Of all the store-bought foods I’d rather make at home, my favorites fall into two categories: replicas of brand-name versions, like yogurt or granola bars, and those I make to break free of the same old flavor choices we’re faced with on supermarket shelves. The latter group includes fruit roll-ups (try blackberry-cayenne-lime or tomato-basil instead of strawberry), hummus (beet or preserved lemon, please), and, of course, nut butters.
The only equipment you need to make great nut butter is a food processor or high-speed blender. I make many versions—unsweetened peanut butter, maple-cinnamon almond butter, chocolate hazelnut butter—but the process is always the same.
For a cup and a half of nut butter, start with a pound of fresh nuts, then toast them in the oven and cool slightly. Next, buzz them up in your machine of choice with ½ teaspoon of salt and any flavorings, spices, or sweetener you like, to taste. Once the mixture is ground, slowly add 2 to 4 tablespoons of oil (if possible, oil from the nut you’re using—peanut oil for peanut butter, almond oil for almond butter, and so on) while processing for up to 3 minutes. Added oil and flavoring go a long way, so be sparing and taste as you go. After all, you can always add more, but you can’t remove excess oil or spice—and, as a bonus, tasting along the way gives you an excuse you to eat fresh, warm nut butter with a spoon.
- ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¾ cup boiling water
- ⅓ cup maple syrup
- 5¼ ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, and cooled
- 3 tablespoons hazelnut oil
- Whisk together cocoa powder and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When mixture is smooth, whisk in maple syrup. Increase heat to medium-high and whisk constantly until mixture comes to a low boil.
- Reduce heat to medium and continue whisking until syrup thickens slightly, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate until melted. Cool to room temperature.
- Put hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor. Blend for 2 to 3 minutes, slowly adding hazelnut oil through the feed tube as you go, until you have a thin nut butter.
- Transfer hazelnut butter to a measuring cup with a pouring spout. Pour cooled chocolate syrup into food processor bowl (no need to wash it out first). Blend syrup and, with the machine running, pour hazelnut butter through the feed tube in a steady stream until you have a creamy, nutty spread. It will be thin but will firm up in the refrigerator.
- 1 pound ricotta cheese
- ½ to ¾ cup of chocolate hazelnut butter
- Pinch salt
- Shaved bittersweet chocolate, for garnishing
- Blend ricotta cheese with chocolate hazelnut butter in a food processor until silky-smooth, about 30 seconds. Season with a pinch of salt.
- Divide among 6 to 8 small ramekins, cover with plastic wrap, and chill overnight.
- Sprinkle with shaved bittersweet chocolate just before serving.