It’s a fair assumption that many of us strive for the balance of keeping well while enjoying life’s little moments, many of which include dessert. Sugar has been treated as the enemy for decades, but now gluten is getting its chance to hang above our consciences as a potential source for food-related ills. With gluten associated health troubles on the rise, many people are searching for wheat-free alternatives to their favorites sweets.
There are an increasing number of packaged options available on grocery store shelves, which is great for those unwilling to tie on their apron strings. But for those of us who find the repetitive act of rolling dough and whisking meringue therapeutic, there are also an increasing number of recipes offering us many baking options that don’t include gluten. Almond flour (or meal), which gives the final product a mildly nutty flavor and slightly dense consistency, but it also adds a healthful dose of some needed vitamins and minerals.
Nothing more than ground up almonds, the main issue to using almond flour in place of wheat flour is that it does not work when yeast is involved because the product is much too dense to rise. But if a recipe originally calling for all-purpose flour calls for rising agents such as baking soda or baking powder, then add more than the recipe calls for when using almond flour instead. You may also need to use less fat. In replacing one of a recipe’s most crucial ingredients—sometimes a tricky venture—as any experienced cook or chef may tell you: watch your proportions and you don’t need to be afraid about adding a little extra this or a little less of that.
Almond flour is an easy product to work with, and its natural amount of protein and fat make it ideal as a repalcemnt for wheat flour. It;s much easier to work with than rice flour, another common substitute; gluten works as a binder, and rice flour lacks the ability to bind. When working with rice flour, many recipes call for the addition of xanthan gum to over come this. But when you use almond flour, no additions are necessary.
I wanted to try my hand at creating something with almond flour on my own, so I headed to the kitchen. The recipe below was inspirired by three different recipes. From each I took a flavor note or texture that I thought would make this cake exciting. The almonds give a density as well as a background note, making you think o f marzipan, while the pears provide a gentle sweetness, and the nutmeg a hint of unexpected flavor. I didn’t add any ginger to the recipe, but I think it could be a nice addition if you wanted a little heat. I suspect it could only elevate the dessert to something even more special. But first, give this version a try!
MOIST PEAR AND ALMOND CAKE
4 pears (Bosc, Bartlett, or Taylor’s Gold), cored, peeled, and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1½ tablespoons pear liqueur (or water)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1. Bring all the ingredients to a boil in a saucepan set over medium heat. Cover with a lid. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until pears can be easily mashed with a fork, about 10 minutes. 2. Remove from heat. Place in a blender. Blend until smooth; set aside.
Canola oil (for pan)
8 large eggs
3 ¼ cup (307g) almond flour
1 ¾ cup (326g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons dulce de leche
½ cup sliced blanched almonds
1. Heat oven to 350°F. 2. Grease a 9-inch springform pan, and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper; set aside. 3. Mix reserved pear puree, eggs, almond flour, sugar, and nutmeg in a bowl. Pour the batter into prepared pan. Bake 10 minutes. 4. Remove from oven, and drizzle dulce de leche over top; sprinkle with the almonds. Bake until golden brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. 5. Remove from the oven. Place on wire rack, and cool at least 8 minutes before unmolding. Cut into slices and serve warm.