If you reach for vanilla extract every time you want to add flavor to a recipe, consider almond extract instead. This sweet, clear liquid adds a burst of flavor to various baked goods and desserts. Producers make it by pressing bitter almonds, just as olive oil is pressed from olives. And in addition to flavoring your favorite dishes, it also provides some benefits to your health.
Almond extract is comprised of bitter almond oil mixed with water and alcohol. Bitter almonds are not edible because they contain hydrogen cyanide. However, the hydrogen cyanide is taken out during the extraction of the oil, so the oil is safe to use. Despite the name, bitter almonds provide a sweet flavor.
Almond extract comes in different varieties, so make sure you read the label before buying it. If the label says “pure,” the extract comes from bitter almonds. If the label says “natural,” the extract comes from cassia bark essence, which is a type of cinnamon. The first two are natural extracts, but artificial extract, which will be of lesser quality and taste, is also available on the market. This man-made type is labeled “imitation.”
Uses of Almond Extract
Since it has a strong flavor, you generally only need about ½ tsp. of this extract to flavor a recipe. You don’t want to add too much or it will overpower the other flavors in your recipe and make it too sweet. And since it’s so sweet, you can reduce the amount of sugar you put in your desserts.
Types of Dishes
This extract adds flavor to numerous varieties of desserts, from marzipan and cheesecake to cookies, biscotti, and bars. It also flavors foods like crackers and bread and is popular in Scandinavian dishes. It adds a hint of flavor to French toast when added to the egg dip and a delectable taste to sugar cookies without changing the color. It also goes with pitted fruits like apricots, peaches and cherries, so you can add it to desserts and baked goods that contain them. Further, almond flavor complements creamy foods like ice cream, whipped cream, and meringue.
Aside from food, the extracts of both bitter and sweet almonds are used topically in aromatherapy and body care products, such as soaps and perfumes. Almond oil improves the condition of the skin and is used to treat numerous skin conditions like eczema. It is also used for conditioning wood.
The amount of almond oil you obtain through almond extract is small, so you might not get enough to obtain its health benefits, unless you add it to many dishes or use it in other forms like almond cooking oil or almond syrup. Nonetheless, many health benefits are attributed to almond oil, although more research is needed to confirm some of them. Almonds are comprised of mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are associated with reducing many risk factors of heart disease. Almond oil and extract might provide the following benefits:
• Improving the immune system
• Anti-inflammatory properties
• Improving bowel function
• Anti-hepatotoxicity (liver damage from chemicals) properties
• Lowering the risk of colon cancer
• Heart benefits, such as improving cholesterol levels
• Improving the condition of the skin
As you can see, almond extract provides many uses and health benefits. So, the next time you go to use peppermint, cherry, or any other extract, think of almond instead for its sweet and powerful flavor that will make your guests ask what that delicious hint of flavor is.