Synthetic stuff does not strongly appeal to me but I do happen to pick up some when the real thing is either not available or not affordable. While baking does involve some amount of chemistry between different ingredients, adding chemicals to enhance texture or flavour is something I’d rather do without.

I was therefore not very surprised to discover an unused bottle of almond extract among my baking stash. Being partial to the subtle taste of almonds I actually use them extensively in baking. The best way according to me is to use lightly roasted ground almonds which explains why my extract goes mostly untouched.

Almond extract however is quite popular in commercial baking where it is second best to the all-time favourite, vanilla. Unlike the mild flavour of vanilla, synthetic almond extracts impart a more powerful aroma to baked goodies. Few drops of the benzaldehyde derivative suffice for a whole batch of cookies or large cakes.

The recipes featured today have been flavoured with both natural and synthetic almonds. The Swedish Visiting Cake is a Dorie Greenspan creation featured in her book, Baking: From My Home to Yours. I had never heard of a Swedish cake before, let alone a visiting one. It was by some lucky stroke that I stumbled across the recipe for this simple yet delightful cake on Dorie’s blog.

I would highly recommend this for anyone having a craving for something homemade, straighforward and failproof. It goes nicely with a mug of hot luscious almond mocha

.

SWEDISH VISITING CAKE

 

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

Grated zest of 1 lemon

2 large eggs, room temperature

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 tsp pure almond extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

8 tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 tbs lightly roasted almond meal

1/4 cup sliced almonds

 

Method:

  • Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 oF.
  • Butter a seasoned 9-inch cast-iron skillet or other heavy ovenproof skillet, a 9-inch cake pan or even a pie pan.
  • Pour the sugar into a medium bowl. Add the zest.

 

  • Blend together with fingertips until moist and aromatic.
  • Whisk in the eggs one at a time until well blended.
  • Whisk in the salt and the extracts.

 

  • Switch to a rubber spatula and stir in flour and almond meal.
  • Finally, fold in the melted butter. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.

 

  • Scatter sliced almonds over the top. Sprinkle with a lil sugar.
  • If you’re using a cake or pie pan, place pan on a baking sheet.
  • Bake the cake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it is golden and a little crisp on the outside; the inside will remain moist.

 

  • Remove pan from oven and let the cake cool for 5 minutes.
  • Run a thin knife around the sides and bottom to loosen it.
  • You can serve the cake warm or cooled, directly from the skillet or turned out onto a serving plate.

The perfect drink on cold winter nights is hot chocolate.  Steaming mugs of cocoa make you cozy and warm you up right till your toes. Add a spoonful of Nescafe and a drop of almond essence for a twist or make it more sinful with a dollop of whipped cream or some mini marshmallows. Recipe taken from Hershey’s Kitchens.

LUSCIOUS ALMOND MOCHA

 

Ingredients:

1/4 cup cocoa

1/4 cup powdered instant coffee

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup hot water

3 cups milk

1/2 tbs vanilla extract

1/4 tsp almond extract

Whipped cream & cocoa

Method:

  • Whisk together first 4 ingredients in a saucepan till smooth.
  • Bring to boil over medium heat, whisking continuously.
  • Add milk and cook to serving temperature. Do not boil.

 

  • Stir in almond and vanilla extracts. Pour in mugs or cups.
  • Top with whipped cream and a light dusting of cocoa.
  • Makes 4 large servings.
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