Hazelnut-orange tea cakes. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles…)
A mixture of ground nuts -- such as hazelnut and almonds -- sugar and liquid (egg whites and perhaps a liqueur), nut pastes are frequently added to baked cakes, tarts and pastries for added richness and flavor.
Although prepared almond and hazelnut pastes (and marzipan, a sweetened almond paste) can be found at many gourmet markets and specialty stores, they can easily be made at home. Continue reading below for recipes for homemade pastes, including the hazelnut paste we used when adapting Valerie Confections' hazelnut-orange tea cakes, pictured at left, for our Culinary SOS column (they take a little time, but these amazing little cakes are well worth the effort!).
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8 ounces roasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons egg whites (from about 2 eggs)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon hazelnut liqueur
In a food processor or blender, finely grind the nuts until mealy (in batches, if necessary). Add the egg whites, powdered sugar and liqueur and blend until fully combined and a paste forms. Remove the paste and store, tightly wrapped in plastic, in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to 2 weeks. Makes 13 ounces.
Recipe link: Valerie Confections' hazelnut-orange tea cakes
1/2 pound blanched almonds, ground
1 pound powdered sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon brandy
1 tablespoon sherry
Mix almonds and sugar in bowl. Add egg mixed with brandy and sherry, or combine all in food processor. If mixture is too moist, work in additional powdered sugar. If too dry, add brandy to moisten.
This almond paste recipe appeared with a 1990 Times recipe for Sri Lanka Curry House Rich Cake, a type of fruitcake:
Sri Lanka Curry House Rich Cake
1 pound raisins
1 pound golden raisins
1 pound currants
1/2 pound candied cherries
1/2 pound crystallized ginger
1/2 pound mixed glazed fruits
1/4 pound raw cashews
3/4 cup flour
2 pounds granulated sugar
12 egg yolks
1/3 cup strawberry jam
2 tablespoons vanilla
1 tablespoon almond extract
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 pound semolina
7 egg whites
Butter thoroughly 2 (13x9-inch) baking pans. Line with double layer of grease-proof paper and brush with melted butter.
Cut raisins into 3 or 4 pieces. Wash and dry currants. Cut cherries and ginger in small pieces. Shred glazed fruit and chop cashews. Mix fruits and nuts with flour.
In large mixing bowl, cream 1 pound butter and granulated sugar until light. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add jam, 1/4 cup brandy, vanilla, almond extract, lemon zest, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and nutmeg. Mix well. Add semolina and beat well. Add fruits and nuts and incorporate thoroughly. Beat 6 egg whites until stiff and fold into mixture.
Divide mixture between prepared pans and smooth evenly. Bake at 275 degrees for 3 hours. Cover with foil during last 2 hours to prevent burning. Remove cake from oven and cool slightly before turning out on wire rack to cool completely, preferably overnight. Remove paper and wrap in foil. For more moist cake, sprinkle 1/3 to 1/2 cup brandy over each cake before wrapping. Cake improves with storage and should be made at least 1 week before serving.
Ice with almond paste 1 or 2 days before serving. Divide paste mixture in half. Knead until smooth. Roll out each half on a pastry board lightly dusted with powdered sugar. Cut to fit top of cake. Repeat with other half. Brush tops of cakes with remaining egg white, lightly beaten. Place paste sheets on tops and trim sides. Press tightly with rolling pin. Makes 2 large fruitcakes.