There are days when you're strolling through the market looking for blanched almonds for a recipe you're working on and you spot a plastic container of the ivory nuts, skins stripped away, and your life is so easy. And then there are the days when you spot a package of pizzuta d'avola almonds and you dream of their incredible marzipan flavor and bitter edge, and you must have them even if they still have their skins attached. On those days, you have to blanch the almonds yourself. And the truth is, your life is still pretty easy.
That's because blanching almonds—the process of removing their papery brown skins—is a simple task. Tedious, yes, because you have to pull the skin off each individual almond, but there's nothing difficult about it once you prep them properly.
Why remove the skins from whole almonds? You often don't have to, and I want to make sure I don't overstate the case. In most instances, skin-on almonds will work just as well as blanched ones. But there are three reasons you might decide to do it. The first is texture. As I mentioned, almond skins can be papery, especially once they get wet. That's not a problem when you're eating them out of hand or even when finely ground up, but it can interfere with the texture of certain dishes that involve soaking almonds in a liquid. Second is flavor: Almond skins can be tannic (like red wine) and slightly bitter, so removing them yields a milder almond. Third is simply aesthetics: You may not always want your food mottled with tiny flecks of brown almond skin.
Removing the skins is a two-step process. First, you need to loosen them, then you can pull them off. Here's how.
Step 1: Steep Almonds in Boiling Water
Put the almonds in a heat-safe bowl and pour boiling water on top to cover. Let stand for one minute (don't let them soak too long in the hot water or the nuts themselves will soften too much).
Drain the almonds and run cold water over them to cool them down.
Step 2: Remove Skins
The soaked almonds should now have skins that are loose enough to remove. Working one almond at a time, gently squeeze the nut between your fingers to begin popping it out of the skin, then peel the skin away to remove it fully.
See? Now there's nothing standing between you and fancy skin-on almonds, even when you need ones that are skin-free. Except maybe the price.
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