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.
About the cinnamon I use
I am in love with the fresh cinnamon I order from Cinnamon Hill, a small company that specializes in sourcing and selling the highest-quality, freshest cinnamon from Sri Lanka and Vietnam (ordinary cinnamon usually comes from China or Indonesia). I get whole sticks, and grate them with the beautifully crafted (and highly giftable!) cinnamon grater that Cinnamon Hill has designed. Truly, you don’t know what cinnamon tastes like until you’ve tried freshly harvested, freshly grated, top-grade cinnamon, and it makes an amazing difference in this recipe.
- 35 grams (1/4 cup) skin-on almonds, toasted
- 250 grams (1 cup) unsalted smooth all-natural almond butter
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- Chop the almonds as evenly as you can (see note).
- In a large jar, place the almonds, almond butter, and salt, and stir with a knife until thoroughly combined. Close the jar and refrigerate until ready to eat.
I wanted my almond bits to be as evenly sized as possible, and was looking to minimize the almond dust that is unfailingly created when chopping nuts. I thought long and hard about the best method to achieve that, and this is how I do it: I spread the almonds out in a single layer on the cutting board, and chop them in close parallel cuts with a sharp knife. I rotate the cutting board by a quarter turn, and chop the almonds again so that this second series of cuts is perpendicular to the first. I then inspect the almond pieces and re-chop any that seem a bit too big. And I add everything -- inevitable almond dust and all -- to the almond butter.