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How to Make Amlou | What is Amlou?
This glistening, addictive almond spread or dip is amlou. It's a specialty Berber dish loved throughout Morocco but also much appreciated by tourists and others who try it. Amlou is most often served for breakfast or tea time alongside various breads such as khobz or batbout; it can also be used as a garnish to sweet couscous preparations or added to desserts.
In its most traditional form, amlou is made from roasted almonds, argan oil and honey – all indigenous to Morocco – but some families might use walnuts, peanuts or other nuts in place of almonds. Likewise, they might also substitute sugar for all or some of the honey.
The following pages show how to make amlou at home. For a one-page printable version of the process, see my Amlou Recipe.
Despite the number of photos and pages in this tutorial, making amlou is a fairly quick and easy process.Continue to 2 of 16 below.
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How to Make Amlou | The Traditional Way Is with a Stone Mill
A stone mill called an is the traditional tool used by Berbers to grind almonds to a thin, silky smooth paste. (The same mill is used to extract argan oil from the kernels of argan tree fruit.) In the following pages, however, you'll see that you can get very good results by grinding your almonds in a food processor.
The way it is traditionally produced, as well as the cost of argan oil and its other ingredients, make amlou rather pricey in comparison to other nut spreads and butters that you might buy. Import costs of commercially packaged amlou raise the price even more Fortunately, it's much more cost effective to make at home – and quite easy, too!Continue to 3 of 16 below.
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How to Make Amlou | Start with Good Quality Almonds
The process of making amlou at home can can be summed up in three simple steps:
- Clean and roast your almonds.
- Process the almonds to a smooth, almost liquidy paste.
- Stir in argan oil to thin the paste and then honey to sweeten it.
The better the quality of those few ingredients, the better your end product will be. Here I started with organic almonds (luz beldi from the Atlas mountains) that were just out of the shell. I'm using about five and a half cups, which is approximately 800 grams or two pounds. This quantity is ideal for my large family, but you may want to try making amlou the first time with only half this quantity of almonds, or perhaps even less. The exact amount is not critical as "your eye will be your scale" when adding the oil.Continue to 4 of 16 below.
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How to Make Amlou | Pick Through the Almonds
It's always a good idea to pick through nuts to be sure there aren't any bits of shell or other debris. I almost always find some, which is understandable given that the almonds and other nuts we buy in Morocco are shelled by hand.
One little bit of shell accidentally ground up in your amlou will ruin it. Not in flavor, of course, but for that occasionally nasty bite of something which shouldn't be in there. Picking through the almonds takes just a few minutes at most. You won't regret doing it.
The easiest way to spot small pieces of shell is to spread out a handful of almonds on a white plate or white surface. Transfer the cleaned almonds to a bowl and move on to the next handful.Continue to 5 of 16 below.
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How to Make Amlou | Wash the Almonds
Once you're sure all bits of shell have been removed, wash the almonds in a large bowl of water. Swirl them around to loosen any grit, then lift them out by handfuls into a strainer or colander. Rinse with running water and leave to drain for a few minutes.Continue to 6 of 16 below.
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How to Make Amlou | Roast the Almonds
Preheat an oven to 375° F (190° C).
Line a tray with parchment paper and spread the wet, drained almonds in a single layer. Place the almonds in the middle of the preheated oven and roast for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until darkened and crunchy but not burnt. If you're roasting only a small quantity, they may be done in as little as 10 minutes.Continue to 7 of 16 below.
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How to Make Amlou | Comparing the Color of Raw and Roasted Almonds
To help judge when your almonds are done, here's a look at the almonds before and after roasting. Do watch the almonds carefully because once they begin to darken, they can quickly go from a desirable deep brown to too dark and bitter. They should be just a little bit darker than Roasted Salted Almonds.
Leave the roasted almonds to cool briefly before moving on to the next step.Continue to 8 of 16 below.
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How to Make Amlou | Use a Food Processor
Set up your work area with a food processor and some argan oil (allow about 1/2 cup or a little more of oil for every two cups of almonds).
Transfer the almonds while still warm to the food processor.
Note: If you don't own a food processor, it really is a great kitchen tool to have. I use mine quite regularly to process nuts, make mayonnaise, make sellou, occasionally mix doughs, puree soups and blend smoothies.Continue to 9 of 16 below.
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How to Make Amlou | Begin Grinding the Almonds
On high speed, begin processing the almonds. Within a very short period of time the almonds will grind to a coarse powder (left image), but then the processed nuts will climb the sides of the bowl (right image).
Note that in the photo on the right, the machine is still running and the blade spinning, but the grinding action has stopped because the blade is no longer in contact with the almonds. You'll need to get those ground nuts back to the bottom of the bowl so that they can continue to process to a paste.Continue to 10 of 16 below.
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How to Make Amlou | Keep the Almonds in Contact with the Blade
You can stop the motor and scrape the almonds back down to the blade, but once you turn the motor back on, they'll work their way back up the sides and need to be scraped down at least several more times.
What I have found to be far more helpful is to pick up the machine and shake, tip and tilt while the motor is still running. This will loosen the almonds from the side of the bowl so that they can fall back down and make contact with the blade. Within a half minute or so you won't need to do this as the ground almonds will begin to transform from a powdery mass to a heavier, paste-like consistency.Continue to 11 of 16 below.
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How to Make Amlou | Keep Processing to a Paste
Once the almonds are maintaining contact with the blade, you can set the food processor down and leave it to do its job. Keep processing until you have a smooth paste that can be poured.
The photo here shows the paste almost to the correct stage, but not quite. It was still a bit grainy and didn't move downward quickly when I tilted the machine. At this point, I put the lid back on and processed for another minute or so.Continue to 12 of 16 below.
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How to Make Amlou | Now the Amond Paste is Ready
Here's what the almond paste looks like when it's at the correct consistency for making amlou. It's fairly smooth, is shiny from the oils which have been released and it can be poured from the machine with a little scraping.Continue to 13 of 16 below.
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How to Make Amlou | Add the Argan Oil
Reduce the speed of the food processor to its lowest setting so that the blade is stirring and mixing rather than processing the almonds further. Add your argan oil in a steady, thin stream until the amlou is a consistency that you like.
Traditionally the consistency of amlou is such that it's thin enough to pour and not overly pasty or chunky. How much argan oil you use, then, will depend on your own preferences regarding consistency as well as on how smoothly you processed the almonds – the smoother the paste, the more almond oil that will be released.
Note: Be sure you are using high quality culinary argan oil and not the cosmetic argan oil; click here for a description of their differences.Continue to 14 of 16 below.
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How to Make Amlou | Add the Honey
Now it's time to sweeten the amlou. Use a good quality honey; here I'm using a dark organic . I prefer honey that's not overly floral or herbal but you can use whatever flavor you like.
How sweet to make your amlou is totally up to you. I recommend about six tablespoons of honey for every two cups of almonds; you can use more or less if you like. You can also replace a tablespoon or two of the honey with granulated sugar, which adds a little crunchy texture to the finished product.
The honey must be warmed so that it can poured in a thin stream. I use the microwave to warm the honey – 10 to 15 seconds is usually sufficient for a small quantity – but you can also heat the honey on the stove. With either method be careful not to burn the honey.
With the processor running on its slowest speed, add a generous pinch of salt for every two cups of almonds and then add the honey in a steady stream. Stop and taste, then adjust sweetness if necessary.Continue to 15 of 16 below.
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How to Make Amlou | The Amlou is Finished
The amlou is now finished and can be served immediately if you like. You can see that the traditional consistency is thin enough to be poured directly from the food processor. It will thicken slightly as it cools.Continue to 16 of 16 below.
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How to Make Amlou | Cool and Store the Amlou
You can go ahead at this point and transfer the amlou to a clean glass or plastic jar – be sure to use a rubber spatula to scrape every last bit from the sides of the processor bowl – but don't cover your jar until it has cooled completely.
Store the amlou in a cool, dark cupboard for up to two months. Chances are, though, that it will be gone long before that, and perhaps even in a matter of days. (Yes, it's that good!)
I don't have an issue with the almond paste separating from the oils with the preparation method described here, but should your amlou separate in the jar after sitting for some time, simply stir it briskly to remix before serving.