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Nov 23, 2007 06:49 PM

Apricot seeds

Does anyone have experience in using apricot pits? I thought about using a surplus last summer to make amaretti. I have heard that they have to be treated to inactivate the cyanide (?) in them, but an organic gardening book from the 70's recommends eating them as is, not even toasted. This is posted way in advance of my apricot crop, but maybe this'll give time to collect info.

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  1. I've used the kernel inside the apricot pit to make Noyau Ice Cream from Lindsey Shere's Chez Panisse Desserts. Noyau is just the french term for the bitter almond flavor. The ice cream is absolutely delicious. Just take a hammer to the apricot pits and there you have it!


    7 Replies
    1. re: meta

      That's a great recipe and noyaux translates well to custards too, brulee, flan, etc.
      It is also very key to amaretii and good ground up in almond cookies of any kind.
      You'd have to ingest a lot to make yourself sick. They have a pretty strong flavor so you don't need much. Some belief they are cancer fighting even.
      I have a couple of great cookie recipes they make extra special if you are interested.

      1. re: rabaja

        I'd be very interested in recipes for this nut. I understood that amaretti were made exclusively from the apricot pit, which I think tastes different from bitter almond. It's been a long time since I have tasted either though, so maybe I'm mistaken. Pastry chefs, help me out here. (And Meta, very nice website.)

        1. re: Leucadian

          Leucadian, yes, you have a good point. I agree there are differences in flavor between the apricot pit kernel and the bitter almond. The commercial brand Lazzaroni Amaretti di Saronno are made with apricot kernels, but I've also seen recipes for that use bitter almonds. (And thanks so much for the compliment! It's new and I'm loving it.)

          And rabaja, I'd also love to see your recipes. Are they Italian?


          1. re: meta

            I use noyau and bitter almonds pretty interchangeably. My bitter almond supply is limited though, while my freezer is stocked with bags of apricot pits.
            Wherever you grind nuts, you can sub in some noyau to grind as well, and they go particularly well with almonds, pinenuts and hazelnuts. One of my favorite cookie recipes is indeed Italian, they are called Pinolate and I think originally came from a Carol Fields book, but I've had the recipe for years and honestly am not sure who originally authored it. I also will grind up some noyau with almonds and sugar, add a little flour and salt to the mixture and dust it over crostata dough underneath the fruit for fruit tarts. It absorbes the moisture many spring/summer fruits give off and adds a subtle flavor. Actual amaretti added to the ground mixture add a flavor boost too, homemade or store bought.
            Below is the recipe for Pinolate. As I think of more ways I use the noyaux/bitter almond, I'll post them. Enjoy!

            Mixture #1:
            1/2 c almonds
            small handful of noyau
            3/4 c sugar
            1-2 egg whites
            In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the S-blade, grind the nuts and noyau with the sugar until very finely ground. With the bowl running, drizzle in the egg white, one at a time. You may not need both, depending on your egg size, you want to moisten the nut mixture without making it too soft. You are ultimately going to scoop, roll and bake the finished cookie dough, so don't make it too wet. (Although you will be mixing this nut mixture with another, larger nut mixture, so there is room for error).
            Transfer the mixture to a med-size bowl. You will use the cuisinart bowl again, don't bother washing it yet.

            Mixture #2:
            1/2 c hazelnuts
            1/2 c almonds
            3/4 c + 2 T sugar
            1/8 t salt
            3/4 oz butter, softened
            1/2 t honey
            1/8 t vanilla extract
            1-2 egg whites

            Process the nuts with the sugar and salt until fine, add your other ingredients, excluding the whites, with the motor running. Add the egg whites last, again, one at a time, you may not need both. Transfer this mixture to your bowl holding the first mixture and beat them together by hand. At this point you are hoping to achieve a softish, moist nut mixture that is scoopable, yet sticky enough to get nuts to stick to it. If it's too soft to hold a reasonable shape (a little flattening is fine, think softer than a choc-chip dough, but not a batter) you can grind up some more almonds and add them to thicken the dough, or even sprinkle in some almond flour if you've got it. The ing. proportions are forgiving, and I often eye-ball the ingredients when adding them to the machine. -Who wants to measure out a 1/2 t of honey???
            Take your finished nut mixture and with a small cookie/truffle scoop, scoop out dough balls. Drop balls into another bowl of untoasted PINENUTS, several at a time. They will stick together, so a wider, shallow bowl is useful here. Coat evenly in the pinenuts and place on parchment lined half sheet pans or whatever you like to bake cookies on.
            They will puff/spread slightly so don't place them to close together, I think I usually can get 25-30 cookies on each half sheet, but it kind of depends on your scoop. With all that nut going on, smaller is better, IMO. Also, this dough is STICKY. I strongly advise using a scoop, not a spoon, or you will come to hate making these. But you'll have to, because they are addictively good.
            Bake at 350F for about 10-15 minutes, until golden. They make seem to take forever to color, but once they do, they'll color quickly so watch them. I can't tell you how many trays I've overbaked, and it is heartbreaking. Double sheeting your trays helps if your oven is anything like mine-i.e. burnt bottoms!
            Okay, I know it's a strange method, and each time I make them I question the necessity to make two seperate batches of nut mixture, but they are delicious, so why mess with it. Also, the original recipe says to scoop/roll them and then leave them to sit out overnight, uncovered. I rarely do this, and will just put them right into the oven. Never noticed a difference.
            Hope this makes sense, and sorry it is so wordy, but I hope some of you will try to make them. They are really moist and delicious, great with milk, coffee, wine..:)
            yields: about 4 dozen 2 1/2 " cookies
            Recipe doubles easily.

            1. re: rabaja

              Thanks for the info. The recipe sounds great.

              I found an Oakland Tribune article on the subject of poison in the pits (it's prussic acid, apparently, and 10 minutes at 350 neutralizes it) :

              1. re: Leucadian

                If you roast the pits before cracking them open you won't risk toasting them, which loses the delicate flavor.

            2. re: meta

              Meta, I just checked back on your site, and see that you've go a love affair going with apricots. Again, I'm impressed with your writing and photography, and will give some of your recipes a try.

      2. The apricot crop is in and I am ready to experiment. Any further info on this topic? Alice Waters says 10 minutes at 350F in the shell, then a little more after it's out in the open.

        Googling leads to a lot of articles on laetril, the Hunzas, and cancer, but not anything as specific as the Chez Panisse Fruits citation. Wikipedia also has an article on 'apricot pits', but it doesn't answer my question. I'm not interested in cures; 'I'm just here for the food.' I want to know how to neutralize the pits.

        What do you think?

        2 Replies
        1. re: Leucadian

          I actually don't bother to toast the noyau- I find they totally lose their flavour and are very heat-sensitive. However, I also know that Chez Panisse still always toast their noyau before using; not sure how they do it and keep the flavour.

          Since I only use small amounts, and go for a long infusion (overnight in the fridge usually)I don't worry about the cyanide. Hasn't hurt us yet...

          1. re: Gooseberry

            It appears that they turn very quickly from un- to too-toasted. I haven't yet had a nut that was flavorul and toasted.

            Also, I discovered that lots of food is cyanogenic like apricot pits (cassava and bamboo shoots are good examples), and at least one researcher is convinced that early man took advantage of this by simple processing (grinding, soaking, cooking) and could use these foods that other animals rejected.

            It may be that the simple baking process reduces the toxicity (concentration), and besides we don't eat that much of the noyau (dosage).

        2. I've come late to this discussion. As I understand it, however, there are apricots that are regarded as sweet-pit or sweet-kernal varieties (like the Hunza 'cot) whose seeds are used as nuts, and others that have higher amounts of cyanide. If you Googe "sweet-kernal apricot" you will find a number of sites that give specific information about varieties. Most of the various prunus species (which include peaches, apricots, almonds and cherries) are high in cyanide, but a few are not, including the cherry whose pit gives us Mahleb. I personally would be hesitant to use the bitter pit varieties.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Father Kitchen

            Thanks for the tip on 'sweet-kernel apricots'. Using that as a search term, I found some papers on detoxifying apricot pits, and one that identifies some apricot cultivars that have no detectable amygdalin (unfortunately all of them are names I don't recognize). The one paper that addresses the methods of detoxification is not available for free on the internet, so I'm off to the library to look it up.

            1. re: Leucadian

              I've been trying to find the link to a nursery (in Texas, as I recall) that has the most complete listing of apricot varieties that I have seen, with the sweet kernel varieties identified. I can't find it now. It used to be the top entry when I Googled apricot. At any rate, the Raintree Nursery site identifies two. The Hunza is sweet kernel but, the site says, needs to be roasted before eating. Then there is a Chinese sweet kernel variety. As I recall, there is a Turkish variety that is sweet pit, but I can't locate it. So when you get your results, please let us know. Thanks for the research.

          2. According to a British site, two bitter apricot kernels is the safe limit a day. For the sweet varieties you would have to consume over 700 a day to ingest toxic levels of amygdalin, which breaks down into cyanide in the body.