Friday, August 19, 2011

Better butter Part III

The Recipes
For testing purposes, we used the simple recipes below. All butters performed remarkably well in both applications, so be sure to experiment freely with your own favorite recipes.

Nutty Banana Smoothie
Makes one small glass.
1/2 banana
2 tablespoons nut butter
1/2 cup milk
In blender, combine banana, nut butter, and milk. Puree until smooth.

Nut Butter Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen.
(adapted from Simply Recipes Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies,
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup nut/seed butter
Sugar, if needed, for coating fork
1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine butter and sugars. With a stand mixer with a blade attachment or an electric handmixer, beat together on medium for four minutes. Add nut butter and egg, and beat two minutes.
3. Add flour mixture to bowl and mix on low until well-blended.
4. Form dough into a ball and wrap tightly. Refrigerate for two hours or up to two days.
5. Set oven at 300 degrees. Line sheet pans with parchment paper.
6. Roll dough into balls 1 1/2 inch across, and arrange on sheet pans. With a fork or potato masher, press the balls flat, dipping utensil in sugar between cookies if necessary to keep from sticking.
7. Bake for 16-17 minutes or until just barely colored at the edges. Remove from cookie sheet immediately.

Better butter Part II

The Way the Cookie Crumbles (How do they bake up?)

Nature’s Promise Organic Almond Butter
Delicate, thin and crisp, with a slightly soft center, these would be best nibbled with tea. Make sure they have enough room to spread in the oven.

Organic Once Again Sunflower Seed Nut Butter
These keep their shape and have both depth and sweetness: a perfect choice for grade-schoolers who want something that looks – and tastes – surprisingly like the real McCoy.

Nature’s Promise Natural Cashew Butter
Dense and mild, these call out for dark chocolate chips and a tall glass of milk

Artisana Organic Raw Pecan Butter
Toasted aroma is reminiscent of Mexican wedding cakes, but the pale, flecked cookies are appealingly chewy. Excellent with a cup of coffee, the test batch disappeared quickly.

I M Healthy SoyNut Butter
Sandy texture and flat flavor somewhat like a sugar cookie – the  store-bought kind. Not terrible, but not recommended.

Superior Sippers (And how about smoothies?)

Nature’s Promise Organic Almond Butter
The winner, smooth enough to deserve the name and well-balanced with the sweetness of the banana.

Organic Once Again Sunflower Seed Nut Butter
The savory sunflower notes overpower the fruit, but reducing the seed butter by half would make for a robustly satisfying sipper.

Nature’s Promise Natural Cashew Butter
An unbelievably rich and frothy treat, but banana overshadows the cashew.

Artisana Organic Raw Pecan Butter
A pallid blend that isn’t worth wasting an expensive ingredient.

I M Healthy SoyNut Butter
Mild at first swallow, but progresses quickly into objectionable.

Better butter Part I

Poor peanut butter. Once found in lunch boxes everywhere, increases in food allergies and concerns about fat have made this childhood favorite practically taboo.  But there’s a silver lining to our old friend’s fall from grace. Grocery stores have started stocking a plethora of goober surrogates.  Whether you’re hunting for a nut-free substitute for your favorite cookie recipe or just a new twist on your midnight snack, there’s a spread out there.  To help navigate the plethora of choices, we put these alternative treats through the paces, testing them in cookies and smoothies, pairing them with preserves, and, of course, tasting them straight off the spoon. The results might just inspire you to find a new companion for jelly and bread.

Better Butter? (Overall results)
Nature’s Promise Organic Almond Butter (16 oz, $5.99, Stop & Shop)
Long the favorite of dieters, this may be the best overall contender, with a sophisticated, truly nutty flavor. With just over half the saturated fat and twice the fiber of natural peanut butter, this is the nutritionists’ darling. Extra points for the good dose of magnesium. (180 calories, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 4 grams fiber, 10% DV magnesium)

Organic Once Again Sunflower Seed Nut Butter (16 oz., $5.99, Whole Foods)
The sleeper of the bunch; earthy, rich flavor and texture is the closest match to natural PB. Loaded with magnesium and folate.  (180 calories, 2 grams saturated fat, 0 grams fiber, 30% DV magnesium, 20% DV folate)

Nature’s Promise Natural Cashew Butter (16 oz, $9.99, Stop & Shop)
Extremely creamy, but with very mild flavor that might disappoint cashew fans.  A whopping 14 grams of saturated fat explains the unctuous mouth-feel.  At least it’s a good source of zinc and magnesium.  (188 calories, 14 grams saturated fat, <1 gram fiber, 21% DV magnesium, 11% DV zinc)

Artisana Organic Raw Pecan Butter ( 8 oz.,$11.99, Whole Foods)
Gritty and thick, pecan paste is blended with cashew to make it spreadable, but the final product still has a home-ground texture. Unlike other butters, this one tastes strongly of its raw material. While others are widely available in supermarkets, finding this pricey specialty item might require a trip to a natural foods store. The highest calorie choice, pecans are also the nut that provides the highest level of antioxidants. (213 calories, 2 grams saturated fat, 3 grams fiber)

I M Healthy SoyNut Butter (15 oz, $5.29, Stop & Shop)
Has the whipped, plaster-of-Paris texture of highly processed brands of peanut butter. Certainly a welcome product for parents of kids with allergies, other will likely find its blandness and unpleasant aftertaste off-putting. Only slighter lower than PB in saturated fat, but three times the fiber. Contains added sugar.
(190 calories, 2 grams saturated fat, 6 grams fiber)

PB&J Redux (How well do they play with preserves and bread?)

Nature’s Promise Organic Almond Butter
Take a page from the traditional pastry chef playbook and pair with “fruits of the woods” - raspberry or blueberry preserves make an elegant match.

Organic Once Again Sunflower Seed Nut Butter
True to its hippie roots, this spread is best graced with a drizzle of pure honey. Or, go full-Berkeley and partner it with avocado and sprouts.

Nature’s Promise Natural Cashew Butter
Its lushness serves as the ideal foil for the bitter edge of orange marmalade – or the spicy ginger version, for a more exotic combination.

Artisana Organic Raw Pecan Butter
Try with sweet, chunky apricot jam or crack open a jar of maple cream
I M Healthy SoyNut Butter
Stick with the old stand-by, Concord grape jelly, which is strong enough to carry the sandwich.