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Nutty spreads for your breads
By Pat Eby • Photo by Greg Rannells
Posted On: 01/01/2009   


When the chill of a January morning threatens to chase a good mood to ugly, spread a little cashew nut butter on wheatberry toast. The thermometer won’t budge, but your happy meter could. It worked for me at the first glaze of ice and snow. And to think: If I didn’t have this job, I might not have tried cashew nut butter.

If you haven’t considered nut butters since you outgrew PBJs, get ready. Even peanut butter’s gone uptown. Three years ago, Mound City Shelled Nut Co., a fixture in The Lou for more than 90 years, began making a chunk-licious peanut butter – no salt, sugar or anything added. The taste: knock you upside the head, smack your lips peanuty. The texture’s different, too – big-shouldered, with a great mouth feel. “We use only the highest quality peanuts,” said David Dickerson, Mound City’s retail store manager. “We make it as soon as the nuts come from the roaster.

“It’s great for peanut butter cookies or on toast with a little honey drizzled on top,” said Dickerson. “Or sandwiched in a sliced strawberry. … Everybody loves peanut butter.”

You’ll find Mound City peanut butter at the company store in University City as well as at Straub’s, Vincent’s Market, Eckert’s and The Market at Busch’s Grove. Mound City currently offers only peanut butter. “Next year we may try cashew and almond butters,” said Dickerson.

For a cashew and almond butter fix right now, trot out to The Natural Way for Missouri-made East Wind nut butters. I love salted, roasted cashews and almonds, so when the cashew butter flavor came up delicate and the almond butter sweet and subtle, I was surprised. I’d expected big, strong tastes. But I loved the understated, elegant flavors.

Testing these butters was fun. Good news: Cashew butter and roasted cashews work well in Coca-Cola cake with Broiled Nut Frosting. Really. Try it. A sandwich of almond butter, ripe pear slices and dried cranberries nosed out the cashew butter, mayo, Granny Smith apple sandwich, but both were tasty.

I got out the food processor and played, too, using favorite nuts and seeds to make my own butters. Pistachios and pecans with a little French gray sea salt and a bit of honey; pepitas blended with chipotle peppers, lemon olive oil and a kick of red chile powder.

I didn’t mess with hazelnuts because Kakao offers the decadent chocolate-hazelnut spread I wanted for not much money and way less work. Chocolatier Brian Pelletier will have this chocolate goodness at both the St. Louis Community Farmers’ Market and Maplewood Winter Market in January and February. You can also order online any time the urge hits.

You’ll need to futz a bit with natural nut butters. That oil slick on top doesn’t blend gently into the good goo on the bottom with a butter knife. Use the mixer. Store nut butters in the refrigerator. Bring them to room temperature before serving or cooking.

Winter is long, pleasure but fleeting, so why not indulge? Experiment now with cashew butter-cream cheese blintzes topped with Kakao chocolate to make something new for Valentine’s Day. Or skip the cooking and simply spread them on toast. Either way, your happy meter should spike.

Cashew-Pumpkin Spread
Makes 1 ¾ cups
You'll need to futz a bit with natural nut butters. That oil slick on top doesn't blend gently into the good goo on the bottom with a butter knife. Use the mixer. Store nut butters in the refrigerator. Bring them to room temperature before serving or cooking.

INGREDIENTS

1 8-oz. block cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup cashew butter
1/8 cup canned pumpkin purée
¼ cup powdered sugar
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

PREPARATION

• Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, combine the cream cheese with the cashew butter. Add the pumpkin purée, lower the mixer speed and mix until smooth.
• In a separate bowl, combine the powdered sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir to distribute the spices evenly in the sugar.
• Add the powdered sugar mix to the cream cheese mixture and combine.
• Serve with gingersnaps, vanilla wafers, brown bread or pumpkin bread.

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