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Easy-make nut butter
July 26, 2017, 12:57 pm
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Making creamy nut butter at home sounds as easy as throwing some nuts in a food processor or blender, and for the most part it is! But that does not mean there is not some smart technique involved to ensure success. This process works for cashews, almonds, or peanuts, and results in slightly different textures depending on the nut or combination of nuts used. No matter what nut you use, get ready for a final product that delivers the toasty, creamy bite you crave.

Choose your nuts: This method works for peanuts, almonds, and cashews, since all three can be used to produce a satiny nut butter. Cashews produce the creamiest nut butter by far and can be used in combination with either almonds or peanuts to create an even smoother texture.

Get rid of the skin: For a nut butter to be smooth, the skin of the nuts have to be removed. Skins have a bitterness that cannot be ground away. Fortunately, obtaining nuts without skins is not too much trouble. Grocery stores and health food stores sell a variety of skinned nuts by the bag or in the bulk section. For almonds in particular, this has been a great help. Whole blanched almonds are clean and ready for grinding.

Toast the nuts lightly: Although you can purchase cashews and peanuts roasted and pre-salted, it is better to leave them for snacking rather than making nut butter. Instead, look for raw, unsalted nuts so you can control the amount of salt and the amount of roasting. Some nuts, especially almonds, are available blanched and unsalted, which works great. When you toast and grind the nuts yourself, and then make the butter while the nuts are warm, even more natural oils and flavors release. That extra taste is worth finding the right starting ingredient.

The power of honey: Honey helps emulsify nut butters better than maple syrup, agave syrup, or thinner sweeteners. If you use a powerfully fragrant and highly flavorful honey, like buckwheat or chestnut or blueberry, it will also overtake the nut flavor. Be gentle in your choices and go with a clean and mild varietal. Many inexpensive honey blends work well here, as does clover, alfalfa, and orange blossom.

Embrace emulsifying, unctuous fat: Nuts have a high proportion of fat, so adding more might seem counterintuitive. However, for a truly smooth and creamy nut butter, a secondary fat is necessary. The ideal choice is a fat that stays (relatively) solid at room temperature; you cannot add any liquid oil. Coconut oil and palm oil (or shortening that has a mixture of both) are excellent sources of non-hydrogenated fats that work well in nut butters. Just remember that these are much more sensitive to heat than traditional shortening. While the mixture is processing, the butter might seem a bit thin from the sheer heat of the food processor blade's rotating force. Fear not! As your nut butter comes to room temperature, it will set up a bit and become a smooth, spreadable butter.

Troubleshooting and grinding stages: The age of the nut is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing nuts for nut butter. Although there is no good way to know that answer, you can always look for the ‘best-by’ date. Older and younger nuts process differently, so coming up with an exact formula for a nut butter is not really possible. There are, however, some consistent stages that you need to look for at the beginning and end of the processing. 

Avoiding burnout: Food processors, even top-of-the-line home models, can burn out, and simply shut off with jobs that are very long. Making nut butter is indeed a long task for a food processor, so there is a need to incorporate little breaks for the machine, which gives it and the mixture a chance to cool down. Adding the fat and sweetener to a super-hot batch of ground nuts inhibits your ability to judge when it is smooth and melts the fats immediately. So, to avoid machine fatigue and over- or under-seasoning, just give the food processor a break.

If your machine is a bit old or not terribly powerful, you can certainly add a second five-minute break at the four-minute mark in the second processing.

Keeping nut butters: Your nut butters should be kept in a covered container, refrigerated and brought back to room temperature before using. They will be best enjoyed within a week.

 

Recipe

Creamy nut butter

Ingredients
2 cups shelled, skinless, unroasted, unsalted cashews, almonds, or peanuts
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, or more to taste
2 tablespoons mild-flavored honey, or more to taste 
5 tablespoons coconut oil, palm oil, or non-hydrogenated shortening, divided

Equipment
Rimmed baking sheet
Parchment paper
Kitchen towel
Food processor fitted with a metal blade
Silicone spatula
Mixing bowl
Storage container

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 177 degrees Celsius for peanuts and cashews, and 163 degrees Celsius for almonds or Marcona almonds. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the nuts on the sheet and roast for 10 minutes. Stir the nuts and toast for another two to three minutes until slightly brown and fragrant.

Pour the warm, roasted nuts into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and add the salt. Process one to three minutes or until crumbs form.

Wait 10 minutes for the machine and the ground nuts to completely cool down.

Add two tablespoons honey, and four tablespoons coconut oil or shortening.

Process for another 5 to 10 minutes. Time is not as important as texture in this case, so look for the nut butter to go through a few stages. First the mixture will seize a bit and clump, and then go from sandy, to clumping into a soft ball, to a final stage of smooth and creamy on the top with a gritty bottom.

Turn the machine off and let stand for five minutes. Using a silicone spatula, stir the mixture, scraping the side and the bottom of the bowl, carefully moving the blade as necessary to get all the ground nuts. Add the remaining one tablespoon oil or shortening. Process until smooth, about two more minutes.

Taste and add more honey or salt and blend until fully incorporated, about one minute.

Scoop the mixture into a mixing bowl and stir well. Let the nut butter come to room temperature. If you are not using it immediately, scoop it into a container with an airtight lid. Cover and refrigerate. It will last about one week. Bring to room temperature before using.

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