Wednesday, July 14, 2010

July 14, 2010: Daring Cooks Nut Butters

The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

Nutrition research suggests that nuts are good for your health. Nut butters, or pureed nuts, make it easy to use nuts in cooking. Although peanut butter is a staple in North America, most popular as the star ingredient in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and beloved in peanut butter cookies and other sweets, it's seldom used in preparing savory dishes. Nut butters -- including not only peanut butter but almond, cashew, and walnut butters -- are common ingredients in many Asian and African countries, used in a wide array of savory dishes. Nut butters add complex & interesting flavors to dishes, provide body & thickness to sauces, and can be used to replace the dairy fats or other oils in recipes.

What exactly is the July challenge?
The challenge is make a fresh nut butter and to use it in one savory recipe (i.e., not a sweet dessert). You choose the type of nut (e.g., peanuts, walnuts, cashews, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamias, etc.). Then puree the nuts into a paste or butter. (Instructions for making nut butters are provided below.) Then use your fresh homemade nut butter in at least one savory recipe. The nut butter challenge was inspired by the article “Better with Nut Butter” by Kathy Baruffi in Cooking Light magazine.

What about dessert? We chose to focus on using nut butters in savory recipes, but we know nut butters make fabulous sweet treats. An extra but optional challenge this month is to use a homemade nut butter in a sweet recipe. The type of nut and the recipe is up to you. Can’t wait to see the results!

[Eat4Fun: Making nut butter sounds like a fun challenge. Due to time constraints, I stuck with the dip recipe provided for this challenge. For a full list of the challenge recipes see the host blogs above or go to The Daring Kitchen.]

Recipes Sources:
White Bean Dip with Rosemary & Sage adapted from Cooking Light, August 2007

* We had best results making nut butters in a food processor rather than a blender. My basic two-speed, household blender worked fine for soft nuts like pecans and walnuts, but was unable to blend harder nuts like almonds & macadamias. Unless you have one of those high-powered blenders guaranteed to puree almost anything, we recommend using a food processor.
* The four challenge recipes include instructions for making the appropriate amount of nut butter for the particular recipe. If you made the nut butter in advance, substitute the appropriate volume of nut butter for the nuts.
* The yield of nut butter is about half the original volume of nuts. If you start with 1 cup (240 ml) nuts, you’ll get about ½ cup (120 ml) nut butter.
* We have provided recipes for unsweetened nut butters since the challenge is to use the nut butter in a savory recipe. You may sweeten the nut butters as desired for use as a spread or in dessert recipes.
* Despite the name, there is no dairy butter in nut butters. They are essentially pureed nuts, also called nut pastes.
* To use nut butters in sauces as a substitute for heavy cream, first make a nut cream. Whisk the nut butter with about twice the volume of water, adding more water until you reach your desired consistency. For example, start with ¼ cup (60 ml) nut butter with ½ cup (120 ml) water; add more water as needed.

Simple Suggestions for Using Nut Butters:

* sauce for grilled meat or fish
* topping for pancakes or French toast
* dip with apples or celery
* spread for toast or sandwiches


* The process for making various types of nut butters is essentially the same. Pour nuts into bowl of food processor. Grind the nuts in the processor until they form a paste or butter. The nuts first turn into powdery or grainy bits, then start to clump and pull away from the side of the bowl, and finally form a paste or butter. The total time required depends on the fat and moisture content of the nuts; grinding time will vary from roughly 1 to 4 minutes (assuming a starting volume of 1 to 2 cups [240 to 480 ml] nuts). Processing times for a variety of nuts are described below.
* You may add oil as desired during grinding to make the nut butter smoother and creamier or to facilitate grinding. Add oil in small increments, by the teaspoon for oily nuts like cashews or by the tablespoon for dryer/harder nuts like almonds. You may use the corresponding nut oil or a neutral vegetable oil like canola.
* The inclusion of salt in the nut butters is optional and to taste. If you make nut butters from salted nuts, peanuts or cashews for example, you will not need additional salt. We recommend making unsalted nut butters for use in the challenge recipes (and other savory recipes) since the recipes call for salt or salty ingredients. You can then adjust the salt to taste. If you are making nut butter for use as a spread, you should add salt according to your preference.
* Roasting the nuts before making nut butters is optional according to your preference. To roast nuts in the oven, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C/Gas Mark 4). Spread nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet or roasting pan. Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until nuts are fragrant and a shade darker in color. Allow nuts to cool before grinding. Roasted nuts will make butter with darker color than raw nuts.
* It’s helpful to keep in mind that the yield of nut butter is about half the original volume of nuts. If you start with 1 cup nuts, you’ll get about ½ cup nut butter.
* The consistency of nut butters varies from thin & soft (almost pourable) to very thick and hard depending on the fat content of the nut. (See links below for nutrition info on variety of nuts.) Homemade nut butters will probably not be as smooth as commercial products.
* Homemade nut butters are more perishable than commercial products and should be stored in the refrigerator. The nut butters harden & thicken somewhat upon chilling.
* See links at bottom of post for additional information about making nut butters at home.

What variations are allowed:

* We tested the challenge recipes below with particular types of nut butters as indicated in the ingredient list. You are free to experiment with other types of nuts. For example, you may want to substitute walnut butter in the Chicken with Pecan Cream and Mushrooms. You may also substitute the chicken or shrimp in the challenge recipes with your protein of choice.

* If you are unable to eat nuts due to allergies or other dietary restrictions, we suggest you consider making a seed butter (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, etc) and use it in a savory recipe of your choice. Making seed butters is very similar to making nut butters. We have provided links at the bottom of this post with information on seed butters and recipes. You’re also welcome to use other alternates as discussed in next bullet point.
* If you are unable to eat nuts or seeds, you might consider making a fruit butter and then using it in a sweet or savory recipe. (Fruit butters are fruit cooked to form a paste, see links at bottom of post for recipes.) We are also open to other ideas for those with allergies or food restrictions. For example, pureed beans or pureed roasted vegetables could be used in a variety of savory soups, stews, or sauces.
* If you do not own a food processor or high-powered blender to make your own nut butter, you may complete the challenge with store-bought nut butter.
* Vegans, vegetarians, and those with food restrictions may substitute accordingly in the challenge recipes.

Approximate Processing Times in Food Processor for Nut Butters:
* Almonds: form a thick butter in about 2 to 3 minutes for slivered almonds, or 3 to 4 minutes for whole almonds; the skin of whole almonds will leave dark flecks in the butter
* Cashews: form a smooth, spreadable butter after about 2 minutes of processing
* Hazelnuts: form a firm, thick, and grainy butter in about 2 to 3 minutes; to remove the skin from whole hazelnuts, roast in a 400 degree F oven (200 degrees C/Gas Mark 6) for about 5 minutes or till skins loosen, then rub hazelnuts in a clean dishtowel to remove some of the skin; the remaining skin will leave dark flecks in the butter
* Macadamias: form a soft and smooth butter in about 2 minutes
* Peanuts: form a thick, grainy butter in about 2 or 3 minutes
* Pecans: form a very soft, oily, pourable butter in 1 or 2 minutes; the skins give pecan butter a slightly tannic and bitter flavor
* Walnuts: form a very soft, oily, pourable butter in 1 or 2 minutes; the skins give walnut butter a slightly tannic and bitter flavor
* Pistachios: According to the Nut Butter Primer from Cooking Light, pistachio butter is dry and crumbly with a tendency to clump during processing; they recommend combining it with softened cream cheese for easy spreading and report a processing time of 3.5 to 4 minutes. Please note, we did not test pistachio butter.

[The recipe calls for walnuts, but due to allergy concerns I substituted roasted & salted cashews. Also, used 2/3 t of dried rosemary which was rehydrated in the lemon juice for 20 minutes.]

Walnut White Bean Dip with Rosemary & Sage
Recipe notes: Canned beans tend to be salty, so you may not need additional salt. Taste the dip after blending and add salt as needed.


½ cup (120 ml) walnuts [Cashews]
1 (15.8 oz/448g) can Great Northern, Cannellini, or other white beans, drained and rinsed
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 Tablespoons (30 ml) fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons (10 ml) fresh rosemary, chopped [2/3 t Dried Rosemary]
2 teaspoons (10 ml) fresh sage, chopped
¼ teaspoon (1 ml) lemon zest (optional)
¼ teaspoon (1 ml) black pepper salt to taste


1. Make walnut butter by grinding ½ cup (120 ml) walnuts in food processor for about a minute until it forms a nut butter or paste.

[Cashews ready for a little spin.]

[Hurray! I have cashew butter.]

2. Add beans, garlic, lemon juice, rosemary, sage, lemon zest (if using), and black pepper to the walnut butter in the food processor.

[Add the rest of the other ingredients and blend away!]

3. Process the mixture to a smooth consistency. Taste and add salt as desired.

Garnish dip with chopped walnuts and/or chopped fresh rosemary or sage, if desired. Serve dip with pita wedges, crostini, or assorted vegetables.

[The resulting dip was very thick like canned refried beans. I added an extra squeeze of lemon juice to add a little extra moisture.]

[Even though the dip was dense, there were some good flavors going on. The fresh garlic gave the dip a little spice, the lemon juice a little tart zing and the cashews a little nutty sweetness.

Overall, a very simple, delicious recipe. Also, making nut butter is very simple and a good way to experiment with different types of nuts.]


Audax said...

Qh! That final dip looks so tasty and I love the way you describe it "a little tart zing...a little nutty sweetness" this is so precise. It is nice to have a quick and tasty challenge recipe. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

Jo said...

Great job and I am sure the dip would be great on a roasted chicken sandwich. Wow .. I'm already dreaming of focaccia!

TaGa_Luto said...

The dip looks and sounds good. I made the almond butter and it became dense as well, i had to add a good amount of water and milk to make it saucey. The rest of the almond butter i added more pounded almonds to make a crunchy spread.

Anna said...

You went only for the dip - looks great! I'm surprised - you def have to try the noodle/prawn salad - it's delish.

Cheers. Anula.

David and Stacy said...

We agree, a very simple dish to pull together, but so so yummy. We've already scheduled it for at least one party coming up.

Well done!