Maple Almond Butter

Posted by hsimpsongrossman on December 29, 2013

I have three uncles.  Two of them, my father’s younger brothers, live in England.  Unfortunately, the geographical distance causes us to hardly see each other, especially with both my paternal grandparents gone.  Yet, both of them, as well as their families, had influenced me in unexpected ways every time we have managed to meet.

The Uncle I refer to as MY uncle, my mother’s brother, lives in Tel Aviv and has been an inseparable part of my life ever since I can remember.  No one reads Israeli children books like he does (my earliest memories of laughing to tears are with him), he makes the best egg salad in the world (and I am not talking about the American egg-mayo salad. I am talking old country, sharp, onion-egg salad, meticulously chopped and prepared only for lunch on the Sabbath), a gifted coffee brewer (no cuppa out of any coffee machine can light a candle to a cup of coffee brewed by my uncle) and has been in charge of my informal reading curriculum (the best part of every visit of mine is leaving with two or three books, hand picked for me.  Watching the process of my uncle choosing them is even more exciting).

One of my uncle’s strongest virtues is being married to MY Aunt.

I used to spend magical unforgettable days every summer with my uncle and aunt.  My aunt introduced me to Tel Aviv as true Tel Avivians’ know it – through one’s feet.  Since they did not own a car we used to walk everywhere, for hours, usually while singing Israeli nursery rhymes out loud, every now and then hopping on a bus, walking in and out of shopping malls for a few minutes of air-conditioning.

A significant part of my summers there was spent in their kitchen.  It was the first truly healthy kitchen I’ve met, nothing like what I was used to seeing in my childhood friends’ houses or even in our own home at the time.  That’s where I tasted my first Dahl, vegetarian lasagna, homemade hummus and fabulous vegetable quiches baked in whole wheat crusts.  Fruits and vegetables were always drying up all over the place, for a quick and healthy nosh (no unhealthy snacks were allowed there) without worrying about having to wash them.  And my aunt used to make the best breakfasts: sweet and rich homemade Halva spread on whole wheat bread withe cubes of juicy Israeli melon and some grapes.

A visit with my aunt and uncle was terribly overdue for countless reasons, all of them legitimate and inevitable (kids being sick, PTA meetings being scheduled, acquaintances loosing parents, others having kids or getting divorced, all of which required our attention and mental energy).  Usually I come bearing my natural choice of a gift -cake.  I am not sure why, but this time I was swamped with emotions and memories and wanted to make something different, possibly to help express some of those feelings and deep love I always have for them, which were intensified over these past weeks.  And then it came to me – some kind of spread, as a tribute to those summers and breakfasts.  Then I remembered my aunt and uncle always traveled abroad with loads of dried fruit and nuts.  Aha! Almond spread!  Slightly sweetened with maple syrup as an interesting alternative to the sweet honey my aunt used for her famous Halva spread.

Raw Almonds
Raw Almonds

This spread is based on a peanut butter recipe, which I have been making repeatedly since buying the book Baked Elements by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito (what a genius book – divided into their favorite ingredients, most of which are my favorites as well).  Everything I’ve tried from that book and their previous two books, by the way, came out amazing.

An advantage almond butter has over peanut butter is that there is no need to add oil in order to get a creamy texture.  I am also quite certain that the maple syrup or other sweetener isn’t absolutely necessary as the almonds are naturally pretty sweet.

I had roasted the almonds prior to processing them as I love the color as well as the aroma and added kick roasting the almonds gives the butter.  However, those of you who prefer to preserve more of the nutrients contained in almonds, or others of you who might be short in time, can skip the roasting step. 

The first lick I took (I was home alone – no kids to demand taxes in the form of licking the bowl!) reminded me of the salty roasted almonds one buys in dried fruit and nut stores over here in Israel.  The second lick threw me back to NYC and the caramelized roasted nuts sold in carts all over the place.  It was perfect on a slice of bread – almost as perfect as my summer breakfasts in Tel Aviv (though it lacked my aunt’s touch).

Getting Ready for Breakfast
Getting Ready for Breakfast

Maple-Almond Butter on the Spot: Process almonds and salt.  Process some more.  Add maple.  Process a bit more.  Voilà!

Maple-Almond Butter

Ingredients:

3 heaped cups (500 grams) almonds, raw or roasted

1 teaspoon fleur de sel (or table salt) (more or less salt as desired)

1 teaspoon of maple syrup, honey, silan (date honey), optional

Directions:

If you like the smokey kick roasting the almonds will give the butter, roast the almonds for 20 minutes, rotating pan once in the middle.

Roasted Almonds
Roasted Almonds

Place almonds in the bowl of a food processor.  Add salt, and process for about 3-4 minutes.  At first, the almonds will form a chunky paste.

Almond Paste
Almond Paste

 Keep processing until it turns into a smooth butter with some small chunks. 

If  you like chunky nut butters you can stop processing at this point.  If you prefer a smoother-creamier textured butter, keep on processing for at least another minute or two, until all the chunks disappear.

Once you have reached the desired consistency, add maple syrup (or honey or silan) if desired, and process for a few more seconds, until combined.

Maple on the Spot
Maple on the Spot

Spoon into a jar, let it cool (the butter will retain some heat from the processing), and refrigerate.

Birds Eye View
Birds Eye View

Maple Almond Butter should keep well up to a month, refrigerated.

Labeled and Sealed
Labeled and Sealed

 

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