Dessert

A Crunchy, Chewy, Creamy Dessert for Nut Butter Fanatics

August 24, 2015

Every week, baking expert Alice Medrich will be going rogue on Food52—with shortcuts, hacks, and game-changing recipes.

Today: The case for nut butter you have to stir—and a recipe to make once you've done the work.

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I’m crazy for nut and seed butters. Give me any one of them—peanut, almond, hazelnut, cashew, sesame—and I’m going to want to eat it out of the jar, or spread it on bread or celery, make a savory or spicy sauce or dip of it, or turn it into a cookie or dessert. 

Working on Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt in Your Mouth Cookies a few years ago, I discovered that nut and seed butters could be partially folded into meringue to make light-as-cloud cookies with veins of rich nutty flavor in contrast to the sweet meringue. 

The discovery lead to a multitude of transformative variations including an astonishing (heavenly) new Peanut Butter Pavlova—crunchy on the exterior and marshmallow-y within—with juicy ripe strawberries. The Crunchy Almond Butter Meringue recipe that follows is yet another way to go for an easy late summer dessert with a significant do-ahead feature (since dry crunchy meringues are long-lasting if stored in airtight containers.)

Now, about the nut butter. If you don’t make your own, what kind of nut butter should you buy? I’m a fan (more like fanatic) of what used to be called “natural” peanut butter made only with nuts and salt, or just with nuts if salt is an issue for you. I extend the same standard to all nut butters. First, I don’t want sugar or any other sweetener to dilute or distract from the nut flavor—we pastry chefs tend to want to control the addition of sugar (and everything else if possible). Second, I don’t want emulsifiers or other random fats in my nut butter.

Alas, for me this rules out “no stir” nut butters because in order to prevent fat separation, something (even just another kind of fat) must be added to keep the ingredients in suspension. And so I am resigned to stirring, because the oil in the nuts inevitably separates in the jar. If you don’t share my fanaticism about unnecessary emulsifiers, you can go ahead and buy “no stir,” but I put my foot down at sweetened nut butters. The beauty (genius, really) of combining nut butter and meringue is that it allows you to add so much pure flavor without also adding sugar. 

Here’s how to stir a new jar of nut butter without getting nut oil all over the counter: Scoop the entire contents of a new jar into a bowl and stir well. Refill the jar. If you use it regularly, very little stirring will be required thereafter. When necessary, I use a long-handled soda spoon to stir the nut butter from the bottom to the top of the jar before using—two or three strokes is all it takes. Or you can refrigerate the jar to prevent oil separation—just bring the measured amount to room temperature for this recipe so it will fold more easily into the meringue. 

Crunchy Almond Butter Meringue with Berries and Cream

From Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts (Artisan 2012)

Serves 8 to 10

1/3
 cup well-stirred, smooth or crunchy roasted almond butter, at room temperature

1 
pinch salt, as needed for nut butter

3 
large egg whites, at room temperature

1/8 
teaspoon cream of tartar

2/3 
cup (130 grams) sugar plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided

1 1/2 
pints bush berries such as blackberries, raspberries, or strawberries, or a combination

1
 cup heavy whipping cream

1 
teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 
cup (30 grams) sliced or coarsely chopped almonds


See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

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7 Comments

AntoniaJames August 31, 2015
This looks like a first cousin to the wonderful "Peanut Butter Kisses" on the side label of Skippy peanut butter when I was a kid. You prepare the cookie "dough" in exactly the same way, but it is dropped by the small spoonful onto foil-lined cookie sheets to bake into little meringue cookies. Wow, it's been forever since I thought of those. (Really delicious with salted peanut butter. I always added almond extract because one day we were out of vanilla, so I just used almond instead but a bit less; it tasted great, and thus was launched a life-time love affair with the almond-peanut flavor combination.) ;o)
 
AntoniaJames September 1, 2015
More details on the meringue peanut butter "kisses" from the Skippy Jar. Ratio: for each 2 egg whites, add 1/8 tsp cream of tartar, scant 1/4 tsp almond extract (my addition) and 2/3 cup sugar; lightly fold in 1/2 cup peanut butter. Bake at 300 degrees on greased cookie sheet for 25 minutes. Makes 3 dozen. Wonderful gluten-free treat, if such things concern you. ;o)
 
David L. August 26, 2015
Stirring the oil back into the nut butter in the jar carefully with a chopstick also works.
 
bookjunky August 24, 2015
This looks so good! But your desserts are always things that look easy and yet delicious. Novel enough to be interesting but not in a demanding way. Your cookbooks are among my short-list dinner-party go-tos. You and Ina. :) <br /><br />The trick I use with my natural peanut butter is to store the jars upside down. That way, the oil is at the BOTTOM when you open it and you can use some PB off the top before you have to stir the rest. And it's less messy when the oil is at the bottom, plus easier to incorporate. Also, the kind I buy has too much oil for the amount of solids IMO, so pouring off some of the oil and saving it for cooking is another option.
 
violentyoda August 24, 2015
Storing it upside down is MUCH easier, and it never gets that gross cold stiffness from the fridge. I find that after getting about halfway through the jar its fine stored upright again.
 
Posie (. August 24, 2015
I'm semi-speechless at how good this looks and sounds. Thank you for this brilliant idea! Cannot wait to try it.
 
AntoniaJames August 31, 2015
Posie, I haven't looked at a Skippy label for decades, but searching for old ones would be a gold mine of "back of the box" recipes for you. Skippy published so many during the 60's and 70's (for some reason I stopped cooking from peanut butter jar recipes when I went to law school - not sure why). They were all excellent recipes. Not fancy or elegant in any way, but wow, did the Unilever home economists know how to create tasty treats. ;o)