I have been trying to publish this damn article for two weeks now and finally, defeated, i am splitting the article in half with the idea that at least 5 of the 10 things that you don’t care about about butter will see the light of blogdom. Some of these i knew about since before i exited my mothers womb, others i just learned after reading this month’s Cooking Illustrated.
Let’s start on our delicious journey to the buttery mecca of knowledge that awaits us!
10. Unsalted butter is better || A lot of times recipes call for unsalted butter, and every time i ignore that because guess what – i don’t keep unsalted butter in my house because i enjoy salt. However, there are a few reasons why you should use unsalted butter for cooking. Did you know that there is no standard to how much salt is actually in “salted” butter? It varies from brand to brand (on average about 1/3 tsp a stick) making it difficult to tell you how much salt to add in any given recipe. Salted butter also contains more water which can interfere with gluten development - particularly important in baking.
Gluten is the elastic protein in wheat, rye, and barley. Its elasticity is why French bread holds together, why angel-food cakes rise so high, and why H and H bagels in New York are so wonderfully doughy. Gluten is the glue that holds together baked goods and pasta. In fact, gluten comes from the same Latin root as glue. Think of gluten as the glue of wheat, rye, and barley. (http://glutenfreegirl.com/what-the-heck-is-gluten-anyway/)
Additionally, salt masks butter’s naturally sweet flavors; in recipes like buttercream frosting the extra salt can be overwhelming.
9. Don’t substitute sticks for whipped butter all willy nilly || Whipped butter is sold in tubs and is made by beating air into butter. This turns the butter into a creamy spread but doesn’t really work all the well sometimes in cooking. Cooking Illustrated’s kitchen testers found the whipped butter “foamy” and “plastic-like” in uncooked recipes such as frosting. If you need to use whipped butter base your substitution on weight, not volume. A standard tub of whipped butter weighs 8 ounces, equal to two sticks of butter.
8. Butter spoils. || Here’s the thing – i never knew this. I guess maybe because we always use butter so quickly that it doesn’t have a chance to spoil, but given long enough it will. You should store butter in the back of the fridge where it’s coldest (not in the door compartment conveniently made for butter). If you store your butter in the back of the fridge it should keep for 2 1/2 weeks. If you keep it for much longer than that it can turn rancid as its fatty acids oxidize. To store butter for up to four months, store it in the freezer. Also, since butter quickly picks up odors and flavors, it helps to store them in a sealed Tupperware container or plastic bag.
7. Don’t waste your money on premium || The main advantage that people will tell you you recieve from using so-called “premium” butters is a higher fat content, resulting in a richer taste. However, in reality there is only about a gram more of fat per tablespoon than regular butter (a gram is equal to the weight of a paper clip). Even the professional taste testers in the testing kitchen at Cook’s Illustrated had trouble tasting a difference. The real difference between regular and premium butters, you should know, is the process of fermenting the cream before churning it. This builds tangy, complex flavors that just aren’t detectable in regular butters. This being said, most of those subtle nuances get lost when using premium butter for cooking so save the good stuff for spreading on toast.
6. Use it as a secret ingredient for omelets || Here’s something you need to try this weekend: whisk a tablespoon of cold, diced butter into your eggs before cooking and you will end up with a softer, creamier omelet. The reason is because without butter, the proteins in egg whites form tight, cross-linked bonds, making your omelet dense and rubbery. When you add butter, the butter coats the proteins as the eggs cook and stops them from linking – creating a fluffy, creamy omelet!
Well, there you go. That’s the first five things you should probably know about butter. With any luck it won’t be another two weeks before the next blog but who knows…