Until I became a pastry chef, the only paste I was familiar with was that horrible white goo I used in elementary school. 25+ years later the smell of it brings back memories of dull scissors and construction paper. Paste to me has a whole new meaning in regards to using nuts. Knowing how to make a nut paste and learning how to incorporate nuts into a recipe is a vary valuable bakery tool. If you go into a grocery store you can usually find almond paste somewhere around the pie fillings. If you have never been exposed to a nut paste, please look for it on your next shopping trip. In the La Crosse area, you can find almond paste at Woodmans, Festival Foods, and The People's Co Op. My homework for you is to start with the store bought product so you understand how good it is and what type of consistency it has. My second homework assignment is to learn how to make it on your own. Here is my elevator sales pitch on why you should learn this: It takes about 30 minutes. It is as easy as roasting nuts and boiling sugar. You can make it with ANY type of nut. It should be made in bulk and you can freeze another round for the next time you want to impress.
The next question I am sure you have is: What am I going to do with a nut paste? You can add it to cake batter, candy, frosting, chocolate truffles, cookies, eat it with bananas, apples, toast, and you could even make your own Nutella. Last week I had a request for a cashew and pecan cake. I knew instantly that I could accommodate this request because I know how to make a nut paste.
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
- 1/3 cup water
- 3 cups whole nuts
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
In a 350^F oven, roast the nuts until they are fragrant. Check often because nuts are expensive and they can burn easily! You are looking for them to brown just slightly and for the oils to release from the shell. Your kitchen will smell amazing!. Remove from the oven, cool, and place the nuts in a food processor. In a pan, boil the sugar, maple syrup (or honey) and water together it reaches 230^F. Turn on the food processor and give the nuts a running start, slowly add the boiling sugar and be careful not to splash yourself. Continue to run until the mixture has cooled slightly. When it is warm enough to touch, add the soft butter and mix until combined. Remove from the processor and wrap tightly. Keep at room temperature for up to one week or freeze for up to three months.
If you are curious how to make an amazing cashew cake, simply use my favorite David's Almond Cake recipe. Substitute almond paste with a homemade cashew paste.