I love to bake and got pretty good at converting old favorites to gluten-free, but since going grain-free it’s been more of a challenge. Many grain-free recipes I find call for almond flour or almond meal. What’s the difference? Almond meal is coarser where the flour is finer; that’s about it.
If you follow me you know I went grain-free and paleo in mid-March of this year and it has been a HUGE learning experience. I made the change to deal with some ongoing digestive and skin issues and am doing SO much better. I started with a strict elimination diet and the Autoimmune Protocol and now do a revised version of it.
What do I mean by that? I believe it’s more of a lifestyle than a diet and is not one-size-fits-all. Some things work for some people, some don’t. I’ve discovered by trial and error and lots of homework what my body can and cannot handle. I’m still learning and so this came from an experiment.
I have mixed reactions to nuts and I have posted about properly preparing nuts before and so I wondered if that was the difference – the flours I was using may not have been properly prepared. Nuts can be difficult for anyone to digest, but particularly those already with digestive issues, due to phytic acid and enzymes naturally present in the nuts. Soaking and slowly drying them helps neutralize them and makes them easier to digest. It is very, very simple and actually only takes of a few minutes of your actual time. You’ll notice my flour is darker than the almond flour you’re used to seeing in the grocery store. That’s because it’s not blanched. You can blanch almonds yourself, but I personally wasn’t concerned with a lighter colored flour and frankly saw very little difference, if any, in the resulting look of the baked goods I’ve made with it.
As part of the diet and lifestyle that works for me nuts are a special treat; I can tell relatively quickly when I have had too much. I’ll start to get a little rumbly in the tumbly and the eczema will begin to act up; a flare typically starts on the back of my neck, my face, and the tops of my thighs. So, in a nutshell (no pun intended) when I make a goodie like the banana bread I share at the end I am very careful not to overindulge (which is hard because this recipe is really good – trust me).
Making your own almond flour is not only healthier for you, but much cheaper. I’ve paid upwards of $10-$12 for a pound and then discovered I can get the raw almonds from the bulk bin of a favorite natural market for $7.99 a pound. I buy a couple of pounds and soak and dry them, make some into flour, I can make almond butter if I want, and I often leave some whole for snacking (the whole family loves them). You aren’t going to believe how easy it is.
I’ll share the process of preparing the nuts, then go onto the flour and butter, and then share a recipe using your fresh, homemade flour. There is no sugar in it at all, no dairy, no grains or gluten (of course) and can be made with a variety of goodies you may have in your fridge or pantry. What’s your favorite way to use almond flour?
How to Prepare Raw Almonds
Place your almonds in a large jar (or two). For every four cups of nuts add 1 Tablespoon sea salt. Cover with filtered water and leave in a warm place at least 7 hours. Drain well and spread baking pan. Place in a warm oven (no more than 150 degrees) for 12-24 hours, stirring occasionally, until completely dry and crisp. Store in an airtight container.
Note: you can also dry these in a food dehydrator. I like to soak my nuts all afternoon then I put them in the oven at bedtime and let dry overnight; that way it doesn’t take up the oven all day or heat it up unnecessarily when it’s hot.
How to Make Almond Flour/Butter
When your nuts are all dry place in a food processor or high powered blender and pulse for about 10-15 seconds at a time until you reach the coarseness you want. That’s it. Super easy! If you want finer flour run it through a fine mesh sieve and run the coarser pieces through the blender again, repeating until you have the right consistency.
Want to know how to make your own almond butter? Just let the blender run. It can take quite a while, maybe 10-15 minutes with some blenders, but if you keep it going the natural oils will eventually turn it into butter. I told you it was easy! At this point you can flavor it, if you want, by adding some extra sea salt, a little raw honey, ground cinnamon, or cocoa; the possibilities are endless. I usually just make it plain or with a little honey and cinnamon; yum!
Berry Banana Bread (Paleo, No Sugar, Dairy-Free, Grain-Free, Gluten-Free)
Makes 1 loaf
3 ripe bananas, mashed
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tarter
1-1/4 cup almond flour
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries – or a mixture of all three!
½ cup chopped pecans (chocolate chips are good too for an extra-special treat! Make sure they are dairy and gluten free – Enjoy Life brand are Paleo-friendly. Also, that your pecans are properly prepared too – just as you would with the almonds.)
1) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and grease a standard-sized loaf pan with coconut oil or line with a piece of parchment paper (my preferred way – it lifts out so easy and minimizes the cleanup).
2) Combine the mashed bananas and eggs and mix well. Add the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly to incorporate.
3) Fold in berries and pecans then pour into prepared pan.
4) Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
5) Let sit for 10 minutes and then remove to a wire rack to let cool completely.
6) Enjoy! My little one likes this with a smear of almond butter on top but it also makes wicked French Toast! (Try it that way with the breakfast sausage from my previous post!)
Have a great day,