almond flour flavor profile
Predictably, almond flour tastes like almonds. The sweet nuttiness is more at the forefront in baked goods that have few other flavorings. The flavoring can be an asset in recipes that you want to taste like almonds, but a drawback when you need a neutral-tasting flour.
Health benefits of almond flour
Like the almonds from which it is made, almond flour is a rich source of important nutrients like:
- Protein: Almond flour is very high in protein; almonds are about 21 percent protein by weight.
- Minerals: Almond flour is rich in manganese, magnesium, and calcium. These are just some of the minerals that almonds contain in abundance.
- Monounsaturated fat: More than half of the fat in almond flour is monounsaturated, which means that it has important health benefits.
- Vitamins: In addition to containing high levels of multiple B vitamins, almond flour is an exceptional source of vitamin E.
- Fiber: Almond flour is a good source of dietary fiber, though it is not as great a source as whole almonds.
Almond flour’s nutritional properties make it beneficial for treating or preventing conditions like:
- Heart disease: The monounsaturated fat in almond flour can help you to keep your cholesterol levels within the healthy range. Note that almond flour also contains polyunsaturated fat, which is not so healthy. In other words, you will need to consume it in moderation to maximize its benefits.
- Obesity: A diet rich in almonds can help with weight loss. In part, this is due to the fiber content. Fiber can make you feel fuller thus limiting your food intake.
- Celiac disease/Gluten intolerance: Almond flour is gluten-free, which means that it is a fine wheat flour substitute for people who cannot consume gluten.
- Diabetes: Almond flour as a very low glycemic index, which means that it has little or no effect on blood glucose. As a result, it can be beneficial for diabetics.
Almond flour can serve as a substitute for wheat flour in baked goods if you want to avoid gluten. Adjustments will have to be made to the recipe since almond flour is not as dry as wheat flour. When used for breading on fried foods, it can be used as a 1:1 wheat flour substitute. Almond flour is the main ingredient in marzipan, which is an almond paste used in baking.
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