Love from Hell

Valentine’s Day — a highly commercialized expression of love, some would say. Not the most wonderful time of the year for those who don’t have someone to love (worse for those who have someone who doesn’t return their love).

But for our kiddos, it’s another way to show their affections for friends and even teachers. During the evenings this week our oldest has been spending his time carefully writing out Valentine cards to his classmates. Our youngest has been drooling over the Valentine cards we’ve been writing on her behalf. Treats were attached to each card – Ninja Turtle candies for the Kindergarteners, Cheddar Bunnies for the infants – and packed to go off to school and daycare.

The teachers, though: we knew (or hoped) they would get candies and cards from other kids and their families. All richly deserved. But in thinking of a gift that would stand out and last longer than a quick sugar high, a brilliant idea hit.

We’d give them a little love from Hell.

IMG_4834Hell’s Kitchen peanut butter, that is.

The recipe, from Hell’s Kitchen Restaurant in Minneapolis, was published in the food section of our local paper a few years back. It’s also available in a cookbook sold at the restaurant. But this peanut butter is unlike any jar one gets at their grocery store. Big chunks of peanuts, a blend of honey, brown sugar and kosher salt to bring a sweet but bitter bite to the palate. Perfect just spooned atop a slice of apple, smeared over a chocolate bar, or even sandwiched between two slices of banana. Oh, and sandwiches and toast too.

Packed in a gift set of grape jelly, with a witty jar label that’s more seasonally appropriate, it was a no-brainer. The gift that would keep on giving until the jars were empty. A little love felt at breakfast, lunch, or snacktime.

IMG_4835It’s a little process-heavy, but not a long time making. You definitely need a food processor for this recipe, though. But so, so worth it…

Hell’s Kitchen Peanut Butter

(Found in “Damn Good Food” by Mitch Omer)

  • 3 cups Spanish peanuts (skin on)
  • 5 tablespoons honey
  • 4 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2.5 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 7 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place nuts onto a rimmed baking sheet, and place on the center rack of the oven. Roast 10 minutes, rotate the pan 180 degrees, and roast another 10 minutes or so until the peanuts are a dark brown. Remove from the oven, and bring to room temperature.
  2. Place peanuts in a food processor with a steel chopping blade, and process on low until finely ground, about 30 seconds. Do not overblend; you want the peanut butter to be chunky, not grainy.
  3. Dump ground nuts into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle. Add honey, brown sugar and salt. Blend on low speed until thickened, about 1 minute.
  4. Back over in the food processor, combine peanut oil and butter and blend on low until completely emulsified, about 11 seconds. Scrape oil and butter into the peanut mixture and mix on low until smoother and creamy. Place in container with tight-fitting lid and refrigerate. After setting a while, some of the oil may rise to the surface. Simply mix this back in.

While you store it in the fridge, it tastes and spreads best if you let it warm to room temperature. Better still – take the mini ice cream scoop you use for cookie dough, scoop out a tiny ball of peanut butter and let that warm on your plate while you make your coffee and toast your bread. It will spread perfectly then.

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