Flavor is paramount to bakers, and butter delivers sumptuous flavor better than any other fat. Butter enriches baked goods by contributing tenderness and moistness, and is responsible for the flakiness in biscuits, pie crusts and puff pastry. Because of its superior flavor, most bakers select unsalted butter over all other fats for use in baking.
Butter is made from the milkfat in cream and contains at least 80 percent milkfat, 10 percent water and 2 percent solids (mainly protein and salt).
- To soften butter quickly, cut it into 1/8-inch slices and put the slices into a bowl. If the butter is very cold (or semi-frozen), grate it using the larger holes of a box grater, remembering to measure the butter before it’s grated. For best results, do not soften butter in the microwave.
- To store butter in the freezer for up to six months, overwrap the original package with aluminum foil.
- To ensure that cakes release from intricately shaped Madeleine or Bundt tube pans, use melted butter. Brush it over the pan’s surface and place pan in freezer for 5 minutes; apply a second coat and flour pan, tapping out any excess flour.
Sweet Cream Butter
Produced from cream, is the most common type of butter in the U.S. Butter is available salted or unsalted. You have more control over the flavor of baked goods when using unsalted butter since the amount of salt in salted butter varies among brands. Butter comes in 1/2-pound and 1-pound packages containing 2 or 4 1/2-cup sticks, respectively. It is also available Whipped, in 8-ounce tubs.
Light Butter contains 50 percent less fat than regular butter per serving and, while it’s delicious for topping breads or muffins, it should not be substituted for regular butter in baking recipes.
Cultured Butter is churned from cream that has been soured by a lactic acid-producing culture. It is more common in Europe than the U.S., but is available in California. Cultured butter has a stronger, riper flavor than sweet cream butter.
Before incorporating butter into a batter, dough or even frosting, you may change its flavor, texture and color by cooking melted butter to produce browned butter, which has a nutty flavor: Melt about 8 ounces unsalted butter in a 2½-quart heavy saucepan, and bring to a boil. It will become foamy on top. Continue cooking. You will notice that the foam disappears and bubbles appear (large at first, then small). When a thin layer of miniscule bubbles forms, stir mixture briefly. The butter will brown and tiny particles of brown milk solids will settle on the bottom on the pan. Do not allow these particles to burn or the butter won’t taste good.
Clarified Butter is prepared by melting regular butter and separating the milkfat from the watery liquid. Clarified butter contains more milkfat than regular butter and, as a result, can be heated to higher temperatures in cooking.