Jump to content


Welcome to the eG Forums!

These forums are a service of the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to advancement of the culinary arts. Anyone can read the forums, however if you would like to participate in active discussions please join the Society.

Photo

Where to find bitter almond extract


  • Please log in to reply
8 replies to this topic

#1 Explorer

Explorer
  • participating member
  • 221 posts

Posted 09 April 2004 - 07:11 AM

I wonder if anyone knows where we can find Italian bitter almond extract in Toronto. We tried several obvious places, but no luck.
Is it available anywhere? (maybe even Montreal?)
Thanks,
"I hate people who are not serious about their meals." Oscar Wilde

#2 eric_n-b

eric_n-b
  • participating member
  • 2 posts

Posted 15 May 2004 - 08:21 AM

Does it have to be the extract? Usually, I just add a few bitter almonds to the sweet when making amaretti or other things, and this works well.

I've found bitter almonds at many Chinese groceries.

#3 Gifted Gourmet

Gifted Gourmet
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 9,587 posts
  • Location:Atlanta, Georgia

Posted 15 May 2004 - 08:36 AM

I wonder if anyone knows where we can find Italian bitter almond extract in Toronto. We tried several obvious places, but no luck.
Is it available anywhere? (maybe even Montreal?)
Thanks,

When I discussed finding bitter almond extract (for a Moroccan pastry that I make) with Paula Wolfert recently, she mentioned to me that the only place where you can buy bitter almond extract is from a pastry or bakers supply house... so, if you want to check out places of that ilk in your vicinity, that might be a possible lead ...

why not readily available

but, that said, there is this

Edited by Gifted Gourmet, 15 May 2004 - 08:45 AM.

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"


#4 andiesenji

andiesenji
  • society donor
  • 9,409 posts
  • Location:Southern California

Posted 15 May 2004 - 09:20 AM

Does it have to be a Canadian supplier?

I have ordered it from this vendor:
http://www.cybercake...dy_flavors.html

Not recently, my bottle is dated 11/02.

Their anise oil is the strongest I have found.
I like it in biscotti and/or meringues better than others.

I have used many of their products and have not had any problems.
They are located in Ohio.
"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett
My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

#5 Explorer

Explorer
  • participating member
  • 221 posts

Posted 19 May 2004 - 01:00 PM

Thanks to all. We found a Flavorganics product at Pusateris, although there is another product at McCalls but it's artificial extract.

If one buys bitter almonds from a Chinese store as suggested, does it contain the poison cyanide? I have seen Italian recipes where they tell you to add bitter almonds to regular almonds. Does anyone know what % is safe?
"I hate people who are not serious about their meals." Oscar Wilde

#6 Gifted Gourmet

Gifted Gourmet
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 9,587 posts
  • Location:Atlanta, Georgia

Posted 19 May 2004 - 01:07 PM

does it contain the poison cyanide? I have seen Italian recipes where they tell you to add bitter almonds to regular almonds. Does anyone know what % is safe?

The human ingestion of 7.5 ml of Bitter almond oil has resulted in death, so this oil should be handled with much care.
Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"


#7 balmagowry

balmagowry
  • legacy participant
  • 1,482 posts

Posted 19 May 2004 - 01:16 PM

Have never bought them from Chinese store (I'll have to try this - bitter almonds are supposed to be unavailable in the US unless by prescription), but can't see why they wouldn't be the same as other bitter almonds, which do indeed contain prussic acid. I can't give you exact chapter and verse on the safe percentage, but there are some useful guidelines in various historic recipes. I've written about several of these in the past few years, and have tested them both in a "safe" modern version (using all sweet almonds and adding bitter almond extract for the flavoring) and in a "dangerous" authentic one, substituting the kernels of apricot or peach pits for the bitter almonds. (The latter BTW was quite common practice in the 18th-19th centuries and is a legitimate substitution on all counts; apricots and peaches, as well as plums and roses, come from the same family as almonds , and their pits taste the same and are equally poisonous.) The proportions given in most old recipes call for anywhere from 1/10 to 1/4 bitter almonds; I have used up to 1/4 without any ill effects. The discovery of prussic acid's poisonous properties and its presence in bitter almonds dates to the early 19th century (in fact, Mrs. Beeton solemnly mentions the danger in 1861); yet recipes calling for bitter almonds persisted in cookbooks right up until about 1920. Anecdotally, you have to figure that if many people died or got sick after eating macaroons or ratafias made from those recipes, someone would have noticed the fact! So I venture to suggest that you're OK with up to 25% bitter almonds. But if it makes you feel safer, cut back on the proportion and compensate with extract.

#8 carswell

carswell
  • participating member
  • 1,523 posts
  • Location:Montreal

Posted 20 June 2004 - 04:57 PM

I wonder if anyone knows where we can find Italian bitter almond extract in Toronto. We tried several obvious places, but no luck.
Is it available anywhere? (maybe even Montreal?)

Last year, friends and I scoured Montreal in search of bitter almond extract, to no avail. Don't have official confirmation but I suspect the situation in Canada is similar to that in the U.S. In "The Mother of All Ice Cream" chapter of The Man Who Ate Everything, Jeffrey Steingarten writes:

Bitter almonds cannot be imported into the United States because they contain the chemical amygdalin, which, when moistened, breaks down into benzaldehyde (the chief flavor in marzipan and almond extract) and prussic acid, which releases a toxin similar to cyanide. ... Imitation or artificial almond extracts are sorry substitutes, containing synthetic benzaldehyde alone, with none of the numerous other aroma coumpounds found in true bitter almond oil.

Steingarten suggests the following workaround, which produces an almond cream: Put five peach or apricot pits in a plastic bag and crack open with a hammer. Remove the kernels; you should have about 2 tablespoons' worth. Blanch the kernels in boiling water for 1 minute. Slip off the skins. Drain and toast in a preheated 300ºF oven for 10 or 15 minutes until light brown ("this procedure will eliminate the prussic acid while leaving much of the bitter almond taste"). Put in the bowl of a food processor with 2/3 cup raw blanched almonds and 1/2 cup granulated sugar and "grind to fine powder, alternating 30 seconds of pulsing with 30 seconds of steady power, for a total of 6 minutes or more, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl halfway through and at the end. Then, with the processor running, add 4 tablespoons of hot water, a tablespoon at a time, letting the machine run steadily for a minute after each addition." I've used the cream to flavour blancmanges; Steingarten dissolves it in a cup of hot water, adds 3 cups of spring water, covers, chills and freezes the mixture into an almond granita.

Will have to try inquiring at an Italian pastry shop, though, as per PW's suggestion.

#9 Sandra Levine

Sandra Levine
  • participating member
  • 1,690 posts
  • Location:New York

Posted 21 August 2004 - 06:27 AM

The label on McCormick Pure Almond Extract lists ingredients as: Water, Alcohol (36%) and oil of bitter almonds.