Vanilla Birthday Cake with Old-Fashioned
Gone are the days where the only choice in nut butters was either creamy peanut butter… or crunchy peanut butter. Today’s nut butter landscape shows that these delicious spreads can be made out of virtually any nut or seed, or a combination of several! Things like almond butter boosted with flax, or flavored cashew butters spiked with cinnamon spices, are beginning to pop up all over in the commercial realm — including some fantastic superfood blends using ingredients like maca or cacao. And the great news is, nut butters couldn’t be easier to make at home, allowing you the creative opportunity to fully customize your recipe with all kinds of superfood and flavor variations.
The basic method to making nut butter is simple: Pour a few cups of your favorite nuts and seeds into a food processor, process for several minutes (anywhere from 8-12 minutes, depending on the nuts/seeds used), and blend in a few flavor/superfood boosts at the end. Transfer to a jar and refrigerate until ready to use! Easy as it may be, to really get the most out of your nut-butter-making adventures, read on for a few of the major do’s and don’ts of making nut butters at home to make the most of your efforts.
DO: Use a food processor. Yes, you can make a nut butter in a high-speed blender, but trust me when I tell you that your best bet is a food processor. It may take a few minutes longer to fully blend, but you’ll have to scrape down the sides much less, and the nut butter won’t heat up as much during processing (a good thing when you’re dealing with heat-sensitive oils – your recipe will have a longer shelf life). Plus, extracting your precious nut butter from the flat sides of the food processor is a much easier task than trying to precariously dig it out in between blender blades at the bottom of a tall pitcher.
DON’T: Give up. There will undoubtedly be a couple of minutes where the recipe will look like it’s not going to work. Within the first few minutes, the nuts will be ground into a finer and finer powder, and eventually create a crumbly ball. It may seem as though your nut butter may never fully “butter.” But keep that machine running because within just a few more minutes, the dry mixture will release enough oils that a creamy spread will begin to form and swirl. It’s like magic.
DON’T: Add liquids … or any water-based liquid, that is. Since nut butters are rich in natural oils, adding a water-based liquid will cause your nice, smooth nut butter to “seize” as the oils cluster together apart from the water, making the consistency clumpy and difficult to spread. There’s no way to undo this mistake if it happens, so be sure to never add water, milks, juice, liquid flavor extracts, and even syrups can be risky if they contain too much water. If you must add a syrup to sweeten, I recommend adding it at the very end – starting with a test portion, and stirring the remainder in by hand.
DO: Add oil. If your nut butter is too thick for your liking, you can blend in a little bit of oil to help smooth it out. Unflavored oils like safflower oil work especially well. Keep this addition as your very last step as it’s often unnecessary to add any oil in at all.
DO: Add superfood powders! Nut butters are the perfect medium for all your favorite superfood powders, like goji powder, camu powder, your favorite powdered greens blend, or some maca powder, to name just a few! Once your nut butter is nice and creamy, blend a little in to taste, testing as you go. Most nut butters can handle a tablespoon or two total of powder additions … and you can always thin out with a little extra oil if the mixture becomes too thick.
DO: Add dried ground spices. A little bit of sweet spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom … or savory spices like turmeric, black pepper, or cayenne can really push your nut butter over into the realm of a very exciting taste sensation. Sea salt is also recommended to help heighten the flavor.
Ready to try? There are a couple totally irresistible superfood nut & seed butter recipes in my new Superfood Snacks cookbook! Or simply create your own combination for an authentic riff!