If you’ve ever bitten into a baked good and tasted a delicious pocket of soft, nutty flavor, it may have been almond paste. Almond paste is an ingredient that is often used in baking to give an extra soft texture and nutty flavor. However, in its packaged form, it can be exceptionally hard to work with. Before adding it to your favorite bread recipe, you’ll need to soften your almond paste.
The best way to soften almond paste is by using a double boiler. This provides a gentle heat and greatly reduces the risk that your almond butter will stick to the bowl and burn. If you are careful you can also use a microwave provided that you keep stirring it every 10 seconds or so.
Even if you don’t have access to a double boiler or microwave, there are a couple of easy ways to soften your almond paste. That way you can add this fantastic ingredient to all of your favorite desserts.
What is Almond Paste?
Almond paste is a common culinary ingredient that is used in cakes, brownies, and other desserts to provide an added nutty flavor as well as some additional sweetness.
Traditional almond paste is only made from two ingredients, almonds and sugar. They are ground together until they have created a smooth paste. The paste is still a bit gritty and is typically very thick. Due to its texture, it is normally used as an ingredient to give flavor to other dishes and is rarely consumed on its own.
However, almond paste has a doppelganger: marzipan.
What is Marzipan?
Marzipan is another almond-based paste. However, unlike regular almond paste, marzipan has additional ingredients that help to give it the signature marzipan flavor.
At its base level, the recipe is the same with a blend of almonds and sugar to create a smooth paste. However, marzipan has a significantly higher ratio of sugar to almonds. This gives the paste a smoother texture that allows it to be easily rolled, molded, and cut out into shapes.
Its sweeter flavor also means that people will eat it separately as an individual dessert.
Marzipan that you buy in the store is often flavored with additional ingredients. Some of the most common ingredients used to flavor marzipan are cinnamon, vanilla, and different rums. These give the marzipan enough flavor that it can be shaped and eaten on its own as a quick treat.
Best Way to Soften the Almond Paste
The best way to soften almond paste is on the stove using a double boiler. Double boiling is the best way to soften many ingredients without burning them and is often recommended for melting chocolate due to its tendency to burn easily.
When you try to soften almond paste on a regular burner on the stove, the heat is too direct and can cause the almond paste to burn. It can also cause the almond paste to melt too quickly which can cause an uneven texture.
When you double-boil almond paste you are heating it over indirect heat. This prevents the almond paste from burning and helps to soften the almond paste gradually. This allows the almond paste to heat gradually and lets you control the texture more accurately.
How to Double Boil Almond Paste
- Get a Pot and a Cook-Safe Bowl
The first step in double boiling is getting a pot and a bowl that is just the right size that will sit in the opening of the pot while still leaving a few inches of space between the bowl and the bottom of the pot. You will want to use a glass or metal bowl and make sure that it is safe to heat to high temperatures.
- Fill the Pot with Water
Once you have your bowl and your pot you can fill your pot with a few inches of water. This is the water that will be used to heat the bowl and almond paste.
- Bring the Water to a Boil
Now you will bring the 2-3 inches of water to a boil then lower it to a simmer. Remember, you are going for a low, even heat that will gradually soften the almond paste.
- Add Almond Paste to Bowl
As the water is simmering you will add your almond paste to the bowl. You don’t need to add any extra ingredients at this point. Make sure you have a spoon on hand because you’ll need to be constantly stirring the almond paste around to keep it from sticking.
- Place Bowl Over the Pot
Now you will place the bowl on top of the pot. If you’ve picked a good-sized bowl, the bowl should fit in the opening of the pot but it shouldn’t be touching the water.
- Keep Stirring!
As soon as you place the bowl over the pot you will want to start stirring. This will be difficult at first as the almond paste will still be very thick, but you mustn’t let the paste sit still for too long. If you do, the paste will get stuck to the bottom of the bowl and burn.
As you stir you will notice that the paste slowly begins to become softer and melt down.
- Remove From the Heat
Once the almond paste has reached your desired consistency, you can remove it from the heat. To do this you’ll simply turn off the heat and take the bowl off the pot.
As soon as you take the bowl off the heat you will want to use your almond paste. As it begins to cool down it will return to its original texture and may be too thick to use. You should always have the rest of your ingredients ready before softening your almond paste. That way, you won’t have to worry about your almond paste getting too hard while you prepare the other ingredients.
Quickest Way to Soften Almond Paste
The quickest way to soften almond paste is in the microwave. Softening your almond paste in the microwave is the quickest option, but it does have some downsides.
For one, it is very easy to burn almond paste in the microwave. You can’t constantly stir it and the paste may heat unevenly. This could cause the paste to burn and become unusable.
The second reason that microwaving your almond paste isn’t the best idea is that it’s harder to control the texture. Even if you’re just microwaving it in short bursts, you can’t observe the texture every second of the heating time. This could lead to over or underheating the almond paste very easily.
How to Soften Almond Paste in the Microwave
- Find a microwave-safe bowl
- Microwave in Short Bursts
As you microwave your almond paste you will want to do so in short bursts of no more than 10 seconds. This will allow you to carefully observe the texture of the almond paste as it softens.
Every 10 seconds you should remove your bowl of almond paste from the microwave and stir it. This will allow you to monitor the texture of the almond paste as it melts and continuously scrape it off the sides of the bowl so it doesn’t burn.
- Remove from the Microwave
The last step is removing the almond paste from the microwave once it has reached the ideal consistency for your recipe.
Just like with the double boiler method, you should try and use your almond butter as soon as it has been softened. As it cools it will return to its original texture and you will have to melt it down again to make it usable.
Alternative Ways to Soften Almond Paste
If you don’t have access to a microwave or the supplies necessary to make a DIY double boiler, there are alternative ways to soften the almond paste. Some of the alternative methods include softening it with your hands, adding liquid, using a food processor, using a vegetable steamer, and adding bread.
Soften with Your Hands
If you only need to soften a small amount of almond paste and don’t want to break out the whole double boiler, softening the paste with your hands could be a solution.
To do this you will leave it wrapped or wrap it in a small amount of parchment paper and begin kneading it with your hands. The heat from your hands combined with the movement will help to soften the almond paste enough that it can be worked with easily.
Another option if you simply want a slightly thinner consistency and don’t care whether it can firm up again is adding liquid. The best options for this are either flavorless cooking oil or plain water. To speed up the softening process, you will want to make sure the oil or water is at room temperature or slightly warmer.
Add in the liquid and gently begin to mix the paste with the liquid. It will take a while to incorporate but once it has you should be left with a runnier texture.
If you want to soften a large amount of almond paste a good option is to use a food processor. Simply drop the entire block of almond paste into the food processor and start chopping away.
The movement from the food processor as well as the gentle heat that it generates will make it easy to gradually soften large amounts of almond paste.
If you don’t have a bowl suitable for double boiling but have a vegetable steamer, that can work too. You’ll just have to do a few modifications to make sure that you don’t make a giant mess when softening the almond paste.
Before placing the block of almond paste in your vegetable steamer you will need to line the bottom with parchment paper. This will prevent any of the water from touching the almond paste if it sprays up when the water is boiling. It will also keep the almond paste from dripping down through the holes of the steamer and creating a mess as it softens.
A Slice of Bread
Now this one sounds pretty weird but is actually a traditional way of softening marzipan, almond paste’s closely related cousin. The idea behind this method is that if you add a slice of bread to your container of almond paste or marzipan, it will gradually absorb moisture from the bread. This will allow the almond paste to soften over time without having to add an additional source of heat.
To use this method you will need a couple of slices of bread and your block of almond paste. You can either add a slice of bread to the same container as the paste or place the block between two slices of bread and then store it in a container. Either way works and by the end of a few days, you will have a perfectly softened almond paste that is ready to use in your favorite recipes.
Almond paste is a great ingredient that can be used in many different types of desserts. However, before you use it, you will need to soften it.
The best way to soften almond paste is in a double boiler. This will allow you to soften the paste using a gentle heat that will not burn the paste. If you need the almond paste softened extra quickly, you can always pop it in the microwave for 10-second bursts. Just make sure to keep stirring so the almond paste doesn’t stick and burn.