What is in this article?:
- Butter up!
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Eight tips and four recipes for enhancing the butter experience
If you need to put the popularity of butter into perspective, consider this fact: The U.S. produces more than 1.2 billion pounds of butter each year. Chef Christopher Koetke, v.p. of Kendall College School of Culinary Arts in Chicago and the Laureate Universities International Center of Excellence in Culinary Arts, puts it succinctly: “There simply is no substitute for butter in cooking.” The pure, sweet cream taste of butter complements and enhances the flavor of dishes, he says, and, “butter provides a smooth and creamy texture that is especially important in sauces.”
As we head into the season of hearty menu items, holiday recipes and luxurious celebration foods, Chef Koetke offers four recipe ideas. You may also want to refresh your memory with his tips for cooking and baking with butter.
1. Salted vs. unsalted: Salted butter enhances flavor and has a longer storage life; unsalted or sweet butter (not to be confused with sweet-cream butter which comes in salted and unsalted varieties) contains no preservatives. For baked goods, unsalted butter makes it easy to control salt levels.
2. Room temperature or refrigerated: Keep butter at room temperature for short periods, but it requires refrigeration to maintain peak flavor. You can store it in the walk-in, tightly wrapped in its original container or in a covered dish for up to a week beyond the date printed on the package. When storing butter in the freezer, wrap its original container with aluminum foil and the butter will keep for six months.
3. Serving style: Pack softened butter into small ceramic pots (butter pots) or ramekins. Overfill the containers and level off the top to get a flush edge. For compound butters, roll them into a log shape on pieces of waxed paper. Store in a freezer bag, and when ready to use, slice rounds from the frozen log to place on hot foods.
4. Clarify: Clarified or drawn butter is clear, melted butter that has been separated from its milk solids and water. Use it for sautéing: it has a higher smoke point than whole butter. Clarified butter is also a key ingredient for sauces.
5. Sauté: When sautéing with butter, melt it over medium heat and only add the foods when butter is frothing. Otherwise, the butter will be absorbed, resulting in soggy rather than crispy textures. When sautéing with butter over high heat, add an equal portion of oil to the pan; this will ensure that the butterfat doesn’t burn immediately.
6. Bake: For better baked goods, use slightly softened unsalted butter. Because of its low melting point, butter helps make cookies golden on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. For flakier pie crusts keep butter as hard and cold as possible prior to use. The flaky texture is a result of cold pieces of butter, trapped between thin layers of dough, that melt during baking and create small air pockets.
7. What about whipped?: Whipped butter is regular butter, with air or nitrogen gas whipped into it to increase the volume. It spreads more easily and melts more quickly than regular butter. However, because its weight and density differ from that of an equal amount of regular butter, whipped butter shouldn’t be used as a substitute in most recipes.
8. Butter for better sauces: Just before serving, you can add a pat of butter to a wide variety of sauces. The butter adds a fresh, buttery flavor, a glossy appearance and a satiny texture.