Thursday, November 05, 2009

Baking with Butter

I've already given some tips on baking with eggs and now it's time to learn a little about butter.

But before I even start...let me mention that when you plan on sauteing with butter, it's important to add your butter to a COLD pan. Unlike oils, which, with a high burn factor (meaning it takes extremely high heat without burning) can be added to a hot pan to sear meat or do a quick stir fry, butter, on the other hand, is delicate and burns easily. Add it to a hot pan...instant burnt butter! So...add butter to a cold pan, turn the heat on low at first and watch the butter melt. Don't rush it! Burnt butter tastes...well...burnt!

As you can tell from the above, temperature is key to using butter. Of course, there's cold Vs room temperature issue. So let's start there. "Room Temperature" is NOT the temperature of your room. Depending on which expert you listen to...it's 68-72°F/20-22°C. So how can you tell when it's reached room temperature? It's soft enough to leave an imprint when you press on it...think fresh play-doh. It is soft enough to mold and still hold its shape. It can take from 15-30 minutes from the time you take it out of the fridge...depending, of course on how hot/cold your room is.

Here are some general tips on butter from one of my favorite bakers:

Dorie Greenspan, in Baking From my home to yours has a lot to say about butter....
"When a recipe calls for butter...never substitute for anything else...

Use unsalted butter for baking - it gives you control over the amount of salt in a recipe and has a distinctive taste and texture...

Easiest way to butter a pan...use softened butter applied with either a paper towel, the wrapping from the butter or a pastry brush...

Storing butter: as it's a magnet for strong odors, always wrap it and keep it in the fridge or freezer...

Other tips: always used room temperature butter when a recipe calls for 'creaming' - combining butter, sugar and eggs to a golden, creamy mixture...

Use frozen butter to grate into flour mixtures for lightness - great for scones etc., when you want to leave air pockets during baking.

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