The last couple of decades, the culinary world had really exploded, creating intricate desserts made by all kinds of extraordinary methods. But, although the confectionary masterminds around the world are producing new delicacies every day, they never stray too far away from the classics. Like adding our favorite nut – the almond, to top up a magnificent sweet treat, giving it that distinct crunch and aroma we all love. No one can deny that almonds definitely add that “je ne sais quoi” to an amazing piece of cake or a muffin and they are often the final touches that ties it all together.
- The French Financier
A world- known fact is that French people know their desserts and France is where the simple, but super yummy and famous treat called the Financier was created. Well, originally it was made by nuns in the Middle Ages, but the Financier got its modern name because of the fact that it quickly became a must-have in the morning for the people working in the financial district in Paris (maybe because it resembles a piece of gold?). Baked in small molds, this light dessert contains egg whites, sugar and almond flour, that gives it a very particular taste. This dessert is moist and delicate, but at the same time, it can be stored for a long period of time, without losing its flavor.
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- The Austrian Gugelhupf
This light, marble cake was once served at weddings and special occasions and it was usually intricately decorated with fruits and candles. The delicious cake is made with yeast dough, raisins and there are added almonds and rosewater to make it extra tasty. The Gugelhupf has a very specific round shape, achieved by using a Bundt mold. The origins of the name derived from the German word gugel – hood and hupf – “to top”.
- The Norwegian Kransekake
This special cake is reserved for Christmas, New Year or weddings. It is made by multiple layers containing almonds, sugar and egg whites, topped on each other and glued together by white icing. It really does look very impressive. It is served by dividing the layers and making them into smaller pieces. There is a tradition during weddings that can tell how many children the young couple is going to have by counting how many layers are stuck together once they are lifted.
- The Georgian Churchkhela
Shaped like a candle, churchkhela is a traditional type of candy from Georgia. It is made by dipping a 2-3 meter-long threads with almonds into a thicken concoction of grape juice and flour. After that, they are dried for a period of 5 to 6 days. It is usually made during autumn, as this is the time the ingredients are more commonly found. Since this delicious treat contains many calories, it was carried by worriers in ancient times to keep them sustained.
- The Italian Torta Caprese
Originated on the island of Capri (hence the name) many variations of Torta Caprese have been made, but the main ingredients always stay the same. Usually, it is made by adding a soft butter, sugar, egg yolks, chocolate and of course some finely chopped almonds. The legend says that it was created by mistake when Austrian princess demanded a “sacher cake” from a Neapolitan chef. Since he didn’t know the recipe he created his own, adding the typical ingredient of the region – almonds in the mix. A very fortunate decision since now this cake is part of every Italian restaurant’s menu.
- The Spanish Torta Santiago
Originated as far as the Middle Ages, this almond cake can be traced back to the region of Galicia. Torta de Santiago translates as a cake of St. James. The base can be made with or without pastry, but the main part is an almond filling, eggs, sugar and lemon zest or sweet brandy. The final touch is adding a shape of a cross for St. James with the help of powdered sugar. In 2010 EU made it obligatory for this cake to be created with at least 33% almonds in the Autonomous Community of Galicia.
- The Iranian Noghl
This sugar-coated almonds are a delicious snack around the region of Iran and Afghanistan. The Noghl is prepared when baked almonds are dipped in a mixture of sugar and rose water. These tiny, white sweets are often used at weddings when they are sprinkled over the bride and groom in the place of confetti that most Western countries prefer.
- The American Bear Claw
Filled with almond paste, this yeast-raised pastry was first introduced in America during the mid-1920s. Sometimes it contains raisins too. The dough is shaped in a semicircle and sliced around the edges, so when it rises it takes the shape of something that resembles a bear claw hence the name of this treat. It is prepared by rolling the dough, adding the filling of almond paste and then folding the dough over, after it is given the distinct shape.
- The German Leipziger Lerche
As you might have guessed by the name that this pastry comes from the city of Leipzig. Originally it was filled with actual songbird lark (German Lerche) but in 1876 it was banned by King Albert. Thankfully, today the meaty version is replaced with a sweeter one. It is made by shortbread filled with crushed almonds and one single cherry. The cherry symbolizes the heart of the bird.
- The Jewish Mandelbrot
The name of this pastry in Yiddish translates literally like almond bread. It is a very popular dish among the Eastern European Jews. It is twice-baked in order to achieve its typical crunchy exterior that resembles a cookie. Sometimes dried fruit, chocolate, cinnamon and other nuts are added to the Mandelbrot. It is very popular as it keeps well and is easy to store.
Image Copyright: Edsel Little, CC BY-SA 2.0