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 very interesting cooking challenge. Learning how to make nut butter came in handy when I made Chocolate Truffle Truffle for another contest. Not being able to use dairies and much glutens in my cooking, I am quite excited to learn that nut butter can be used to thicken sauces and bind ingredients together. I used my coffee grinder to make my nut butter, in small batches.
I skipped butter in this recipes and used soy milk instead of milk, but it was still very delicious. I think I put too much garam masala seasoning though. Garam masala is pretty strong and pungent (Dennis doesn't like it), so taste it first before putting in the full amount. Since I am watching my calories, I used brown rice.
The following notes aren't mine. They belong to the hosts of this event.
Nut butter making:
The process for making various types of nut butters is essentially the same. Pour nuts into bowl of food processor. Grind the nuts in the processor until they form a paste or butter. The nuts first turn into powdery or grainy bits, then start to clump and pull away from the side of the bowl, and finally form 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 [240 to 480 ml] nuts). Processing times for a variety of nuts are described below.
You may add oil as desired during grinding to make the nut butter smoother and creamier or to facilitate grinding. Add oil in small increments, by the teaspoon for oily nuts like cashews or by the tablespoon for dryer/harder nuts like almonds. You may use the corresponding nut oil or a neutral vegetable oil like canola.
The inclusion of salt in the nut butters is optional and to taste. If you make nut butters from salted nuts, peanuts or cashews for example, you will not need additional salt. We recommend making unsalted nut butters for use in the challenge recipes (and other savory recipes) since the recipes call for salt or salty ingredients. You can then adjust the salt to taste. If you are making nut butter for use as a spread, you should add salt according to your preference.
Roasting the nuts before making nut butters is optional according to your preference. To roast nuts in the oven, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C/Gas Mark 4). Spread nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet or roasting pan. Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until nuts are fragrant and a shade darker in color. Allow nuts to cool before grinding. Roasted nuts will make butter with darker color than raw nuts.
It’s helpful to keep in mind that the yield of nut butter is about half the original volume of nuts. If you start with 1 cup nuts, you’ll get about ½ cup nut butter.
The consistency of nut butters varies from thin & soft (almost pourable) to very thick and hard depending on the fat content of the nut. (See links below for nutrition info on variety of nuts.) Homemade nut butters will probably not be as smooth as commercial products.
Homemade nut butters are more perishable than commercial products and should be stored in the refrigerator. The nut butters harden & thicken somewhat upon chilling.
Yield: 4 servings
Recipe notes: Substitute the protein of your choice for the chicken. This is a smooth sauce, so the onion is removed before serving. If you prefer, dice the onion and leave it in the sauce or substitute a bit of onion powder.
1 Tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
4 (6 oz / 170 g) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Salt to taste
1.5 tablespoons (20 ml) garam masala seasoning
1 teaspoon (5 ml) ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) black pepper
4 tablespoons (60 ml) butter
1 large onion, cut in half pole to pole
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15-ounce/425 g) can tomato sauce
⅓ cup (80 ml) almond butter
⅓ cup (80 ml) milk
½ to ¾ cup (120 to 180 ml) chicken broth or water, more as needed
1 cup (240 ml) frozen peas (optional)
Hot basmati rice for serving
Chopped parsley (optional garnish)
Sliced almonds (optional garnish)
1. Cook the chicken. If desired, pound chicken to ¼ inch (6 mm) thickness to promote even cooking. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Heat 1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken; sauté 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Cook the chicken in 2 batches, adding more oil if needed for second batch. Dice chicken into bite-sized pieces; set aside on clean plate and keep warm.
2. Prepare spice blend. Stir garam masala, ginger, cinnamon, and pepper together in a small bowl. Set aside.
3. Melt the butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook gently for several minutes to infuse the butter with onion flavor. Keep the heat low to avoid burning the butter; a little color is fine.
4. Add the spice blend and garlic and cook for 1 minute or till fragrant, stirring constantly.
5. Add the tomato sauce, stir well, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer.
6. Whisk in almond butter and milk until thoroughly combined with tomato sauce. The almond butter is thick so it takes a while to make a smooth sauce. Return to simmer.
7. Add broth (or water) to sauce to reach desired consistency; return to simmer. Add more broth (or water) as needed to thin sauce as desired.
8. Remove onion from sauce and discard. Stir frozen peas (if using) into sauce. Transfer sliced chicken to sauce. Simmer gently for a few minutes until peas and chicken are heated through.
9. Serve chicken and sauce over rice. Garnish with chopped parsley and/or sliced almonds if desired.