One of the silly things about this land I live in is the nut butter situation. I remember one time being at the supermarket and trying to decide between the ridiculously tiny and expensive jar of creamy peanut butter, or the ridiculously tiny and expensive jar of crunchy peanut butter (it was the only time I’ve seen both types in one store at the same time). A lady approached me and asked, in Swedish, what the heck I was going to do with that stuff?! I told her that I was, for starters, going to eat it with a spoon. Then probably put some on toast or on knäckebröd (crackers). Maybe put some in a smoothie? Bake peanut butter cookies?
The thing is, and yes, this is a sweeping generalization, they don’t *get* nut butters here. Last year I brought a peanut butter and banana sandwich – on whole grain bread – as a snack for an eight year old child I was working with. She thought it was disgusting and refused to eat more than a bite, and her mother looked at me with disappointed eyes and said, “uh, we don’t eat that kind of food in this house”.
There is this perception in Sweden, and presumably in other parts of Europe, that nut butters are a nasty, unhealthy food, and they can’t understand why we eat it. And let me tell you, the things I have seen people eat since I’ve lived here; squeeze-tube caviar, fish balls in creamy sauce, blood pudding, fermented fish on crackers… all of which children love, and yet nut butters seem gross? To each their own.
In this same house I’ve watched children, under the supervision of health conscious parents, slather a peanut-butter-thick layer of *butter* onto a cracker, top it with a slice of ham, and call that breakfast. No concerns whatsoever that half a cm of butter spread on a cracker might be excessive, but peanut butter? So I did a nutritional comparison. Per 100g of (Swedish) butter you get 720 calories, 0.5g of protein, and 82g of fat. Per 100g of peanut butter you get 625 calories, 31.25g of protein, and 50g of fat. (Please don’t consume either in 100g portions) So, the calories are reasonably similar, butter, unsurprisingly, has a lot more fat. But the protein?! 0.5g vs 31.25g?
They’re still not convinced.
These same people, who, by the way, are super awesome in every other way, gifted me with a 1kg bag of almonds. Almond butter was the obvious thing to do. Nut butters do seem to be increasing here, in both availability and variety, but they are still very expensive. Wherever you are, not all nut butters are created equal. Often, especially in the case of peanut and almond butters, the natural oils are removed and replaced with cheaper oils such as corn or soy. Look for nut butters with only one or two ingredients. Nuts, and maybe a bit of salt.
Making your own is easy, and you know what you’re eating. Win! Here I’ve gone bonkers and added a third ingredient: vanilla. Although liquid vanilla extract is next to impossible to find here, vanilla beans and little jars of dried vanilla seeds are everywhere. I’ve used a bit of the latter in this recipe – not very much – but enough that it rounds out the flavour and nudges almond butter into something a little bit fancy.
One year ago: Lemony Roasted Broccoli and Tempeh with Quinoa and Pea Soup with Smoked Porter and Egg Quesadilla and Maple Oat Scones
Two years ago: Carrot Ginger Muffins and How to Cook Dried Beans All text and
Almond Butter with Vanilla and Sea Salt Recipe:
I’ve used blanched almonds only because I was given a bag of them. You don’t need to blanch your almonds or seek out blanched almonds. Roasting them in the oven toasts the nuts and brings out the flavour, but if you’d prefer to skip that step and make raw almond butter, go for it. The vanilla and sea salt are of course optional.
3 cups raw almonds
1 – 2 tsp of coarse sea salt
1/2 tsp dried vanilla seeds, vanilla paste, or 1/2 a vanilla bean scraped out
Preheat your oven to 350. Spread almonds out on a baking sheet, and roast, keeping a careful eye on them for 10-15 minutes. Nuts can go from perfect to burnt in the blink of an eye, so don’t get distracted! When they’re fragrant and brown, remove from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes.
Place cooled almonds in a food processor and run it for a couple of minutes. The nuts should start to break down and clump up. You may need to stop and scrape the sides and bottom a couple of times. When the almond butter has started to smooth out, add about 1/2 the salt you think you want, and 1/2 the vanilla. Blend, taste, and decide if you want to add more. Let the food processor run for another couple of minutes, until the almond butter just starts to liquefy.
Scrape the contents into a clean jar and store in the fridge. Enjoy it on toast, in smoothies, or just out of the jar with a spoon.
Almonds are high in monounsaturated fats – this is a healthy fat when consumed in moderation, the same type as is found in olive oil. Almonds are also a good source of manganese, vitamin E (which has antioxidant properties) and magnesium. They’re a good source of protein as well. As with all nuts and nut butters, almond butter should be consumed in moderation.
All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2013