Friday, May 1, 2015

Amande – The almond, the nut. Almonds in French cuisine.

Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
Updated January 2021

Almonds are an indispensable part of French cuisine; they will be in French recipes from the hors d’œuvre to the dessert and are essential for many pastries.  However, the Amande de Mer, the sea almond or dog cockle, is a tasty smooth-shelled clam that will be on seafood restaurant menus and has its own post. (Click here).

N.B. A French friend with a great deal of culinary knowledge, as well the correct use of French Grammar, my nemesis, has reminded me to be very careful with the words “amande” and “Amende.”  The two words are pronounced the same though they are spelled differently. However, “une amende” is the French for a parking ticket, and you will not want an amende before you sit down to dine.  

Soles "Meuniere" Aux Amandes
Photograph courtesy of Les Foodies.

Almonds on French menu:

Fromage Blanc au Miel et Amandes – Fresh white cheese served together with honey and almonds.


Figues Rôties, Glace au Lait d'Amande – Roasted figs served with an almond milk ice-cream


Sole Façon Belle Meunière aux Amandes – Sole meunière, prepared with almonds. This sole is the fish called in the UK the Dover sole.


Tarte Amandine aux Poires – A pear and almond tart. Elsewhere this dish may be on the menu as a Tarte Bourdaloue. In the 1850s in Rue Bourdaloue, Paris, a pastry chef became famous for his creation sole, made with pear and an almond or Frangipane cream.


Frangipane is an almond-based custard filling.


The name Frangipane is attributed to a 13th Century Italian nobleman, Muzio Frangipan, who created a leather perfume using a bitter almond base. Then, some 300 years later, French pastry cooks who liked that scent made an almond custard with a similar scent and named it after Senor Frangipani. BTW Frangipane is also the name of a family of North American tropical shrubs with fragrant, multi-colored flowers. Hawaii is the primary grower of Frangipane flowers today whose scent is floral and not at all like almonds.


Truites aux Amandes, Beurre Noisette au Miel d’Amandier -  Trout with almonds prepared with beurre noisette sauce and almond tree honey. Beurre Noisette is a melted butter sauce. Noisettes are hazelnuts, and here the butter is melted until its color resembles the color of hazelnuts and it has a slightly nutty flavor.

Parfait with almonds
As a dessert a parfait will be a cold or frozen dessert mousse, often a fruit-based mousse, made with cream.

Almonds in pastries and cakes.

You may make a quick check on the almond’s popularity in pastries by looking at a display of pastries in any medium-sized French café, a cafe that offers at least seven or eight choices of pastries or cakes. Without a doubt, two or three or more pastries will have almonds in their recipes. In the rare cases where almonds are in less than thirty percent of the recipes, their place will have been taken by the walnut or hazelnut. Almonds are also number three in the best-selling croissant stakes; the Croissant aux Amandes comes after chocolate croissant (in France called a Pain au Chocolat, not a croissant au chocolat). Of course, the best-selling croissant is the Croissant au Beurre, a butter croissant. 

Many other famous pastries and cakes are made with almonds and include the traditional Dacquoise, the Marjolaine, the Gateaux Paris-Brest, as well as Financiers,  Pralines, Pralines Roses, and Pralulines.  

Croissant aux Amandes
Photograph courtesy of Cuisine AZ

Almonds are also the essential ingredient in marzipan, massepain in French. There are famous marzipan varieties associated with Spain, Italy, and Germany, and while France has several unique marzipan recipes it is more famous for the marzipan decorations that make birthdays and holidays come alive.

Marzipan displays. 

Lait d'Amande – Almond milk.

 Almond milk is another recipe introduced by the Romans, made by soaking almonds for two or three days and then peeling and crushing them. However, I have no idea how the Romans made almond milk without electric blenders. In sauces and dessert recipes, almond milk adds its unique flavor without the texture of the nut. French chefs have improved on the original Roman recipes and add other flavors. However, read the label as some modern almond milk products include additives other than just sugar. As almond milk has no connection to real cow’s milk, it is also enjoyed by vegans and those with milk allergies. My first vegan cappuccino introduced me to almond milk when it did an outstanding job replacing cow's milk.

Almond milk on French menus:


Clafoutis Figues et Lait d'Amandes – Clafoutis made with figs and a batter made with almond milk. Clafoutis began as tarts made with a thick crêpe-like batter cooked together with sour cherries, but today will have ingredients that go far beyond fruits.


Dos de Cabillaud au Chou-Fleur, Parfumé au Lait d'Amande – A cut from the meatiest portion of cod. The fish is served with cauliflower flavored with almond milk.


Glace au Lait d’Amande Ice-cream made with almond milk.  

French Almond milk.
Photograph courtesy of Bjorg.

The almond tree comes to France.

The Romans brought to France their straight roads, amphitheaters, bathhouses, temples, villas.  But of more lasting use, they also brought many fruit trees to France. Along with almond trees came apricot trees, cherry trees, plum trees, and many others. Already 2,000 years ago, almonds were part of the Roman diet and culture.

Almond candies, sweets.

Look in a traditional chocolatier window, a classic French chocolate shop, or a conventional confiserie, a traditional confectionery. Then go to a modern candy store, a sweet shop, and, of course, a supermarket.  All will offer an endless choice of candies, sweets, and that include almonds. 

A confiserie. 

Dragées - Sugared Almonds

The Romans threw almonds at newlyweds as a fertility rite and the first recipes for sugared almonds were almonds coated with honey came from Rome. The tradition of almonds at wedding spread to Europe and most family celebrations, especially baptisms in France are considered incomplete without a small gift of sugared almonds for the guests. By the 17th century almonds with a hard sugar covering were well established.

Toffee world 3-kilo jar of sugared almonds

Amandes Aboukir
Whole almonds covered in almond paste or marzipan and dipped in caramelized sugar. 

Amandes Aboukir are served as a petit four, occasionally as a dessert. That bay is famous in French history as the site of Napoleon I’s victorious land-based battle in Egypt with the Ottoman Turkish army. Here, began the slow end to Turkish rule over Egypt, and historically that battle paved the way for the construction of the Suez Canal and eventually Egyptian independence.

Amandine –  A soft pastry made with almonds.

Amaretto - An almond-flavored liqueur. While Amaretto was created in Italy, today, it is made all over the world. French companies such as Marie Brizard of Bordeaux, famous for their Anisette, make their own French versions of Amaretto.

Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2015, 2021
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog write to Bryan Newman
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Connected posts:

Apricot or Abricot - Apricot. The Apricot in French cuisine.
Cerises, Bigarreaux and Griottes - The Cherries of France. Cherries on French Menus.
Chocolate and France. Visiting a Chocolatier, a real chocolate maker.
Cod; the Fish. Cod; the Most Important Fish in the World and the Most Popular Fish in France.
Dover Sole or Sole Française on French Menus.
Miel - Honey. The Many, Varied and Wonderful Honeys of France. Honey on French Menu.
Milk on French Menus, in Cafes and in the supermarkets.
Échalotes - Shallots. One of the Most Important Herbs in the French Kitchen
The Amande de Mer, the Sea Almond. About French Clams I. .- Behind the French Menu
The Apricot or Abricot. The Wonderful Fruits of France.
The Dacquoise or the Biscuit Dacquoise. The Town of Dax and the Pays Dacquoise in Nouvelle Aquitaine.
The Greengage Plum, the Reine-Claude Plum in French cuisine.
Truite - Trout, the Fish. Trout in French Cuisine.


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