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Butter makes it Better

by Shanna Snider on May 14th, 2012

Mmmm, butter.  It’s one of my favorite ingredients.  I know, I know. I said it’s one of my favorites, I didn’t say it was the healthiest, but when used in moderation and appropriately, there truly is no good substitution for butter.  Not the fake yellow stuff that promises to lower your cholesterol, the real deal made from churning cream until all the fat separates from the liquid (buttermilk) and turns into a semi-solid delicate and delicious state.

Given my deep love for cooking with real butter, I often receive questions about storage, uses, salted vs. unsalted.  Today, I thought I would share some of the most commonly asked questions regarding this magical ingredient that takes any dish from ordinary to extraordinary (yes, I went there.)

When to use salted vs. unsalted butter?

Salted and unsalted can be used interchangeably in most recipes. Using unsalted butter allows more control over the flavor of the dish.  I’ve definitely ruined a few meals by tossing in a cube of salted butter at the end (monter au beurre) without taking into consideration how salty it would make the dish!  Unless the recipe calls for it, use unsalted butter for baking.

How can I soften butter quickly?

There are different techniques for different purposes.  For spreading on bread or other simple uses, just pop it in the microwave on low for about 10 seconds.  For baking and finicky recipes, don’t do that!

Set the butter out for 45 min – 1 hour before it’s needed.  I place mine close to the preheating stove to speed the process along.  Keep an eye on it, those sticks go from soft to melted in no time!

For a faster option, cut the butter into small chunks and set out for about 15 minutes.  Even faster still, smash the butter between two pieces of wax paper with a rolling pin and it’ll be ready to go in under 5 minutes.

My softened butter is actually melted, can it still be used?

Not for baking!  Use that melted butter in some other way such as sauteeing vegetables or tossing with popcorn for movie night.  Once the butter is melted it will not coat the flour the same way softened butter does.  Grandma’s cookie recipe just won’t be the same!  It’s best to pull out another stick and smash it between wax paper (because who doesn’t think that sounds like fun?).

Is it okay to freeze butter?

Sure!  And makes me feel better buying TWO boxes of butter (salted and unsalted) knowing half of each is going straight into the freezer.  Just wrap the butter in foil or place in an airtight bag to keep it fresh.  Use within 30 days of removing from the freezer.

What’s the best way to measure butter?

Using the wrapping on the sticks of butter is easiest!  It’s printed up all nice and neat right on the side.

2 cups = 4 sticks = 1 pound

1 cup = 2 sticks = 1/2 pound

1/2 cup = 1 stick = 1/4 pound

1/4 cup = 1/2 stick = 4 tablespoons

Is margarine better for you than butter?

NO!  Absolutely not.  This my friends, is a tragic myth.  Butter, especially raw, organic butter, is a completely natural food full of essential fatty acids.  According to BodyEcology.com, adding a healthy amount into your diet promotes “longevity, hormone balance, heart health, sharp vision, glowing moist skin and energy.”  The website also provides a long, comprehensive list of the benefits of including butter into your diet.

Margarine on the other hand is a processed, stuffed full of chemicals “food” which is more detrimental to your health than consuming natural fats.

Can I make my own butter at home?

I don’t see why not!  It’s actually much easier than you think, especially if you have a food processor! Check out this recipe with step by step instructions on how to churn your cream into that delicious kitchen staple we all love so dearly: butter.

http://www.webexhibits.org/butter/doityourself.html

 

I love love love a little goat butter spread on a piece of warm bread. How do you butter up?