Whenever I get to stay in an apartment away from my own, my first order of business is to secure the makings of a good breakfast for the next morning. And when we arrived in San Francisco last month, we got to do so at the nearby Bi-Rite Market.
I first collected a bunch of farm-direct, organic apples from one of the produce baskets at the front, picked up a half-gallon of orange juice from the refrigerated section, then made my way straight to the nut butter aisle.
There, I surveyed the scene, picked up this and that jar, compared ingredients and prices, and set my heart on the lightly salted, crunchy almond butter from G.L. Alfieri. I adore lightly salted, crunchy peanut butter, but had never tried it in its almond incarnation; clearly I was missing out.
And this choice turned out to be one of the gastronomic highlights of the entire trip: the almond butter base was vibrantly flavorful, the salt dosage perfect, and the crunchy almond bits, well, what grinch doesn’t like crunchy almond bits?
We went through the jar at such a clip that we soon had to buy a second one, and the first kitchen project I undertook on our return was to recreate it with the ingredients I can get in France: here, we get a choice between blanched and unblanched almond butter (purée d’amandes blanches or purée d’amandes complètes), but sadly, no salted or crunchy options for us Gauls.
The almond butter base was vibrantly flavorful, the salt dosage perfect, and the crunchy almond bits, well, what grinch doesn’t like crunchy almond bits?
It took a few tries, but I nailed the formula, using Jean Hervé’s whole almond butter: it is made with Sicily almonds stone-ground at low temperature, and it is the closest in flavor to the Alfieri almond butter; the Naturalia brand is a bit cheaper, but the almond taste is less refined. To that I added unblanched almonds, toasted and evenly chopped (see note below recipe), and some grey (or unrefined) sea salt.
It’s a pretty simple preparation, but one that is a significant step up from regular old smooth almond butter: the salt bolsters the almond flavor, and the roasted crunch of the almond nibs makes a fine thing even finer.
And it is the key component of my current breakfast of choice: a crisp, tart apple cut into slices, dusted liberally with freshly grated Saigon cinnamon, and dipped into a good dollop of the lightly salted, crunchy almond butter. It is both refreshing and satisfying, and I find it holds me over until lunchtime.
Now, I have also brought back a pretty jar of this pecan peanut butter with wildflower honey and sea salt from Big Spoon Roasters, and I suspect this may have to be my next Pimp My Nut Butter project.
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