I’m tired of explaining that when I call for peanut butter in a recipe (for cookies, fillings, meringues, etc.), I don’t mean the kind that’s sweetened or otherwise adulterated with random fats or emulsifiers in order to make it “no-stir.” As a chef and cookbook author, pure peanut butter—just peanuts and salt—lets me start with the purest and best flavor, and control the addition of sugar, fats, and other ingredients in my dish. As an eater, I also crave pure nutty flavor—to which I can add honey or jam or nothing—on my peanut butter toast, or celery in my spicy peanut sauce.
In my perfect world—after world peace, equality, healthcare, jobs, and food security—a jar labeled “peanut butter” would contain only peanuts and optional salt. When sweeteners, palm or other oils, or starches are added, the jar would have to be labeled “Peanut Spread.” Purchasers would have a choice and know what they are getting—as well as know what they are feeding their children.
Real peanut butter requires a teensy weensy bit of effort. Just as when you make your own peanut butter by processing roasted peanuts in your blender or food processor, the oil in a jar of pure peanut butter eventually separates and floats to the top so that you have to stir it in. Why shouldn’t the good stuff cause a little stir? My dad used to pour off the top oil, arguing that we didn’t need the extra fat anyway. I scrape the contents of a new jar into a bowl, stir it well, and scrape it back into the jar—or, if I’m in not a hurry, I turn the jar upside down in the cupboard for several hours to let the oil start traveling in the opposite direction. When the jar is less full, it’s easy to stir as you go; or you can continue to flip the jar occasionally, as necessary, or refrigerate it to halt the separation.
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It’s easiest if you haven’t started your kids on sweetened peanut butter, but kids are adaptable, and the need for stirring should not prevent them from indulgence. My daughter grew up on pure peanut butter and is now a well-adjusted, peanut butter–loving adult, completely unscarred by the inconvenience of early stirring or upside down jars. I’m still discovering new and tastier peanut butters—Krema Nut is my current top choice. Sometimes peanut butter is crunchy and other times it’s smooth, but the real stuff is always delicious—and addictive.
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).