Friday, June 7, 2013

Sticker Shock (Almond Butter)

$25? I was floored. I have an annoying habit of picking the most expensive item on the rack before checking the price tags, but this was a little ridiculous. $25 for one measly little jar of almond butter, which I'm more accustomed to grabbing for less than half that price. A quick google suggests extortionate almond butter may be something of a growing trend. Is there an almond shortage? Mad almond disease? Is it possible we were buying just "natural" almond butter and now that we're trying for organic we're going into sticker shock? Well, I got a pound of organic almonds for a song, so it seems to me the food industry is just trying to bend us over a barrel because they have grinders; and that really grinds my gears.

A luxurious commodity
So, here's the secret: if you have a food processor, you can make your own nut butter at home in five minutes and pay less than 50% of what the grocery wants. You also get to control all the ingredients, yourself, so no maltodextrin, hydrogenated vegetable oil, and soy protein isolate shenanigans, here. It should technically be possible to make nut butters with only one ingredient: nuts. Our local health food store in Worcester proudly displayed an automated grinder that would crush whole peanuts and nothing but into butter before your eyes. A little oil and salt can certainly help the process, though. I usually dash in some sugar, too.

Just a dash
Almond butter is a deliciously less assertive alternative to peanut butter that presents a slightly healthier nutritional profile. Like almond milk, it packs in loads more vitamin E, but it also tends to be lower fat and higher protein, with a cohort of trace minerals and no cholesterol. The tradeoff, some would say, is that almond butter has a decidedly more mellow flavor compared to the distinctive taste of peanuts. This flavor can be enhanced by roasting, though, as well as tweaked with all sorts of goodies. Vanilla turbinado sugar almond butter was a great hit at a recent party, but you could also try tamari wasabi, cinnamon and ginger, or maple syrup.

Au naturale
Beyond simply replacing the peanut butter in a sandwich, almond butter has a variety of uses. I like serving it as a dip for fruit and bread, as a healthier alternative to the marshmallow fluff and cool whip concoctions that proliferate on Pinterest. It can also be an excellent vegan substitution for butter or cream cheese when baking and, of course, I'm also fond of just grabbing it from the jar by the spoonful. However you choose to enjoy your almond butter, it seems clear to me that making it at home is the way to go.

Home run
Almond butter
This recipe can easily be adapted for other nuts. Favorites are peanuts and cashews.

1 lb dry-roasted almonds
2-3 tbs canola oil
2-3 tbs turbinado sugar
1 tsp sea salt

Combine ingredients in a food processor, starting with the minimum amount of oil.

All in
Pulse to desired consistency, streaming in additional oil, if necessary.

I think it's better with a little texture
For chunky nut butters, pulse lightly until pieces are just beginning to form large crumbs, scoop out about half of this, then puree the rest and fold the two back together in a mixing bowl.

Copyright 2013 GourmetGents

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