Friday, December 28, 2012

Dark Hazelnut Butter

Here's another one of my edible gifts for the holidays which will be perfect for your sweet-toothed friends who may already be feeling guilty to take another bite of that decadent chocolate cake on their nth Christmas party this year. My hazelnut butter is a healthier and guilt-free alternative to nutella or gianduja. This version is sweetened with organic agave nectar; no dairy and no vegetable oil were added. All you need is patience, lots of it, to wait until the nuts releases its natural oil and transform into a smooth paste. I also added cocoa powder for that added chocolate kick. Then I added a pinch of salt and a hint of Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans. Well,  hey! It's the holidays, might as well treat yourself, (and your lucky friends too!) to some luxury, right?

The idea was inspired by this post from The Healthy Foodie. The steps and preps are pretty much the same, but the recipe that I used is different and based on my own trial and error ;-)

Roasting Time: 12 minutes
Inactive Time: 10-15 minutes
Butter-making Time: 30-60 minutes (depending on your equipment and the level of smoothness of the butter)
Total Time: 52-87 minutes

Baking sheet
hand towel
food processor/ grinder/ blender (whichever works for you)

500 g  raw hazelnuts
2 tbsp cocoa powder
4-5 tbsp agave nectar
1/4 tsp salt
beans of 2-inch vanilla pods

1. Preheat oven to 160*C. Place the raw hazelnut on the baking sheet and roast for 12 minutes, turning halfway through the roasting time. Keep a close eye on it; you only want a light to medium roast.

2. Leave the roasted hazelnuts on the countertop to cool for a good 10 minutes or so. Slightly cooled hazelnuts will be easier to handle, the skin will become brittle and will slightly separate from the nuts. Do not cool completely though, it is best to grind it when it is still warm.

3. Transfer the nuts to a clean kitchen towel and give it a coulple of shimmy to peel off the skin.

4. Separate the nuts from the peel. Don't mind if some of the skin clings on the nuts as long as you remove most of them. Transfer into a food processor, grinder or blender, whatever you have on hand and whatever works for you.  I figure a food processor is best suited for the job but since I don't have one, the grinder performed well enough. I also don't know if a food processor would do the job faster, let me know once you tried it.

5. Grind the nuts until it forms a paste. This is where you'll need a lot of patience; the length of time will depend on how powerful your machine is and how smooth you want your butter to be. Do not be tempted to add oil, you don't need it; the nuts will release its natural oil. I found that grinding the nuts while it is still warm makes it easier to release its oil. Once you get the desired consistency, add the cocoa powder, agave nectar, salt and vanilla beans. Give it a whir for another 5 minutes until well combined. Transfer to jars and leave to cool completely before putting on the lid. You can also enjoy it straight away!

This is great for marshmallows and pretzels too!

 Put on some pretty ribbons and tags around the jars to gift to friends and loved ones.


May your Christmas be Merry and Sweet! xoxo

Edible Gifts Series
01 Dec 2012

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Vanilla Extract

I have been planning on posting holiday recipes and food crafts for months and I'm so excited to share them with you all. These are edible giftables that are easy to make but definitely not too shabby!

I love handmade gifts, it makes me feel extra special because the person who gave them put the extra effort to make them for me. And I figured, my friends and family would love 'em too! So this year, my Christmas list looks very different than my previous ones, and instead of the mall, I will be spending more time in the kitchen crafting the gifts. Check back regularly as this is going to be the first of my "Edible Gifts Series".

My first food craft is homemade Vanilla Extract made from organic Grade-A Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans.

Pure vanilla extract, the good ones, are quite expensive, and vanilla pods in this part of the world is a rip off! The cheapest ones sold at the groceries, (you know those lonely, dry vanilla pod in a bottle?), costs around 3BHD (8USD)! That's why I rarely use them for my regular baking and cooking. So imagine how happy I was when I stumbled upon this post by whipperberry, where she shared how simple it is to make your own vanilla extract, and it will not break the bank! I searched several recipes but I find hers to be the simplest and uncomplicated. And check out her packaging, how beautiful are they? She also recommended her online source of vanilla beans which seemed pretty good, but after further research I opted to buy from an ebay seller named Vanilla Products USA and I was very, very pleased with my purchase. My only regret is I wish I bought more! But anyway, because it was the "test" batch, I played it safe and bought just 10 vanilla pods and they are all gorgeous! It came vacuum sealed and when I opened the package, the vanilla beans were shiny, moist and plump, not like those shriveled 3-dinar pods at the groceries. The best part is, 10 pods cost only 7.94 USD! Say what?! Yup, you read it right, 10 organic prime vanilla pods cost less than 1 ugly pod available here! What a great find! The shipping was not bad at all, it costs me 6.48USD. So in total it costs me 14.42USD, 1.44USD per pod which is still not bad, right?

Here's my adaptation of the recipe:

Makes: 3 bottles

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Aging Time: at least 3 months
9 Organic Grade-A Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans
4 1/2 cups vodka

You will need:
3 recycled Cade bottles, sterilized and dried
small, stainless funnel
sticker labels (optional)

1. Slice the vanilla pods in the middle halfway through. Place 3 vanilla pods per bottle.
2. Fill each bottle with 1 and 1/2 cups of inexpensive vodka. Stick on the sticker labels. Store at room temperature. Do not refrigerate!

Give the bottle a shake every so often. I adore them and I pay close attention to these babies and watch them "age" beautifully over time. The extract can be used after 3 months and will keep indefinitely at room temperature.

When you're ready to give it away as gifts, you may decorate it with simple ribbons and handmade cards.

So that's my first suggestion on edible holiday gifts, made with lots of love from my kitchen. Hope you're inspired!

04 December 2012
Edible Gifts Series