Photo by Tetiana Bykovets 
It's hard to say when almonds made their entrance into the Dutch kitchen. In Europe, almonds appear in recipes from the late Middle Ages (from 1300) on, often in combination with honey, and spices from Asia. These products came with traders from the Middle East during the Crusades. The oldest Dutch recipes for almond recipes (particularly marzipan) date from the beginning of the 17th century.

Almonds are still a big component of our baking traditions, mainly during the various holidays such as Sinterklaas and Christmas, where it makes its appearance next to speculaas, flavored with a tantalizing combination of spices such as cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, coriander, and ginger, and as a core in the traditional Kerststol, the Christmas bread. During the rest of the year, we see it appear in gevulde koeken, (almond paste filled buttery cookies), amandelbroodjes (almond paste turnovers), rondos, and as an optional base for apple and pear cakes.

Because almond paste tends to be fairly expensive, the commercial baking sector also employs something called "banketspijs" - made white beans and almond extract. If you are buying almond flavored products, read the label to see if you're getting almonds or beans. Both have pros and cons. 

This recipe is for a batch of almond paste, and is easy to remember: the same weight of almonds and sugar, mixed with an egg, lemon zest, and a splash of almond extract, if you want to boost the almond flavor a bit. It holds fairly well in the fridge for about a week to to ten days. Make sure to use clean utensils when taking paste out of the container for recipes, and return it to the refrigerator as soon as you're done. 


2 cups (250 grams) almonds, blanched and chopped*
1 1/4 cup (250 grams) sugar
1 egg
Zest of a small lemon
Almond extract (optional)

Blend the almonds and the sugar together in a food processor or blender until well combined, like wet, fine sand. Add in the egg, the lemon zest and, if desired, a tablespoon of almond flavoring. Mix everything together into a thick paste. Store in a covered container in the fridge.

*nowadays it's easier to find almond flour or almond meal. Read the label to make sure the only ingredient are almonds. 

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