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December 19, 2014
Going Nuts for Sweet Almond Desserts!
By Janet Tharpe
Once upon a time in a land far, far away I had a kringle. And not just any kringle, but the most deliciously creamy almond kringle ever made. These traditional Scandinavian pastries are a delicacy in the northern part of the US. With layers of flaky pastry and a variety of sweet fillings, I have long been trying to recreate that perfect bite from so many years ago.
Well, imagine my pleasure when I came across Heather Sturdivan's delightful Creamy Almond Bars! Their subtle almond flavor is wonderfully reminiscent of that long ago kringle... and a million times easier to make at home. "A lady at my church made these for snacks for the VBS leaders last summer and I fell head-over-heels for them!" says Heather, of Turlock, CA. "They are amazing! So sweet and creamy, they just melt in your mouth!" Heather even suggests going beyond almond and getting creative with flavors, if you are so inclined. Try using lemon extract or butterscotch flavoring for a wholly different take on these delicious bars.
And speaking of flavor, we simply must discuss Heather Stepniewski's Chewy Chocolate Almond Cookies. Rolled in sugar to form the most delicate crystalline crust, this Nashville, TN cook's almond-infused cookies are truly something to write home about... and they are made without using a lick of flour! "These cookies are gluten free but who needs to know?" laughs Heather. "Everybody will enjoy these." So how does Heather get such a great, chewy texture without using white flour? The secret is the almonds themselves! When ground down they add heft and moisture while also adding richness. (Using almond flour is another great option.) Deliciously brilliant!
Looking for even more chocolate? Treat your almonds to a dip in a fun candy recipe! Freda Gable of Vancouver, WA has been sweetening up her table for nearly half a century with her favorite Almond Joy Candy recipe. "I have had this recipe for over 40 years," explains Freda. "I got it from a long time friend, Peggy. We raised our children together. We always got together and made tons of goodies and we'd split them between the families. Those were the days." Now that is true joy... wonderful memories of friends coming together in the kitchen. My family and I have enjoyed making this recipe as well. It's great for getting the whole gang in on the act. Simply combine sweetened condensed milk, coconut and almonds, then give them a dunk in some beautiful melted chocolate. You'll be munching (and smiling!) in no time.
And lest you be deterred by any twinge of food guilt, I bring you Joanne Bellezza-Loughlin's guilt-free(ish) Chocolate Nut Cranberry Clusters! "I love chocolate," says the Bridgewater, NJ gal. "But I try to eat it in moderation and I stick to dark chocolate. These clusters are made with dark chocolate, walnuts and Craisins... but you can really use any nut and dried fruit combination. I like to think of them as a guilt free sweet." It's even easier to feel good about these sweeties when you substitute almonds for the walnuts! Not only are they chock full of nutrients, but they also contain the "good" fat that has been said to help lower cholesterol! And while these delicious chocolate-enrobed clusters aren't exactly what I'd call medicinal, they are most definitely a sure-fire prescription for a good mood. I recommend taking two, three times a day... with food, of course.
As you can see, almonds are terrifically versatile! Whether you use them to add flavor to decadent cookies or as a crunchy addition to silky chocolate, these nutty beauties are worth going nuts for indeed. Sprinkle them into your favorite recipe and then come back and share the scoop! I can't wait to hear what you've got cookin'...