Almond Buttons are my version of Italian Almond Biscuits, they are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. These delicious biscuits are popular at Christmas time, I think they make a lovely light and healthy treat any day of the year. You get a lovely almond marzipan flavour by using almond extract but vanilla can also be used.
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Preheat oven to 160c (fan-forced). Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
Add the coconut sugar to the small bowl of a food processor or blender and blend for approximatley 6 seconds to ground the sugar down to a fine powder. The colour will lighten once ground.
Add the almond meal, coconut sugar, baking powder and salt to a large bowl. Mix well to combine and remove any lumps.
Add the egg whites to a medium bowl and whisk using a handheld electric mixer or stand mixer until you reach soft peaks. Add the maple syrup and almond extract. Continue whisking for a further 20 seconds to combine well.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and gradually fold in the egg white mixture. Mix well until you reach a soft dough.
Roll 2 small teaspoons of dough into 32 small balls, roughly the size of a walnut shell (I find using damp hands helps make a smooth surface to the balls). Arrange on the prepared trays, 5cm apart. Press an almond into the centre of each biscuit ball.
Bake for 18 - 20 minutes or until lighly golden and firm (turn once while cooking for an even colour). Cool for 5 minutes on trays before transferring to a wire rack to completely cool and crispen up.
Serve as they are or optionally dust with coconut flour to resemble icing sugar. (Add coconut flour to a small sieve and use the edge of a teaspoon to push the flour through the sieve to lighly dust the biscuits).
Best eaten on the day as when stored they can soften. Although they are still delicious, you can pop them back into a preheated oven and bake for 5 - 6 minutes to regain the crisp outside. You can also freeze the cooked Almond Buttons ahead of time, then set aside to thaw for several minutes and then bake again for 5 - 6 minutes for a firm outside and chewy middle.
The most favoured gluten/grain free flour substitute in my kitchen is almond meal. It is finely ground blanched almonds and is also known as almond flour. It has a slightly sweet flavour so you don’t have to add as much sweetener when baking with it. All kinds of nuts can be ground down to make a meal and are excellent for raw cheesecake or pie bases. Nut meals/flours are best stored in airtight containers in the fridge or freezer to prevent them going rancid.
Coconut palm sugar is produced from the sap of the flower bud of the coconut palm tree and is a natural food sweetener. I use it when a dry sweetener is required. It has the benefit of a low glycemic index (low GI 35 compared to sugar at 68) and nutritional content. Use in baked goods as an occasional treat but don't over indulge.
Baking Powder is a rising agent for baked goods. If substituting for baking soda you will need 4 times the quantity. Ensure you purchase a gluten free, no aluminum brand. Alternatively, you can make your own baking powder; 1 teaspoon of baking powder is equal to 1⁄4 teaspoon of baking soda and 1⁄2 teaspoon of cream of tartar. Note, that they should only be combined when preparing your recipe.
Organic unbleached, unrefined organic Celtic sea salt or pink Himalayan salt is my salt of choice as these contain healthy minerals and trace elements that our body needs. Regular table salt has been bleached, refined and processed leaving minimal health benefits. If you choose to use regular table salt in my recipes you will need to reduce the quantity or the end result will be to salty.
Egg white is the clear liquid part of an egg, also called the albumen. Egg white consists primarily of about 90% water into which is dissolved 10% protein and almost no fat or carbohydrate. Egg whites can be whisked, which will increase the volume making them ideal to use in light desserts, like mousse. Egg white can also be brush on baked goods to form a shiny glaze. Purchase free range or organic eggs.
Maple syrup is an earthy, sweet tasting amber liquid that is produced by boiling down the sap of maple trees. Use organic 100% maple syrup which is a natural food sweetener, not a flavoured maple syrup. Pure maple syrup contains a decent amount of some minerals, especially manganese and zinc, some traces of potassium and calcium but it does contain a whole bunch of sugar. I try to reduced the amount of sweetness in each recipe to the lowest possible without compromising taste. Feel free to adjust to your liking. I use maple syrup in place of raw honey when I don't want the strong honey flavour coming through in a recipe. I have paleo cookies and desserts in my cookbook made from whole food ingredients with natural sugars but please don’t overindulge. Use as a treat only for special occasions.
Organic almond extract manufactured by ‘Frontier Natural Flavors’ has the best flavour, and price I've found. I purchase it online from iherb.
Almonds have 240mg of calcium in 50gms, as much as is found in 200ml of milk. Nuts are a great protein snack. Eat them raw or activated and it's best to avoid store bought roasted nuts that have been cooked in canola, sunflower or similar vegetable oils. When ground finely almonds make a wonderful nut meal/flour for grain-free baking.
Coconut flour is made by drying and grinding the meat of a coconut to a fine texture. Coconut flour is an excellent source of dietary fibre and protein. It's a good grain-free and nut-free alternative but does require a larger amount of liquid than normal when used for baked goods. When replacing in a recipe that calls for wheat flour (or almond meal), use this guide; 1 cup of regular flour = 1/3 cup coconut flour, add an extra egg and an extra 1/3 cup of liquid. There are now quite a few brands of coconut flour available and they all seem to perform differently depending on how coarse the texture is. In my recipes I have used Organic Coconut Flour from 'Let's Do Organic', I like its finer texture (I purchase from iherb.com).