Sunday, November 3, 2013

Emeles -- Medieval Almond Cakes

As promised in the previous post, I returned to one of my favorite books, Pleyn Delit by Hieatt, Hosington, and Butler.  I have the second edition.

Emeles are a great way to turn the ground almonds used in making almond milk into something tasty and different.  These are called "cakes" but they look for all the world like little pork sausage patties -- hopefully that gives you a better mental picture of what to expect from this recipe. 

Here's the original recipe (#129 in the book):


Take sugar, salt, almonds, and white bread, and grind them together; then add eggs; then grease or oil or butter, and take a spoon and brush them [i.e., the frying almond cakes] and then remove them and sprinkle them with dry sugar.

The redacted version is this:

Almond Cakes

1 cup breadcrumbs (or more depending on freshness of bread)
4 ounces ground almonds
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar (separated)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
oil and/or fat for frying

Yes, that is just four ounces of almonds there!

Blend dry ingredients with eggs (reserving the extra 2 tablespoons of sugar).  

Blended dry ingredients just before the eggs are mixed in

Not what I think of as a batter
Heat the oil or fat in a frying pan and drop in the batter in small spoonfuls, flattening with the spoon if necessary.  Turn over once if not using deep fat.  Drain on paper and sprinkle with the reserved sugar before serving -- preferably warm.

First side cooking; just about ready to be turned
Alternatively, chill batter for about 1 hour, then divide it into 20 balls and flatten into cakes.  This way, most of the work can be done ahead of time and the cakes will be more uniform in size and shape.

Honestly not sausage patties!

If I am starting with whole almonds, I find I get the best results from grinding them in the blender if they go in frozen.  The problem is that if they get warm from the whirling blades, the oil can separate out.  When they are frozen, they are hard (and so seem to grind better) and cold.  I haven't had any problems using frozen almonds and processing them in small batches.

I mix all the dry ingredients with a fork until they are uniformly blended.  Then I add the eggs and stir until the mixture is moist with no dry spots. 

I did not chill the batter, which is more like a sticky, crumbly dough.  After the oil is hot, I scoop a little into a soup spoon, press it down firmly with my hand, then slip the patty into the oil.  I usually do about 5 at a time so as not to drop the temperature of the oil too much with overcrowding.

It is important to compress the mixture so it stays as a patty instead of breaking up in the oil.

The patties need to be pretty thin because they cook so quickly.  I keep them to between 1/4 to 1/2 inch, mostly closer to 1/4 inch thick.  It is easy to scorch them, so keep an eye on them while they are in the oil.   Have the paper towel covered plate ready in advance so you can stop the cooking process when the patty is a dark golden brown.

I've experimented with sprinkling them with a cinnamon-sugar blend, too. 

The Verdict
Kids love these and so do I.  The taste is subtle, not strong.  The toasted nutty flavor is dominant with just enough sweet to convince your taste buds you are having a treat but not so much to be overwhelming.  They are a bit crunchy and that is a nice texture to have.  They are tasty warm or cool!

Success!  (But I've made them many times, so that is no surprise.)

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