Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Experiments with Nut Butter

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. This was a unique and affordable challenge - two traits I always appreciate. Thank you Margie and Natashya for hostessing.

The required challenge specifically was to use nut butter in a savory preparation and the optional challenge was to use it in a sweet preparation. Having skipped all last month's challenges and moved relatively close to the amazing Sahadi's I decided to go all out and do something savory and something sweet.

Per their extensive research  "making nut butter is a simple process of pouring nuts in the food processor and grinding them until they become 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 nuts). The yield of nut butter is about half the original volume of nuts." 

These instructions are probably true if you have a full size, high powered food processor but in my mini-prep processor getting to the Play-Doh stage was an act of sheer will that took much longer than 1 to 5 minutes. My cashew butter and pistachio butter both were halted at this stage as the machine was overheating. The results still were tasty but until I have a high powered processing device I plan to continue buying my nut butter rather than making it. 

I made a variation on the provided Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew Dressing recipe for my savory dish. I halved the amount of cashew dressing (I want to eat the rest of the cashew dough by itself!), skipped the red bell pepper, substituted soba noodles and added a bag of broccoli slaw from Trader Joe's and 3/4 cup of julienned carrots. The resulting salad was rich and was incredibly filling.

I loved the crunch of all the veggies in contrast to the soba noodles and shrimp's smoothness but the highlight is the thick dressing with its creamy, sharp flavor. Between it and the onions this is definitely a dish you'll want to brush your teeth after eating! That said I'm sure I'll make it again. It will be a quick meal to put together with pre-prepared nut butter. This recipe and the full challenge instructions can be found here.

My dessert was Pistachio Oatmeal Lace Cookie Towers with Honey Macerated Cherries. I alternated Katy at Sugarlaw's Oatmeal Lace Cookies and a Pistachio Nut Cream (made by mixing greek yogurt and the pistachio butter to taste) to create the towers and served cherries macerated in buckwheat honey on top and to the side. Katy's cookies are nutty, chewy, crispy and are the real star of the dessert. They are delicious on their own but the unsweetened filling is a pleasant contrast to the quite sweet cookies.

My only substitution to her recipe was using dark corn syrup as I had it on hand. Be sure to use parchment paper so they don't stick to the pan and watch the time as they brown quickly. Don't assemble this in advance the cookies disintegrate losing their pleasant contrast to an otherwise soft dessert. I'd be happy to eat this again too. Yum.

It looks similar to kiwi sorbet!



  1. WOW Pistachio Oatmeal Lace Cookie Towers with Honey Macerated Cherries that sounds and looks stunning well done and the Asian sauce for the noddle is to die for (I made it also for the challenge) superb effort and wonderful results on this challenge. I hope the small processor recovers LOL LOL. Pistachio Oatmeal Lace Cookie Towers with Honey Macerated Cherries

  2. I loved the Thai salad. It was so good. Great idea with the lace cookies. I didn't make any sweet, just savory.

  3. Your pistachio butter looks amazing (love the color) and those cookies are a masterpiece! Wow. Great job on the challenge.

  4. Mmm. I love the sound of your "cookie towers". Looks great! Kelly

  5. I had the same issues with overheating... *sigh* Lots of stopping and scooping.

    Hahaha! Brush your teeth! YES! I feel the same way after I do most of my Asian dishes. ;)

    Wonderful adaptations, and that's one phenomenal looking dessert. Wowsers!

  6. Audax - I don't know how you are so quick with the challenges and kind comments on entries but I really appreciate it!

    Sara - I can't wait to see all your concoctions. It looks like you had lots of fun with this challenge.

    Margie - Thanks so much for hosting a challenge that inspired all this. :)

    Kelly - They were pretty awesome. You should try the cookies at the very least! I want to experiment with them further...

    Cuppy - It is reassuring to hear that someone else had the same problem! I felt a little crazy... And thank you for the kudos.

  7. Great job for making a savory and sweet dishes with your nut butter, they both look amazing!

  8. We liked the sauce for our Thai salad but didn't like the Rice Noodles so much (we accept it's probably operator error, more than the noodles them selves) and had noted perhaps a pasta or rice would be better. It looks like Soba Noobles might be the answer to that question.

    Hopefully we never get our kiwi sorbet mixed up with our pistachio butter...

    Well done!
    Stay JOLLY!

  9. David and Stacy - Thank you. I shall do my best to stay jolly. :) If you do use soba noodles, be careful to cook them exactly as directed. For a long time mine were clumpy and I eventually found out it was due to overcooking.