Baking Basics: Everything You Need to Know About Butter
Butter makes everything better, a well-known rule in the culinary world. Made from the cream of cow’s milk, its rich, creamy texture, and marvelous flavor makes it the preferred fat for baking and cooking. From the baking experts at Ne-Mo’s Bakery, use our complete guide to butter and make the most of this essential ingredient.
Types of Butter & Their Uses
The go-to butter for most baking recipes, unsalted butter is all natural and contains 80% butterfat. Widely available in most grocery stores, this variety allows the baker to have control over the salt content. A small amount of salt in the batter is often called for in recipes because it enhances sweet flavors while also acting as a leavening agent. But unlike cooking, baking recipes need to be precise, especially when it comes to salt. This is why you need unsalted butter in most recipes so that you can measure the exact amount of salt that is called for. Classic butter also has a more neutral flavor compared to cultured varieties because of its lower butterfat content.
One of the most common types of butter found at supermarkets, salted butter contains 2% salt and 80% fat. This type of butter is ideal for cooking because the small amount of salt will help enhance other ingredients when heated. For tasty sauteed veggies and herbs, cooks typically use it with another type of fat like canola or safflower oil, which keeps the butter from smoking at high temperatures.
This flavorful type of butter has a lower moisture content compared to classic varieties, which makes it perfect for flaky pie dough or puff pastry. The longer churning time is what helps it achieve up to 86% butterfat. It also contains added cultures, which give it a complex taste with a slight tanginess. The price point of European butter might be higher, but in this case, what you pay for in price you get back in function and flavor.
Made from fermented cream, cultured butter contains a slightly higher fat content than regular butter. Similar to European butter, this is a result of a longer churning time, which removes some of the moisture. Other factors can affect the taste such as cream from grass-fed cows, which gives the butter a brighter yellow color and a more complex flavor. Cultured butter is ideal for pastry and pie doughs or simply spread onto slices of bread.
Another butter to use for cooking is clarified butter, which is made from pure butterfat with the milk solids and water removed. Because the milk solids burn the fastest, pure butterfat can be heated at much higher temperatures without smoking. It also is the preferred butter for making a roux, a traditional way of thickening a sauce. Clarified butter is a good option because it can be fully emulsified and doesn’t separate the liquids in the sauce.
How to Properly Store Butter
For butter that you use to spread on toast, we recommend keeping it on the counter in a covered dish, which will keep it at room temperature. Keeping it refrigerated isn’t necessary because traditional butter is made with 80% fat, which gives it a low moisture content that can resist bacterial growth. This combination of factors gives it a much longer shelf life than other dairy products like milk or cream, which need to be refrigerated at all times.
Storing your butter at room temperature does have its challenges. For one thing, if you live in a warm environment that goes above 70°, the butter will melt into an oily mess, so it’s best to leave the butter in the fridge when faced with this scenario. If your kitchen is a cooler temperature, butter left on the counter will have a perfectly spreadable texture. According to food scientist Harold McGee, keeping your butter at room temperature for a few days is perfectly safe. We recommend that you keep out only the amount you are going to use and then replenish the butter dish as needed.
Along with a stick of room temperature butter for spreading on bread, we also suggest keeping a few sticks in the fridge for all your baking needs. When making crust and puff pastries, for instance, most recipes call for cold butter that needs to be cut into small cubes. Other recipes may call for butter at room temperature. In that case, simply microwave the butter just until it slightly melts; then let it cool completely so that it doesn’t curdle the eggs in the batter.
Whatever the recipe, baking is so much ‘butter’ when you use the real thing. If you don’t have time for baking, indulge your sweet tooth with Nemo’s treats, which are made from traditional family recipes for a wholesome, home-baked taste.