I had a plan for this week’s posts. I don’t always, but this week I actually had a plan. I didn’t have the posts written, but I had recipes ready and my thoughts organized. Then I fixed the food processor.
We have been without that glorious appliance since I managed to crack the shaft cover in September. I ordered the replacement part and had it a week later. And then it sat for over two months. There were no directions for replacing it. I wasn’t going to pay for a service center to install it. An online search wasn’t much help.
We pried, we pulled and we even bought a screwdriver to fit the star-shaped screw heads so we could take the whole thing apart. No luck – still the silly machine sat there with its cracked part stubbornly and firmly attached. I have a certain amount of stubbornness too. I was determined that I would fix it. I finally resorted to cutting the plastic shaft cover apart with a box cutter. I had visions of stitches as part of the process, but I managed to emerge with all my fingers intact. It took the box cutter, two screw drivers, a hammer, pliers, and Rich’s help, but we got it, finally. And we didn’t damage any of the rest of the machine, so it still works.
I immediately wanted to process something to try it out. I have been putting off making any Christmas cookies that call for chopped nuts. I know I could chop them with a knife, but the texture is never what I like. That probably says more about my knife skills than anything. I got my giant bag of pecans from the freezer and ground away until I had all the chopped pecans I needed. But that took all of three minutes, which didn’t seem an appropriate re-christening of the food processor.
I have seen recipes and directions for making your own nut butters for years. And I never did them. What better time than with my “new” food processor? I did a small amount, since this was a total experiment – why would I take the time to look up a recipe when I could just wing it? And why would I make plain nut butter when I could make it chocolate? The pecans ground to a paste in about a minute. I added a little cocoa, sugar and a touch of canola oil to make the whole mixture a little less grainy and dense. Success in one!
Think Nutella, but better (and pecan instead of hazelnut, obviously). Intense nutty pecans enriched with chocolate. Or intense chocolate infused with pecans. Either way it was a home run. After an overnight rest it was even better. I’m not sure what I am going to do with it, other than eat it with a spoon. I did spread a little on a small piece of French bread as a snack, which was sublime. I’m thinking sugar cookies sandwiched with this lovely concoction would be outstanding.
I tried again the next day, roasting the pecans first. This intensified the pecan flavor, and it made the nuts oilier. I added too much canola oil and ended up with a runny sauce. It would probably be great drizzled sparingly over chocolate cake. I wanted more of a spread, though, so I mixed it with the first batch – perfection. I do think I actually prefer the flavor of the butter with untoasted nuts. Try it both ways and let me know what you think.
Chocolate Pecan Butter
From The Cook’s Life
Makes about ½ cup
You can easily double, triple or even quadruple this – just multiply all the amounts. A small jar would make a great hostess or holiday gift. You can add more cocoa to taste – I kept it subtle to preserve the distinctive pecan flavor of the butter.
½ cup pecan halves
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2-4 teaspoons sugar, approximately
½-1 teaspoon canola oil (or other flavorless oil), if necessary
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast for 8-10 minutes, just until slightly darkened and fragrant. Let cool to room temperature on pan before proceeding with recipe.
Process pecans in a food processor until they make an oily paste, which should take a minute or two, by the clock. You will hear a difference in sound when the nuts go from chopped to paste. Process a few seconds beyond the sound change. You might have to scrape down the sides and process more than once.
Once you have a paste, scrape down the sides again and add the cocoa powder and sugar. Process for 60 seconds, or until well mixed. Taste the mixture and feel for texture. Add ½ teaspoon of oil if it seems dry and crumbly. You may not need any oil, especially if you toasted the pecans. Add more sugar if it isn’t sweet enough for you. Process again for 60 seconds, and test the texture again. Don’t add too much oil, or the pecan butter will be too thin and runny.
Transfer pecan butter to an airtight container and let rest overnight, at room temperature. The flavors will deepen and intensify.
Store at room temperature for up to a week. Refrigerate for longer storage.