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Bitter almonds?

I've been going through my mother's old recipes and found one for a cake, apparently from her aunt, which contains a relatively small quantity of bitter almonds along with the regular almonds. I know I could just substitute regular almonds for the entire cake and perhaps put in a splash of a bitter liqueur along with it, but I'm wondering if anyone knows where I might find bitter almonds? When I googled it I found lots of literary references to them, but no actual sources for the almonds themselves.

asked by lbgirl over 5 years ago
3 answers 3637 views
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added over 5 years ago

I don't know what they are exactly, but they make me think of a Sherlock Holmesian thing. They always say that people poisoned with cyanide have breath that 'smells of bitter almonds'. Can't say that I'd know what it smelled like anyway!

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added over 5 years ago

If you're in Europe you might be in luck, but here in the US it's actually illegal to sell bitter almonds because they have hydrocyanic acid which makes them poisonous. In Europe, you can buy small amounts for baking. If you buy pure almond extract, that's derived from bitter almonds. The hydrocyanic acid breaks down with cooking, so it's ok to eat in that form, but you should never eat raw bitter almonds.

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added over 5 years ago

@QueenofSpoons: I've also often heard that cyanide smells of bitter almonds. @littleknitter - thanks. That answers the question perfectly. Maybe I'll put in a drop or two of extract when I try the cake.