Almond paste is the key to unlocking the rich, nutty pastries of your dreams.

By Maddy Sweitzer-Lammé
December 18, 2020
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As a dedicated lover of holiday sweets with an Italian background, almond is a key flavor in my holiday baking. To get the utmost almond flavor, I don't reach for almond extract, and I skip the marzipan. Instead, I turn to almond paste, a less common ingredient, but the one that packs the absolute most almond flavor. It's available in some grocery stores, and it's also easy to make yourself. Here are five ways to use it.

Cookies

Lots of Italian cookies call for almond paste to get that chewy, super-nutty flavor. If you've ever eaten a slivered almond-topped pasticcini or pignoli, you've eaten a cookie made with almond paste. Many cookies that call for almond paste don't call for flour, making them gluten-free.

Fruit Tarts

Almond is a classic pairing with fruity flavors, often in the form of an almond paste layer in the bottom of a simple apple or pear tart. Simply spread a thin layer of the almond paste on the bottom of your tart and shingle your sliced fruit on top. The effect will be an elevated and unexpected addition to a classic dessert.

Cinnamon Buns

You can put anything in a cinnamon bun, but almond paste is a pretty amazing addition. Just a thin layer adds a nice richness to the dough without adding too much sweetness; unlike marzipan, almond paste has a more concentrated almond flavor that allows you to control the level of sugar in a baked good.

Almond Croissants

Almond croissants are likely the most common use of almond paste in the United States. Lots of bakeries make their own, which yields a super-rich and nutty paste that melts right into the butter.

Bear Claws

Got puff pastry and some almond paste? You've got the ingredients for bear claws. Simply spread the paste on the pastry, fold it over, and cut into the claw shape for a low-effort, delicious, and very impressive breakfast.

This story originally appeared on allrecipes.com