Chocolate-dipped almond eggs. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles…)
Nut butters -- peanut, almond, cashew, etc. -- are terribly simple to make. Grind nuts until they release their oils and are reduced to a smooth paste. And voila! You've got nut butter.
All you need are nuts and a little flavoring or seasoning. You can add some sugar if you want to sweeten, or perhaps a touch of honey or maple syrup, but that's it. Don’t worry about adding oil -- nuts naturally have a high oil content, and will release enough oil for the butter themselves with enough time and patience.
Here's how you do it: Toast the nuts in a 350- to 375-degree oven until they're fragrant and slightly darkened. Toasting the nuts will give them a richer, deeper flavor. Cool the nuts slightly, then place the warm nuts in a food processor and start grinding. Process the nuts until they are ground to coarse meal, then continue until you finally get a smooth paste. Scrape down the bowl periodically.
As you process, the meal will first clump together as the nuts' oils are released, finally smoothing out over a couple minutes. That's your nut butter. Taste the butter and season, or flavor, as desired, processing everything together.
Check out the step-by-step video above for tips, and use your homemade almond butter to make the chocolate-dipped almond eggs below -- perfect treats for holiday gift-giving!
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Chocolate-dipped almond eggs
Total time: 40 minutes, plus chilling and setting time
Servings: Makes about 2 1/2 dozen
Note: The dry milk in these eggs makes for a light, malty crunch. For a grown-up version, use smoked instead of toasted almonds and sprinkle the eggs with a few grains of flaky sea salt.
1 cup smooth almond butter
3/4 cup nonfat dry (powdered) milk
1/2 cup powdered sugar (2 ounces)
1/4 cup honey
3 cups milk or semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup finely chopped toasted almonds
1. In a medium bowl, mix together the almond butter, dry milk, sugar and honey until combined; you should have a stiff mixture.
2. To form each egg, roll a scant tablespoon of the almond butter mixture in your palms to make a ball, then roll one end gently back and forth to taper the ball into an egg shape. Transfer the eggs to a wax- or parchment paper-lined baking sheet when done. Gently insert a toothpick through the center of the egg, at the tip, and push the toothpick through almost the entire length of the egg. Freeze the eggs, uncovered, until firm, about 1 hour.
3. Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over simmering water. Transfer the melted chocolate to a small deep bowl (this will make it easier to coat the eggs), and place the chopped toasted almonds in a separate small, deep bowl.
4. Working with about 4 almond butter eggs at a time (keep the rest frozen until ready to coat), quickly dip the eggs in the chocolate to coat, firmly tapping the toothpick on the rim of the bowl to shake off excess chocolate. Place the eggs on a wax- or parchment paper-lined sheet for a minute or so to allow any excess chocolate to settle at the bottom of each egg and form a footprint, then lift the egg and dip the base partially into the almonds to form a nest. The chocolate should harden quickly; if it takes awhile to set, place the eggs back in the freezer just until the chocolate is hard.
5. Remove and discard the toothpicks from each of the eggs, then add a small dollop of chocolate to seal the holes. Set the eggs aside in a cool, dry place to set completely.
Each egg: 217 calories; 5 grams protein; 19 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 15 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 4 mg. cholesterol; 24 mg. sodium.