The macaron is heralded as a delicacy to many lovers of baked goods. The decadent dessert or anytime delight is considered somewhat of a speciality with a price to match. The macaron’s decadence is attributed to its French origins. One of the most important ingredients is almond flour which you will appreciate is not always easy to find everywhere in the world. You may be looking for an almond flour substitute if you cannot find almond flour or have some other reason for avoiding almond flour. Let’s understand the making of a macaron to see how important almond flour is to the macaron.
You will sometimes see the macaron being called a French macaroon. It’s is similar to meringue in being egg-based, light and airy. Ingredients include egg whites, icing sugar, regular sugar and almond flour. You will also usually have food colouring in the recipe as they tend to come in colourful options. They are believed to have been created by an Italian chef for French Queen Catherine De Medici during the French Renaissance period between the 15th and 17th centuries.
Qualities Of Almond Flour
Almond flour is sometimes referred to as defatted almond meal. First almonds are blanched to remove the skins and dried. The almonds are then ground into a fine flour. Almonds do contain a lot of fat so for defatted varieties of almond flour, the almonds are cold-pressed during the grinding to remove the fat. This gives a drier end product that has a consistency that closer matches traditional wheat flour. Almond flour works as a wheat flour substitute. It is also very popular in its own right. The key characteristics of almond flour or almond meal are the high-fat content, how dense it is and the light and airy quality it brings to recipes. To find a suitable almond flour substitute you will need something that has some or all of these qualities while having a light flavour that does not ruin the recipe.
Ground almonds are probably the best substitute for almond flour in anything. Firstly you still get the mild nutty almond taste without changing the balance of the recipe for the most part. The one thing that counts against ground almonds is the different texture from almond flour. Ground almonds have a similar process to almond flour except firstly the almonds are not blanched to remove the skin. This means that ground almonds will have a cream to beige colour compared to the pale white of almond flour. Since macarons are coloured using food colouring this shouldn’t be a problem. Ground almonds can be made from almonds in a food processor, this makes ground almonds easily accessible as a substitute for almond flour in macarons. The big difference is the texture. Grounds almonds are made with a coarse texture and look something more like grated parmesan cheese. This will affect the texture of the macaron’s meringue part. However, if you are a fan of almonds you may well enjoy the texture that coarsely ground almonds bring to macarons.
One ingredient that seems a little left of centre but may be the best substitute for an almond meal in macarons is sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds do of course have a very high-fat content. Sunflower seeds contain 51 grams of fat per 100 grams this compares very well to the 49.3 grams of fat per 100 grams of almonds. Sunflower seeds also happen to be widely available and this adds to their rating as a good substitute. While they certainly do not taste nutty, sunflower seeds are mildly flavoured and will not influence the taste of your macarons. The key to using sunflower seeds as a substitute for almond flour in your macarons is to use raw sunflower seeds as these contain the full fat and moisture that allows them to match the texture of almond meal. You can very easily blend sunflower seeds into a meal similar to almond meal. Bear in mind it will be moist. If you’re used to using defatted almond flour you will not get the same texture from ground sunflower seeds.
Just as unlikely to be a substitute for almond flour in macarons as sunflower seeds are pumpkin seeds. They share very little with sunflower seeds or almond nuts for that matter being products of very different plants. That said pumpkin seeds do a good job of filling in for almond flour in macarons. Just like the sunflower seeds you can easily grind them into a coarse meal in a good food processor. Pumpkin seeds unlike ground almonds or sunflower seeds do not contain as high a fat concentration. Pumpkin seeds on average contain 19 grams of fat for every 100 grams. One of the best things about pumpkin seeds is how easy they are to find in greengrocers and health food shops and many supermarkets. The pumpkin seeds we buy are removed from their harder outer shells. Another plus for pumpkin seeds is that they do not have an overpowering flavour so they will not alter the flavour of your macarons.
Another substitute for almond flour in macarons is white chocolate. The other substitutes mentioned so far are all seeds of some kind on the plant. With white chocolate, you get a mild and milky flavour to your macarons. So whilst it will not ruin your macarons recipe by any measure white chocolate will certainly change the flavour and many would say for the better. For some, though very few I imagine, white chocolate may make macarons too sweet as they already contain both regular and icing sugar. Finding reduced sugar versions is possible so this is not the worst thing though reduced sugar white chocolate may prove just as hard to find as almond flour.
Substituting for almond flour in macarons is not easy. Your best bet is ground almonds which you can easily make from store-bought almonds. Sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds may work well though sunflower seeds are a better fit. If you’re not afraid to experiment a little you can try white chocolate.