Is there anything tastier than fresh baked bread, still warm, smeared with a bit of butter? Not many things can compare.
Of course, foods we eat containing concentrated amounts of fat from animal sources should be organic. The fat from butter contains good things for our bodies like vitamins, minerals, an anti-arthritic compound, a natural liver cleanser and even oleic acid (same as in olive oil).
If it’s not organic it can also contain high amounts of pesticides, antibiotics and added growth hormones. From a gourmet standpoint I choose organic foods as often as I can afford because they taste better, too.
Lately I’ve become enamored with the tang and nuttiness of cultured butter. Being a chef I’ve started using it in my arsenal of “secret” ingredients to bump up the flavor factor in my baking.
What is cultured butter? It’s butter that has been cultured with friendly bacteria that make it tastier and easier to digest. It’s also very common in France.
To do this with best results, get yourself some organic cream that hasn’t been ultra-pasteurized. You won’t find unpasteurized organic cream in stores, but you can find some that isn’t ultra-pasteurized. It will be more flavorful.
The other thing you’ll want to have is some organic plain whole milk yogurt or organic buttermilk. Make sure they don’t contain anything like stabilizers (gelatin) or gums (carrageenan).
• 1/3 cup plain organic whole milk yogurt
or 1/3 cup organic buttermilk
• salt to taste
• ice water
When you’re ready to “churn” your butter, make sure you pull the cultured cream out of the fridge for 15 minutes or so before you’re going to start so it’s cool, but not cold. You can use a hand mixer, food processor, or whisk by hand (if you’re some kind of exercise freak).
Add the cream to your mixing bowl and whip or beat till it looks like thick whipped cream. Continue on, but more slowly now. Keep a good eye on it because it will start to separate and buttermilk may fly everywhere!
When you see the globs of yellow tinted fat, stop and strain the butter away from the buttermilk, but save it, it’s delicious and great for baking. Place the butter into a clean bowl (it will sort of resemble scrambled eggs) and pour a little ice water over it.
Now, using a spoon or your hands, push the butter together to wash out the excess buttermilk. This will help it keep longer without souring. The butter is easier to knead once you start rinsing with the cold water. I knead it several times after pouring water over it till the water runs clear from the butter. Pat it dry and salt to taste.
You should now have sweet, slightly tangy cultured butter. If you won’t eat all the butter within a week or so, freeze some of it for a special occasion. You’ll find a reason, trust me.
Anne Boulley is a local chef and culinary instructor with a passion for artisan foods. Her cooking classes and services are offered via her website, www.thegourmetguide.com