What child (or adult, in fact) doesn’t love a great big jar of chocolate nut butter?
I love the idea of choccy nut butter: a promising combo of cocoa (rich in flavonoids) and nuts (rich in minerals, B vitamins, fibre, fats – I could go on). But supermarket jars disappoint. Instead of cocoa or nuts topping the ingredients list, it’s sugar followed by plain old refined vegetable oil. So it kind of is like spreading chocolate, adding a couple of nuts,and drizzling some unappetising vegetable oil on your toast – not the greatest start to a school (or any) day
We go through jars of peanut, almond, cashew and hazelnut butter at home: a big splodge in the centre of a plate with apples or celery to dip into it; nut butter on oat cakes for a mid-morning snack, or simply thickly spread on wholegrain toast in the morning. I personally love our homemade almond butter with a little mashed banana on a rye crispbread.
Nut butters are one of the best foods around:
- they’re low GI/GL so don’t shoot blood sugar up.
- Being essentially just chopped up nuts, they’re a good source of protein, fibre, zinc, magnesium, calcium, iron, vitamin E and a mix of beneficial fats depending on what nut you use.
- compelling health reasons to be a daily nut eater include reduced obesity, smaller lower waist size, 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
Only 5% of us manage nuts each day – nut butters are an easy way to rectify this.
I’m yapping on about nut butters here rather than chocolate nut butter because in order to make the chocolate version, you need to make nut butter first – which is unbelievably simple with a food processor.
Technically, and for no discernable reason, it’s hazelnuts that go into a traditional chocolate nut butter, so that’s what we’ll stick with here – although you could simply use almond butter (in fact, you could even totally cheat and use a jar of nut butter to make your choccy version).
If you’re particularly motivated, you could soak and dry out your nuts before roasting (known as ‘activating’). The attraction of soaking nuts overnight is that it ‘activates’ enzymes in the nut, boosting nutrients such as B vitamins, and reducing phytic acid levels. Phytic acid inhibits mineral absorption – so after soaking, you get a more nutritious nut. But you’ll then need to dry them out at a very low temperature (max 75°C) in a dehydrator or oven for around 12 hours – so it adds some time and faff to the nut butter process.
Roasting nuts gives a ‘toasted’ flavour, and in the case of hazelnuts, helps to shed the skins. Hazelnuts have a higher temperature threshold than some nuts, but when roasting nuts keep the temperature low and the time short to avoid damaging the fats. Hazelnut skins can be bitter so although they are high in phytonutrients, it’s a trade off between slightly more nutrients and better taste.
When making the nut butter, give your food processor regular breaks so that you don’t burn the motor out – and persevere. You’ll pass from a ‘chopped nuts’ stage, to a ‘dough’ stage, to an ‘almost there’ stage; keep going just a few minutes longer until your nut butter drips off the spoon. Then you’re ready to add the chocolate ingredients!
We hope you enjoy this blog post, let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on social media – we’re on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. And don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter to receive a monthly update of our recipes, nutrition tips and expert advice.