I have such a crush on myself. When I make something this delicious, I seriously want to take myself out on a date, like to an old Woody Allen movie and then take a long walk in a moonlit garden, followed by herbal tea and puzzles.
Some friends came to dinner the other night and brought me a huge bag full of fresh hazelnuts from the tree in their yard. Oh lord, hold me back. It took me a couple days to figure out what to do with them, so as I sat cracking open every single one by hand (I don’t recommend this method, unless you have a ridiculous amount of time on your hands), I fantasized about what the hazelnuts might become. Biscotti? Tarts? Scones? For once, I wasn’t in the mood for baking, and I really didn’t want to eat anything sugary. I also wanted make something that wouldn’t overwhelm or distract from the delicate flavour of these special treats. Then it dawned on me: just blend them up! Hazelnut butter.
I am a big fan of nut butters (except peanut, more on that later). They are a wonderful substitute for regular butter on toast in the morning, super on crepes or pancakes, and delicious in dressings. Spread jam or drizzle some honey on top, or throw a few banana slices on. Kids LOVE this stuff because it tastes rich and unhealthy. I tried hazelnut butter a couple years ago, but the high cost of it put me off, and I realized, although totally gorgeous, it was one of those luxuries I could live without. But here I stand today begging you to try this recipe, as it’s the easiest one I’ve ever posted, and the money you save making it yourself is a bonus (pssst…it’s also good for you).
Hazelnuts work well in this recipe because they are so high in oil, the best known source of Vitamin E in fact, essential for healthy heart muscles, the formation of red blood cells and normal functioning of the reproductive system. The body of a hazelnut is between 60 – 70% oil. The hazelnuts turn from a powder to a more liquid state once their cell walls are broken, releasing the oil inside. It’s a very exciting thing to watch – total food porn.
Hazelnuts are also a good source of calcium, iron, zinc, and potassium. Although they are relatively high in fat, it’s a good fat and they are cholesterol free. In fact, the oleic acid in the fat of hazelnut oil is said to reduce cholesterol. Groovy.
2 cups shelled hazelnuts
1. I started by cracking the hazelnuts by hand, but you can buy them already shelled at the grocery store. For the best flavour, look for organic hazelnuts and check the expiry date, since fresher nuts will taste the best.
2. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Lay the shelled hazelnuts out in a shallow pan or baking sheet and roast for 20-30 minutes until the skins crack. Remove from oven, let cool slightly, and remove skins by rubbing nuts with a rough cloth.
3. Once completely cool, transfer the cooled hazelnuts to a blender or food processor and process for 1-2 minutes to finely grind them to a powder. Scrape down the sides of the container. Continue to process the nuts an additional 1-2 minutes, to form a smooth and creamy paste. Transfer the hazelnut butter to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.
Tip: if you would like the consistency of the butter to be creamier, add between 1 and 2 tablespoons of safflower oil while the blender is running.
You could really use any nut for this recipe. Why not try almonds, cashews, pistachios, or for a real indulgence, macadamia nuts? Ooh la la.
You can also add honey, agave nectar, maple syrup or other sweeteners to your nut butter. How about sea salt, spices like cinnamon, or even cocoa? Sexy.
What’s wrong with peanut butter?
Here are a few reasons to give it up:
1. First of all, many people all allergic to peanuts. The majority of schools, daycare centers and camps now prohibit peanuts and peanut products from entering their grounds, since children are increasingly allergic to them.
2. Conventional peanuts are grown with very high levels of pesticides, and they are often genetically modified.
3. Most conventional brands of peanut butters contain additives including sugar, hydrogenated oils, and emulsifiers. If you’re going to eat peanut butter, at the very least, go for organic brands that are made just with peanuts, or peanuts and salt.
4. Finally, when peanuts grow, they can harbor a carcinogenic mold that contains aflatoxin. This goes for conventional and organic peanuts. In fact, peanut farmers have a disproportionately high rate of cancer. This mold grows on peanuts, pecans, pistachios, grains, soybeans, spices, walnuts and it can even grow on milk in warm humid soils. Aflatoxin is known to cause liver cancer.
**A recent study found the highest levels of this toxin in health food store ground fresh peanut butters! And we thought we were doing ourselves a favour!**
(A way to avoid all this nonsense is to buy peanut butter grown from a hot, dry place. Mold does not flourish on peanuts grown in areas such as Arizona, so check out brands like Arrowhead Mills that are grown there and processed there.)
Okay, back to the nut butter bright side. Besides being cost effective and delicious, this hazelnut butter recipe is one of those food experiences that makes you feel like a culinary genius. Being able to make something that you thought you had to buy is so exciting. This would be a great activity to do with kids, as they will surely marvel at the fact that they make nut butter themselves, plus, they can peel all the nuts for you. All you have to do is turn the blender on.
So kiss your P.B. buh-bye and bring nut butters into your life. Then ask yourself out on a date because you are one smart cookie.
info source: mercola.com