Once upon a time, you decided that you were going to learn how to make macarons that would impress your friends with your savoir-faire, convince your family that you’re a real adult, and maybe even win your ex back. You bought the almond flour, the silicone baking sheets with little macaron-shaped circles on them, and fresh pastry bags with a half dozen metal tips. But your first attempt flopped, and you’re terrified of trying to make macarons again.
Luckily, there are dozens of things you can make with that bag of almond flour that’s been languishing in your pantry. The French love almonds, or amandes, and use them frequently for baking.
Blue Diamond Almond Flour is a fan favorite, and our recommendation for high quality, budget-friendly almond flour for macarons and other French pastries. Those concerned about their sustainability, water conservation, and bee-friendly biodiversity efforts can review that information here. But if you dislike using almond flour for ecological reasons, the more eco-friendly hazelnut flour can be used in its place in most of these recipes.
All of these recipes can be easily tweaked to make them gluten-free. Just substitute Cup4Cup or your favorite GF flour mix or pastry shell.
While the idea of eating a financier feels like something out of an “eat the rich” meme, the French word refers to both people who work in finance, and tiny rectangular cakes made from brown butter, flour, egg whites, powdered sugar, almond flour, and hazelnuts. The cakes get their name from Paris’s financial district, where they were popularized in the 19th century, as employees of the city’s stock exchange would stash the cakes in their pockets for a sweet treat later. Though often baked in a special tin with rectangular cutouts, financiers can be baked in a mini muffin tray and will taste just as good. That’s how they are made in this recipe for financiers adapted from Pierre Hermé.
The French have a traditional gluten-free cake called a dacquoise, which is made simply from almond flour, sugar, and egg whites that have been whipped into a fluffy meringue. The result is an extremely delicate cake that should be eaten as quickly as possible… which shouldn’t be a problem, once you’ve had your first bite. Hazelnut dacquoise is a common variation, using both almond and hazelnut flour for the cake, and sandwiching it in between layers of coffee buttercream, like in this dacquoise recipe.
Similar to the dacquoise is the joconde, a type of sponge cake named for the French term for the Mona Lisa. A joconde is denser than a dacquoise, using whole eggs as well as egg whites, and all-purpose flour in addition to almond flour. Joconde biscuit can be simply topped with whipped cream and berries, but it is also traditionally used as the base for a Christmastime Bûche de Noël.
If you’re really looking to stretch your baking skills, it might be worth dedicating a day to making a batch of opéra cakes. These decadent little cakes are layered with joconde, buttercream, chocolate ganache, and coffee syrup, and were given their name by the French pastry shop Dalloyau in honor of the Paris opera. They take time and dedication, but the end result is exquisite. Try this classic opéra recipe on for size.
Frangipane is a building block of French pastry, but it’s easy to make and enormously versatile. This thick, sweet almond paste is used to flavor a variety of cakes and pastries, and requires nothing more than butter, sugar, almond flour, almond extract, flour, and eggs. Here’s a frangipane recipe to get you started. Once you’ve mastered frangipane, a popular use for the spread is as filling for almond croissants. The best part about this particular viennoiserie is that you don’t actually have to make the croissants. This is often a method used to perk up day-old croissants or store-bought croissants with frangipane and rum syrup, as in this recipe from New York Times food writer, Claire Saffitz.
French Pear and Almond Tart
A tarte amandine aux poires, or pear and almond tart, uses frangipane and poached pears as the filling for a shortcrust pie. The result is a dense, nutty custard cut with fresh, moist slices of pear. Try our recipe for this Tarte Bourdaloue here.
French Apricot and Almond Tart
Similar to the pear and almond tart, this French apricot and almond tart uses fresh or canned apricots, heavy cream, and almond flour for a silky custard flavored with summer stone fruits and set in a crust. The combination makes perfect sense, because apricot kernels (the seeds hidden inside the pit) actually taste like almonds, and are used to make an almond-flavored liqueur called crème de noyaux. Try this recipe for an apricot and almond tart, or this one, which adds pistachios into the mix.
Catherine Rickman is a writer and professional francophile who has lived in Paris, New York, and Berlin. She is currently somewhere in Brooklyn with a fork in one hand and a pen in the other, and you can follow her adventures on Instagram @catrickman.
Also Read: Easy French Vegetarian Recipes