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December 24, 2012

Yesterday I finished up the last batch of cookies and made a variety of nut butters to give as gifts for Christmas.  Today I packed things up for the family get-together tomorrow.

IMG_2044The last cookies I made are the Holiday 7-Layer Bars from Better Homes & Gardens.  I think if I made these again, I’d exchange the walnuts for pistachios just for a more “holiday” look.  As it is, everything but the dried cherries kind of blends together and there isn’t much contrast.  I also think I’d mix together all of the topping ingredients instead of putting them on in layers.  The white chips got kind of buried with everything else on top.  That being said, they’re pretty tasty – even the non-coconut-liking Hubs said they were good!

IMG_2047And here’s a box of all of the goodies packed up to give to my parents tomorrow!  I always like putting these boxes together and seeing all of the different cookies alongside one another.  Plus, it’s a little ego-boost when people exclaim over them!  🙂

The nut butters I made will go to my mother, aunt, and sister-in-law, all somewhat hard to shop for people.  I mentioned making almond butter to my mother the last time we saw them and she sounded interested, so I made a batch of almond butter with brown sugar, cashew butter with maple syrup, and peanut butter with honey.  Making these is crazy simple, as long as you have a good food processor.  Put the nuts in the processor bowl and let it whiz!  At first it will seem like the nuts are just getting really finely ground and you’ll want to scrape the bowl down a couple of times part way along.  Eventually, though, things will start to come together and the nuts will clump up in the bowl.  The cashews really lumped up and had to slowly work their way around the bowl as they continued to break down.  Finally, the oil in the nuts will start to come out and they’ll be ground finely enough to form a paste.  I’ve found that the trick here is to just let it keep going even after you think it’s done enough.  When you think it’s done, it’ll really still be kind of thick and stiff once it cools down from the heat of the processor.  If you let it go just a little longer – maybe 30-60 seconds – the result will be more spreadable.  If you like your nut butter chunky, reserve some of the nuts earlier in the grinding and add them back once the paste has formed.

I also add a little salt and sweetener at the end, which I typically mix in by hand.  I tried adding these with the processor running and found that they didn’t really mix satisfactorily.  So, for my standard batch starting with 2 cups of nuts, I add about 1/2 teaspoon of coarse flake salt from Penzey’s and maybe a tablespoon of honey.  This is to your individual taste, so add more or less of salt and sweet as it suits you.

IMG_2042I got all cute with the jars and topped them with a little circle of linen just to dress them up a bit.  Of course, if I were REALLY being cutsey, I’d be going to town with the hot glue gun and stuff like rickrack, but who has time for that?

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