Pistachio Paste and ButterWhen finely ground, pistachios make a versatile flour that opens a world of opportunity in baking. Pistachio cupcakes, anyone?
If you rely on pistachio paste to flavor ice cream, buttercream, or pastry filling, don’t you want to use the real thing? The fact is, a lot of so-called pistachio paste isn’t 100 percent pistachio. Some manufacturers sell a “pistachio” paste made from bitter almond paste with green food coloring. Use this product and your desserts will have the hue that pistachio fans expect but lack that buttery pistachio taste.
Fortunately, it’s a cinch to make your own pistachio paste and pistachio butter (the oily paste with no sweetener added). And you’ll reap many benefits. Do it yourself and you can use California-grown pistachios. (Others typically use Iranian or Italian nuts.) Plus, you can control the amount of sweetener you add—or add none at all—and you can prepare the paste or butter as needed so it doesn’t go stale.
Pistachio Paste: Make the Real Thing
To blanch or not to blanch? For the brightest green color, blanch the nuts first, then skin them. Just drop the nuts into a pot of boiling water briefly, drain, and rub them between dishtowels to remove the skin. If you don’t mind a slightly darker color, omit the blanching and leave the skins on. The skins contain antioxidants, so bear that in mind.
Pistachio butter, like other nut butters, is made by finely grinding shelled pistachios until they release their oil and produce a smooth, creamy paste. All you need is a food processor. Be sure to toast the nuts lightly first and grind them while warm to unleash their natural oil. Scrape down the work bowl and continue grinding until the nut butter is silky smooth. Add a pinch of salt to heighten flavor if desired.
For pistachio paste, add sweetener to taste. Some commercial pistachio pastes contain no sweetener, but some do. By making your own, you know the exact sugar percentage and can standardize recipes accordingly. If you add food coloring, be cautious; the natural appearance of a paste made with California pistachios can be a selling point.
For short-term use—within a couple of weeks—you don’t need to refrigerate pistachio butter or paste. If refrigerated, it will keep indefinitely.
Use pistachio butter or paste:
- As a spread for sweet or savory crepes. Spread dessert crepes with pistachio butter and honey, and fold and top with yogurt or vanilla ice cream.
- As a topping for crostini
- As a flavoring for ice cream, mousses, and buttercreams
- As a croissant or Danish filling
- As a filling for chocolate confections
- In a frangipane filling for fruit tarts
- In a gianduja filling
Video demo: Gianduja
Chef Stephen Durfee demonstrates the simple method for a food-processor pistachio paste.