By Jennifer A. Wickes - Other Articles by Jennifer
"Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts." James Beard (1903-1985)
Anyone who has attempted to whip their own whipped cream knows how whipped cream can turn into butter fast! Prepared in a similar way, butter is made by churning cream until it reaches a creamy state. The watery liquid left behind is buttermilk. By U.S. law, butter must be made of 80% milk fat. Water and milk solids make up the balance of butter. Due to butter's low smoke point (82 degrees F - 97 degrees F), it cannot cook well in skillets.
The U.S. grades their butter based on a variety of flavor, texture, body, salt and color. AA (93), A (92), B (90), and C (89).
The term "sweet cream butter" is confusing. Sweet cream refers to the cream used in making butter. The opposite to sweet cream would be sour cream. Most butter is made from sweet cream.
Butter can be colored a yellow color. In the past, marigold flowers were used to achieve this. These days, butter can be colored differently depending on what the cows were eating.
Butter must be sealed in an airtight container as it absorbs odors very easily. Store in the coldest part of the refrigerator (which is not the door).
If you like your butter soft, you can keep your butter on the counter in an airtight container for a maximum of 3 days at a temperature no higher than 65 degrees. The color and flavor will be affected, but it is safe to eat.
If you are in need of substituting salted butter for unsalted butter (or vice versa), the salt content in a stick (1/2 cup) of butter is 1/2 teaspoon.
By adding oil to butter when heating it, extends the smoke point to a higher temperature.
Butter is a saturated fat, which contains: Vitamins A, D and E, selenium and iodine, as well as Butyric acid. 30% of a person's diet should contain fats, with 1/3 of that being saturated. Butter contains NO trans fatty acids (like margarine does), which are associated with raising one's LDL ("bad" cholesterol) and lowering one's HDL ("good" cholesterol). (www.snopes.com/food/warnings/butter.asp)
• To soften butter faster for cooking, slice up the butter into tablespoon sized pieces.
• For faster pastry making, grate frozen unsalted butter for a flakier crust
Butter has been used for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks and Romans mainly used butter for healing wounds.
Other countries, such as ones in Africa and in Asia, make butter from buffalos, camels, donkeys, ewes, mares and goats, whereas the rest of the world tends to utilize cow's milk.
It takes 21 gallons of fresh cow's milk to make 1 pound of butter.
UNSALTED: Unsalted butter is the freshest butter available. It lasts about 2 weeks, and should therefore be stored in a freezer. Bakers use unsalted butter because of this reason, as well as too much salt in baked goods yields tougher dough. If you are in search of a good cookbook on baking, note if the recipes utilize butter or unsalted butter. A baker knowledgeable in food science will know that unsalted butter is best.
SALTED: The only purpose for salt being added to butter is to maintain the freshness of the butter. This butter is best used as a "table butter" or for cooking. This butter can be kept safely in the refrigerator for one month, and in the freezer for six months.
WHIPPED: Butter that is whipped in a blender to create a more smooth and spreadable texture. Due to the addition of air in the beating process (as much as 30 - 45% air), it is not recommended to use whipped butter in baking, unless you weigh the butter. This butter comes in salted and unsalted versions. To save on money, you can purchase
stick butter and whip it yourself.
LIGHT / REDUCED CALORIE: This butter has been made with half the fat of regular butter, with the addition of water, skim milk and gelatin. It should not be substituted for regular butter in frying and baking, as it will yield different results.
CULTURED BUTTER: This butter is made from cultured sour cream. Due to its low moisture content, bakers love this kind as it produces moister cakes and flakier crusts.
CLARIFIED BUTTER / GHEE: excellent as a base for sauces, as its milk solids have been removed and it capable of being heated to high temperatures without burning.
EUROPEAN-STYLE BUTTER: Made from cream that is churned more slowly and for a longer time. It has higher butterfat content than standard butter, producing a more flavorful butter that is beneficial for cooking and baking and can be used at higher temperatures without burning to produce a lighter, flakier pastry.
Anyway you say it, it still means "butter":
• German: Butter
• Spanish: mantequilla
• French: beurre
• Italian: burro
• Portuguese: manteiga
• Japanese: bata
• Gaelic: im
• Swedish: smor
• Latin: butyrum
• 2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 1/4 cup finely chopped garlic
• Freshly ground white pepper
BUTTER THUMB PRINT COOKIES
• 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
• 2/3 cup sugar
• 1/4 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, soft insides scraped out
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 1/4 cup apricot, raspberry, or another jam of your choice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a baking sheet.
In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer), cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the vanilla scrapings and salt and mix until incorporated. Add the flour and mix at low speed until incorporated. Using your hands, roll the dough into golf-ball-sized balls and arrange them 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet, flattening them out a bit as you go. Using your thumb, press the top of each cookie to make a shallow well. Roll your thumb back and forth to widen the well. Using a small spoon, fill the wells with jam. Bake until very lightly browned around the edges, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool on the pan. Store in an airtight container.
• 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Place the butter in a heavy saucepan and melt slowly over low heat. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes.
Skim the foam from the top, and slowly pour into a container, discarding the milky solids in the bottom of pan.
What makes clarified butter so great is its higher smoke point. This means you can cook meats and fish at a higher temperature than you can with regular butter, making it ideal for pan-frying. By clarifying the butter during a slow cooking process, you're able to strain out the milk solids that burn quickly as well as the water and salt. You'll lose about 1/4 of your original butter amount during the process, and the clarified butter will keep, tightly covered in the refrigerator for about 1 month.
With over 25 years of cooking experience and a certification in Food and Nutrition, Jennifer A. Wickes is a professional freelance food writer, recipe developer and cookbook reviewer. Her work can be found in The Library Journal, Garden Plate magazine, FoodReference.com, Ernest & Julio Gallo's Turning Leaf Wine brochure, Bon Appetit, AllRecipes.com and much more. She is working on her first cookbook.