The perfect Christmas Stollen filling!
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Almond paste, used in Holland in Christmas and Easter stollen and speculaas, is deliciously easy to prepare.
The paste can be made well in advance because it keeps for a long time in the fridge or freezer. We recommend storing it in the fridge for up to one month and in the freezer for three months (provided you have not yet enriched the paste with egg). Make sure no air can get to the paste. We find the ‘sweet spot’ for the use of this paste is after one to two weeks.
Ingredients for the Almond Paste
250 g white unsalted almonds
250 g fine sugar
zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
little bit of water (around 50 g/50 ml, 3 to 4 tbsps)
Making the Almond Paste
Put the almonds and sugar in a grinding device or a mill (for instance an old coffee grinder) and grind the almonds to a very fine powder consistency. You can also buy ready made almond flour in some shops, this will save you the trouble of grinding but it may cost more. Now add the lemon zest and some water and first stir with a spoon, then get your hands in, until you have a smooth but very firm paste, not too wet and not too dry.
Adding 50 grams of water may seem very little, but the paste will need no more than a small amount of liquid. Just squeeze an amount under the back of a spoon or in your hand to judge how it comes together.
So we recoomend to not use the paste immediately after making but to store it in the fridge for a week or so. It will only get better as the ingredients blend together. Before using it in your bread or pie, knead some beaten egg through the paste so it becomes even smoother and easier to work with. Add the egg in stages, until you reach the consistency you want. We add between 1/4 and 1/2 of a small egg for every 150 g of almond paste, depending on the dryness and firmness of the paste. Adding the egg at this later stage is for obvious reasons of freshness, because it would not be good to store the paste for weeks with the raw egg in it. You can also use just egg yolk and add some butter to the paste to make it even richer and smoother.