Plasticity and Melting Points in Butter

By Sophia McDonald

Sponsored by Taste Europe Butter of France


Butter’s behavior has a lot to do with its plasticity, also known as its ability to be shaped and manipulated. Butter is a saturated fat, also called a solid or plastic fat, which means that it remains solid at room temperature. However, there are some qualities that set butter apart from other saturated fats such as vegetable shortening and lard. Keeping these qualities in mind can make it easier to select and successfully work with butters with different fat concentrations.


butter in flour

Human, mammal and vegetable fats are made up mostly of triglycerides, which themselves contain three fatty acids (thus the name). “A unique characteristic of milk fat is that these triglycerides are composed of a wide variety of fatty acids that melt at different temperatures,” says Grace Lewis, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Dairy Innovation Hub at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. The fatty acids vary in length and saturation level, which allows butter to exist in different states.

“In the fridge, most of these fatty acids are compact and organized, creating a solid,” Lewis says. “As you move to room temperature, some are going to be liquid or less organized — what we call room-temperature or softened butter. When you heat them, they become more and more disorganized, creating a liquid.”

Cows in the field

Butter’s plasticity also affects what happens when it is melted. “If it is cooled super quickly, the fatty acids will not be as organized in their realignment, whereas if a butter is cooled down slowly, the fatty acids have more time to realign,” says Lewis. “In other words, after melting, the storage temperature does alter the structure of butter, thereby altering the butter plasticity.”

Butter has the narrowest plastic range, so this change in structure is more pronounced in butter than other solid fasts, says Colette Christian, a chef instructor at the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. “Even if the butter is melted, chilled and resolidifies, it will not behave in the same way as before it has been melted.” Think of butter as similar to chocolate, she says. Temperature consistency is extremely important.

Brioche

Butter’s plasticity can also be affected by the level of butter fat in a dish. “By definition, butter is at least 80 percent milk fat, meaning that it is approximately 20 percent moisture and other components,” says Lewis. “If you zoom in on butter, it’s this continuous fat phase with little spheres of moisture. As you remove that moisture, you’re going to get a denser structure.” The denser it is, the less malleable it will be.

This information has practical implications for chefs making laminated and other types of dough. When making a laminated dough, try to keep the butter between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the entire process. “Plastic fats, if they are at the right temperature, will move with the layers of dough during the laminating process,” says Christian. “This creates even layers of dough and fat and makes for laminated doughs that are flaky.” Chilling the dough between turns helps to keep the butter within this range.

On the other hand, once butter get below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, it becomes brittle and can shatter under the layers of dough. When that happens, “the dough can have more of a bread-like surface instead of the desired blistered and flaky,” says Christian. She recommends using a laser thermometer to check the butter’s temperatures.

Butter cake

Butter’s touchy melting point is also why it’s critical to chill pastry dough before baking. “If, for example, biscuits go into the oven at room temperature, it is likely that the layers will be compromised and the biscuits will lack volume,” says Christian. The fat needs to melt at just the right point to coagulate with the proteins in the dough and deliver the expected volume and flake.

For pastries where volume and lift are important, this water can actually be a good thing. Evaporating steam helps to lift the dough and provide volume. For baked goods where a bread-like texture is not desirable and a strong butter flavor is, European-style butter is a better option. “Many pastry chefs who specialize in Viennoiserie love European butter and swear by it,” says Christian. “It can really glide underneath the dough layers.”

European butters, which have a butter fat content of 82 percent or higher, will also perform differently in recipes. If a recipe calls for European-style butter, it’s best not to switch it out for a lower-fat product.


this article originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of pastry arts magazine.

Three Ways to Upgrade Santa’s Cookies with a Sophisticated Touch


This year transform your holiday cookie plate into a more decadent treat with European butter and a coffee cocktail pairing, inspired by the espresso martini which is trending on TikTok and was reported by Nielsen to be one of the top 10 cocktails on premise in the US.


Beignet in flour

According to Charles Duque, Managing Director, Americas for the French Dairy Board, “Butter cookies are a holiday tradition in many countries and pastry chefs the world over, rely on European butter for this classic. During the holidays it becomes a star ingredient because it makes home baked holiday cookies even more delicious.” Duque also added that ending a meal with simple but sophisticated butter cookies and a coffee cocktail makes the meal feel even more special.

No cookie plate is complete without Vanillekipferl or Mexican Wedding cookies, the nutty butter cookies dusted with powdered sugar. Eat the Love blogger and cookbook author, Irvin Lin shares his recipe on Simply Recipes and uses French butter. According to Lin, “rich French butter complements the other key ingredient, toasted nuts. Adds Lin, “I love using European butter for recipes like butter cookies because it has so few ingredients in it that every ingredient needs to be top notch. French butter is awesome because it has more butterfat and is often cultured, so it has more flavor, which gives the cookies a richness that American butter doesn’t have.”

To pair with the nutty cookie try a Mexican Coffee made by combining 3 ounces of freshly brewed coffee with 1 ½ ounces of Amaras Mezcal Espadin and sugar to taste.

Yellow egg with butter and flour

In this year’s French cookbook Gateau, author Aleksanda Crapanzano shares why she uses French butter in cake-like Madeleines and financiers. Says Crapanzano, “Of the very, very many fabulous things I have to say about French butter, perhaps the most important is not what it has more of (fat) but what it has less of (water.) For example, when one browns butter to make a deliciously nutty beurre noisette for a batch of financiers, water evaporates in the process. Less water means less evaporation which means more butter. Water is in fact rarely a friend in baking, as the combination of water and flour leads to the formation of gluten, which can yield a tough crumb.” She offers classic, spice and chocolate Madeleines. Perfect for a holiday cookie plate, the recommended pairing is Cognac & Coffee made with 3 ounces of coffee, 1 1/5 ounces of cognac and a dollop of sweetened whipped cream on top.

For an even fancier cookie that relies on European butter, try the Austrian jam cookie, inspired by the Linzer torte, another classic dessert made with European butter. Rick Rodgers shares in his classic Austrian cookbook Kaffeehaus that printed recipes for the torte started to appear in the early 1700s. Today the sandwich cookie with jam is a popular holiday favorite in the US. To pair with it try the Chocolate Espresso Highball—simply shake 1 ounce of Mozart Dark Chocolate liqueur with a shot of espresso and ice in a cocktail shaker, then serve over ice with a splash of tonic water. Cookies and coffee never tasted so good.

Brioche

If you are making your grocery list for entertaining or looking for recipe inspiration, look no further than our recipes, where you’ll find tips and techniques using French butter that will make your meals even more delicious. View the store locator to see if your favorite retailer has French butter in stock.


this article originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of pastry arts magazine.

Is European Butter Better for Pastry?

What the science of butter fat tells us
By Sophia McDonald

Sponsored by Taste Europe Butter of France


Butter from Europe (and specifically from France) has a reputation for quality that drives many chefs to purchase it. But what does science tell us about making pastry with European butter versus American? Are there reasons or specific circumstances when U.S. chefs should look across the pond for their dairy?


Chef Jamie Simpson, Executive Chef Liaison at The Culinary Vegetable Institute, says “Butter has a few leading roles for thanksgiving, but it’s really on stage throughout the entire performance. From the dinner rolls at the opening scene to the pie crust at the finale, butter is there to enhance the show every step of the way. Generally speaking, commercially available butter is better when it’s from Europe. It’s more buttery, it’s denser, and it’s more memorable than the commodity butter made here in the U.S. When you’re checking off your shopping list this season, don’t cut corners – go European with your butter. The mashed potatoes will thank you!”


butter in flour

To answer these questions, it’s helpful to understand how butter is made and what happens when it is cooked in pastry. “Butter is made from cream, which is an emulsion of small droplets of fat suspended in water,” says Kierin Baldwin, chef-instructor of Pastry & Baking Arts at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. The process of churning causes the dispersed fat droplets in the cream to glom onto each other and form a mass of fat with a small amount of liquid still trapped in it. This mass is what we know as butter.

Not all butters are the same. In America, butter must be made with at least 80 percent butter fat, according to Joanna Shawn Brigid O’Leary, PhD, a culinary consultant and food critic. (It will also contain 16 to 18 percent water and 2 to 4 percent other ingredients, such as salt.) European butters must have a minimum of 82 percent butter fat. These numbers are minimums, so it’s possible to find American-made produpxcts with a higher percentage of butter fat. However, many chefs reach for French or other European butters when they need that higher fat content because they know the product will deliver.

Cows in the field

There are a few other differences. “Most European butters are usually cultured as well, which gives them a pleasant tang,” says Baldwin. Farmers in Europe are more likely to raise their cows on pastures (not in feedlots with a diet of corn) and less likely to use additives. These variables can have a major impact on the terroir or sense of place that contributes to the taste of the butter, O’Leary says.

So, is it better to use European or American butter in pastry? The answer depends on the baker’s goal. If you want a rich, buttery flavor, a higher fat content butter is best, which means a French or European product may be the right choice. The fat is where the flavor resides, so more fat means more flavor. In addition, when butter is blended with other ingredients, it creates small pockets in the pastry. “The butter has a tendency to stay in those pockets, not distribute throughout the food,” says O’Leary. “The taste becomes more magnified because when you have higher butter fat, you have more pockets.”

Brioche

Things like butter cookies or kouign-amann, which take most of their flavor characteristics from butter, are ideal candidates for European butter, Baldwin says. She adds, “Any type of recipe that depends on the fat in butter for either leavening or shortness will do best with a high fat butter. Things that fall into these categories are laminated doughs, such as puff pastry, croissant and Danish; pie doughs and other flaky cut-in butter preparations; and creamed butter cakes and cookies.”

Butter’s molecular structure means it lends a smoother mouthfeel to baked goods. Butter is a saturated fat, which means there are single bonds between the carbons in its chemical structure rather than double bonds, says O’Leary. Whereas the double bonds found in unsaturated fats like oils cause them to be liquid at room temperature, the single bonds mean butter is solid. That’s also what gives butter its rich, robust flavor.

In O’Leary’s experience, lower-fat butter works well in baked goods that need to be lighter and fluffier. The added water creates more steam to leaven items and there is less fat to weigh down the ingredients. Lower-fat butter is also ideal for baked goods where the flavor of sugar or other ingredients—not butter—should be the standout.

Butter cake

Beyond considerations related to butter fat, O’Leary recommend that chefs make sure they store butter correctly and use it soon after buying. “Fat absorbs liquids easily. Even if you store butter near a liquid that’s pungent, it can absorb that flavor quite easily. I would also pay really close attention to how long it’s been on the shelf and how it’s been stored, because exposure to light can alter the quality.” If possible, visit the brand’s website and read their suggestions on exactly how to store their butter for the best results.

“The most important thing to concentrate on when you are using butter in a recipe is being consistent,” says Baldwin. If a recipe has been tested with a higher-fat butter and a lower-fat product is substituted, the ratio of liquids to other ingredients is likely to be off and the recipe will not work as well. Stick to European butter for recipe that call for it to be results that will wow every time.


this article originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of pastry arts magazine.

THREE SIMPLE & FLAVORFUL Ways To Enhance Your Thanksgiving with a European Touch


Make your Thanksgiving dinner a showstopper with European butter


Thanksgiving, a holiday inspired by traditional fall harvest festivals in Europe, is one of the top two food holidays in the US. According to a YouGov poll in 2020, the most popular Thanksgiving dishes in the United States included turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, dressing, bread, and rolls. This year home cooks can make their traditional Thanksgiving feast even more delicious by upgrading staple ingredients such as butter.

Chef Jamie Simpson, Executive Chef Liaison at The Culinary Vegetable Institute, says “Butter has a few leading roles for thanksgiving, but it’s really on stage throughout the entire performance. From the dinner rolls at the opening scene to the pie crust at the finale, butter is there to enhance the show every step of the way. Generally speaking, commercially available butter is better when it’s from Europe. It’s more buttery, it’s denser, and it’s more memorable than the commodity butter made here in the U.S. When you’re checking off your shopping list this season, don’t cut corners – go European with your butter. The mashed potatoes will thank you!”

According to Charles Duque, Managing Director, Americas for the French Dairy Board, “Using French butter is one way to make a Thanksgiving meal better than ever.” He adds, “French butter has a higher fat than American butter or locally produced butter because it is churned longer to reach at least 82% fat content– and those two percentage points make a big difference.”

We turned to a couple of our top sources, Jolene Kesler of Simple Cooking with Pep and Chef Rick Rodgers, to learn a few simple ways French butter can improve your favorite Thanksgiving dishes. Jolene regularly shares delicious recipe content and inspiration with an audience of over 18,000 on her blog and social media. Chef Rodgers is the author of many books on holiday cooking, including Thanksgiving 101 and Christmas 101. He currently teaches baking classes at Coffee and Cake with Rick Rodgers.

ROLLS AND BREAD

What’s Thanksgiving without fresh, homemade bread? And what’s bread without butter? “Nothing elevates fresh bread like French butter made with cream from cows who graze on grass and herbs to give it a distinctive flavor.”, says Rodgers. “Since I buy unsalted French butter for my baking, I will sprinkle a bit of flaky sea salt over the butter in the butter dish.” French butter is available in salted, unsalted and flavored varieties so you can dial up the flavor of those green beans, corn or spuds.An alternative to the trendy butter board is to create butter spreads for your rolls or bread. Jolene says, “If you have a sweet tooth like me, adding brown sugar and a dash of cinnamon to softened French butter is an excellent combination. However, if you’re more into savory notes, try mixing softened French butter with fresh herbs like sage and thyme, or add some cranberry relish. Regardless of which combination you choose the richness French butter provides will wow your guests!”

 

BASTING THE BIRD

Turkey is the de rigueur main dish, and Rodgers recommends basting it with butter. Rodgers advises, “Mash 4 to 8 ounces of softened French butter with 2 to 4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs (such as sage, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, and parsley) seasoned well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Roll into a log with waxed paper and freeze an hour or so until firm. Slip your fingers under the turkey skin to loosen it from the breast and thighs. Cut the firm herb butter into thin disks and slip them under the loosened skin.”

According to Rodgers, “As the turkey roasts, it will take on a wonderful flavor, aroma, and color from the melting butter, and the drippings will be beautifully seasoned, too.” The amount of butter you need depends on the size of your bird.

 

SPECTACULAR SIDES

Green bean casserole may be a traditional side of choice, but it’s heavy. Rodgers suggests balancing your menu with a simpler side dish that features clean, fresh flavors. The key? French butter.

Says Rodgers, “French butter has such a rich taste that heightens the easiest side dish.” He shares his recipe for green beans with toasted hazelnuts for an elegant but fresh take on traditional green beans. “Blanch green beans (preferably thin French-style haricots verts) until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes; drain, rinse, and pat dry. Melt two tablespoons of French butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the green beans and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes. Add another tablespoon of French butter and two tablespoons of water and shake the skillet until the additional butter melts with the water and forms a light sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with toasted, skinned, and sliced almonds and serve.”

Sometimes a side dish can take center stage, especially for vegetarians. Says Jolene, “My favorite thing to make is mac-and-cheese featuring a Bechamel sauce. Bechamel sauce includes flour, milk, and butter. This dish depends entirely on the sauce, so the creamy notes in the French butter truly elevate the flavor. It’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser for adults and children.”

Regardless of the main dish, stuffing or dressing is a must. According to Jolene, if you buy pre-made sides, like stuffing, you can personalize them and make them unique with French butter. “Melt French butter with a mixture of salt, pepper, and various fresh herbs, like rosemary, thyme, and sage. Drizzle over the stuffing before serving for an elevated experience, ” advises Jolene.

Looking for ways to use French butter in your recipes? Head to TasteEurope | ButterofFrance on both Facebook and Instagram. These are filled with recipes, tips and more information than you could possibly need, all about the butters of Europe.

Fire up the Grill and Don’t Forget the European Butter


Grilling is heating up, and that means it’s time to grab the butter, and don’t cut costs by avoiding the good stuff. According to Data Bridge Market Research, grilling is currently growing due to the rise in the barbecuing on weekends and holidays, especially among young people. And there are no signs of slowing down! The report also predicts that the BBQ Grill Market will grow at a rate of 5.10% during the forecast period between 2021 and 2028.


Meanwhile, according to Future Market Insights, the global butter market is estimated to reach a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 4.9% during the forecast period of 2022 to 2032 and the United States remains the EU’s largest importer of butter.

So how does the growth of grilling and the consumption of European butter – and particularly French butter – go together? Americans are discovering the joys and benefits of grilling with European butter. In fact, many top chefs around the country notice the perks and flavor nuances of French butter.

For example, Chef Sheana Davis, butter monger for Bread & Butter Winery in Napa and author of the upcoming book Buttermongers, says that in addition to the classic addition of butter to grilled steak, there’s no limit to what you can grill with French butter. From sauteed vegetables on the grill, to grilled cheese, and even scallops and shrimp, Davis enjoys utilizing the high-quality butter in all of her summer grilling. A longtime fan of compound butters, Davis recently even perfected a recipe for asparagus with a chive lemon butter, featuring none other than French butter.

Davis explains that appeal, “With the 82% butter fat and the cultured flavor of the butter, French butter can really add a new level to the dish.” She adds, “When I was in Paris three years ago, I attended a butter tasting and they paired butters with wines from the same region. It was an eye-opener. The slight and yet pleasant sourness is what I really enjoy about the butters of Europe.”

Another chef and grill master who religiously uses European butter is Paul Jimenez, a.k.a. @bigpaulonthegrill, and Founder of The PaulieStrong Foundation, which uses cooking to create awareness for Childhood Cancer Research. Jimenez says “it’s all about flavor and French butter provides a unique nuttiness due to the quality of the cultured cream and what the cows consume. It gives it a nutty, mellow tang, and reacts differently when baked and grilled. French butter is extremely versatile in its uses. Spread it on toast and you will experience a subtle, yet delicious difference from traditional American butters, or poach raw lobster meat and prepare a game-changing lobster roll this summer.” He adds, “I like to use French butter to top a seared or grilled steak, and to poach seafood such as lobster or crab legs.” He adds that shrimp poached in French butter is “absolutely incredible.”

Charles Duque, Managing Director of the Americas for the French Dairy Board, explains where the pleasant sour tang of French butters comes from. “Cultured butter is treated with cultures like yogurt and is then fermented and churned. This results in a fuller, deeper flavor and is much creamier. There’s a slight tang from the cultures, just like with yogurt.” To make sure your butter is truly the best, look for the AOP or AOC label. Adds Duque, “Butter with an AOP or AOC is a protected butter from a specific region. If a butter has this symbol, it means it is produced following certain guidelines and uses milk specifically from a certain region.”


And it’s not just the flavor that makes European butter the pick of American chefs. Adds Davis, “the texture is so elegant based on the cream content. French Butter spreads so well and adapts to many dishes.” She shares her pro tips:

  • Purchase only what you need and keep it fresh
  • Store in an airtight container so that the butter does not absorb refrigerator flavors
  • Keep a portion on your counter in a butter dish so you have immediate access to spreadable butter (perfect with your afternoon baguette)

 

Jimenez also offers this top tip, this time for poaching with French butter on the grill. The key is to prevent the butter from boiling or it will separate. “Try to keep the butter between 160 and 175 degrees F. Use an instant read thermometer to keep it under 180 F,” he notes.

If you want to elevate your cooking, visit the website www.TasteEurope.com
@TasteEuropeButterofFrance is where you’ll find many recipes using European butter, along with a store locator, and more tips and techniques for adding more flavor to your favorite recipes.

Why American Chefs Rely on European Butter


Julia Child famously said, “With enough butter, anything is good.” And given that she learned to cook in France, we know that she was talking about French butter.


Julia Child introduced Americans to French cuisine and to French butter. In fact, she once said, “With enough butter, anything is good.” Even though she was born over 100 years ago, American’s fascination with her and French food are still popular. In fact, both the Food Network and HBO premiered shows based on Julia Child this spring!

Fortunately, you don’t have to go to France to enjoy French butter; it’s more available than ever in the US, and American chefs are eager to teach you how to use it. TasteEurope.com and @TasteEuropeButterofFrance are filled with recipes, tips and more information than you could possibly need, all about the European butter.

Pastry chef and recipe developer Alex Roberts of Alexander Bakes over medium heat. Add coated cutlets and cook until golden brown on both sides. Cook in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Place the chicken aside on a plate., based in Los Angeles, says, “I choose French butter because it’s higher in quality and flavor than American butter, which is often made with more water, giving it a pale-yellow color. French butter is cultured by way of fermented cream, which gives it a slightly tangy flavor and smell.” But it’s not just the superior quality and flavor, he explains. “The lower water content helps it stay colder longer, which means the butter is a bit dryer, making it perfect for laminating croissants or puff pastry (this is a technique often used in pastries where you fold and roll butter into dough repeatedly to create super thin layers). Also, the tanginess from cultured cream adds a bit of nuance to something like a classic chocolate chip cookie.”

 

French butter is the natural choice for baking French pastries. “French butter makes laminating croissants way, way, way easier. American butter melts quicker (more water!) and cracks easily when cold, making it hard to laminate with. There’s a reason that French croissants are always better!” explains Roberts.

Kristin “Baker Bettie” Hoffman, chef, baking instructor and author of Baker Bettie’s Better Baking Book agrees, adding “If I am baking something that is specifically French, like croissants, then I will most definitely turn to French butter. In these instances, I will make a point to state in the ingredient list that French butter should be used for best results.”
Charles Duque of the French Dairy Board explains that French butter is superior to alternatives due to several factors. “French butter, by law, must have a higher fat content, so it is naturally richer and has a creamier taste than American butter. French butter comes from milk from grass-fed cows, which produce a more savory, nutty-tasting butter than non-grass-fed cows.” When shopping for butter he says, “Butter with the PDO label is a protected butter that signifies a production guideline regulating milk, production process, terroir and savoir-faire. If a butter has this symbol, it means they are produced following certain guidelines and using the milk from a specific region.”

Looking for ways to use French butter in your recipes? Head to www.TasteEurope.com, or @TasteEuropeButterofFrance on both Facebook and Instagram. Here you will find recipes, tips, a retail locator and more to bring the European butter experience to your table.

Chef Eric Trochon Talks about butter


Whether he’s behind the stove in one of his Parisian restaurants (Semilla and Freddy’s) or with his students at the prestigious École Supérieure Ferrandi, whether he’s working on culinary styling for one of his many book collaborations or passing on his skills to others around the world, creativity and learning are the heart and soul of Éric Trochon’s cuisine. As a “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” in 2011, his talents have been exported all over the world. Like him, his art is in motion, his intellectual curiosity is insatiable and he cooks in inventive, correct and generous ways.


What is your first buttery memory?

My first sole meunière at the Ferrandi school of cooking. I was 15 years old. It was very successful … beginner’s luck! We tasted it; I remember the contrast between the pearly flesh, firm and fragrant, and the cooking butter, just nutty, slightly lemony … wow!

What place does butter hold in your kitchen?

An essential place. I’m crazy about butter! For me, butter is an indispensable marker of French gourmet cuisine, but using it wisely and in the right way requires a lot of expertise. I often assess the talent of cooks around by the way they cook with butter: do not burn it, do not add too much, their movements as they baste a roast with a spoon and, most importantly, the results obtained, which must never leave an impression of fattiness or heaviness.

How do you use butter?

Raw, cooked, salted, sweet … blended in, for cooking (meunière), to finish sauces, biscuits, creams … the list is a long one. Without butter, I would be a little lost. I travel around the world a lot, and sometimes I can’t find butter locally (or only poor-quality butter); I then feel something is missing … I must then correct and readjust my recipes, and the result is never as flavorful!

What qualities do you see in it?

Butter is a pure delicacy … It is an incredible holder of aromas. The buttery note prolongs the taste of food in the mouth. Butter ennobles the simplest products and provides the little “French twist” which is essential to all other preparations.

Why Do Chefs and Bakers Prefer French Butter?


Published by The Spruce Eats on 06/15/2022 and sponsored by

If you’ve recently taken a stroll down the dairy aisle of your local market, you might have noticed the bounty of options crowding the shelves in the butter section. There are labels that read salted and unsalted, margarines made with a disconcertingly long list of ingredients, plant-based alternatives and butters imported from around the world. So what are you supposed to grab if you simply want butter that’s going to elevate anything you cook or bake.

You can’t go wrong by following the lead of people who make really, really good food for a living. When given the choice, professional chefs and bakers almost always prefer to use European butter imported from France. The simple explanation is that it’s more flavorful than other types of butter. The reason why that’s the case, however, is a slightly longer story.

A Long, Flavorful Tradition

 

Butter has been a staple in the French diet for centuries—almost as long as cows have lived in the region. You can see the results of this rich relationship when you look at some of France’s oldest and most iconic recipes. The five French Mother Sauces, in particular, illustrate just how much French cuisine relies on butter.

First developed in the 19th Century, these sauces revolve around butter in some capacity, usually in the form of a roux. A simple mix of flour and butter, roux is the building block of the French Mother Sauces (and pretty much all of French gastronomy.) Pair it with dairy and you get béchamel. Combine roux with a white stock (chicken, vegetable or fish stock) to prepare velouté or brown stock (veal or beef) for espagnole. The final two mother sauces, tomato and hollandaise, also incorporate butter to get their rich flavor.

Given the composition of these sauces, it’s safe to say that it’s impossible to imagine French cuisine existing (let alone becoming a symbol of excellence around the world) without butter. Although, you don’t need a PHD in gastronomy to realize how much the French care about butter. One bite of a fresh and flaky croissant should do the trick.

 

The European Difference

 

Okay, so it’s clear that the French have been passionate about their butter for a while now. But what makes European and French butter different from its American counterpart? The biggest factor is the fat content. European butter has at least 82% fat while American butter only needs to reach the 80% threshold set by the USDA.

That might not seem like a huge gap, but it’s the key to what makes French butter a favorite among chefs and bakers. They know that more fat means less water which leads to more flavor. French butter is also cultured, lending it a tanginess and richer, deeper flavor profile. Whether you’re using butter to sauté a steak or make these Madeleine Cookies, French butter is basically a cheat code for giving your food more flavor.

Even if you’re adding butter after you’re done cooking, French butter still stands out because that extra fat content makes it creamier and easier to spread on toast, pastries or (for anyone wanting to stick close to the French theme) crepes. You can elevate traditional crepes with this salted caramel butter—not one of the Five French Mother sauces, even though it should be.

It’s important to note that you don’t always need to add butter to a completed dish. If you use French butter to make this Classic French Brioche, for instance, it will be perfectly flavorful as soon as you pull it from the oven.

 

How to Spot Real French Butter

 

Now let’s go back to the dairy aisle of your market. If you decide that you want to see what the fuss is all about, and taste the difference that extra fat and cultures can make, you should scan the labels looking for butter imported from France. Don’t just look for a brand name that sounds vaguely French. There are plenty of imitators, but only butter made from French dairy can help you raise the bar for quality in your kitchen.

CHEF sonia ezgulian talks about butter


Sonia Ezgulian inherited the pleasure of cooking and entertaining from her Armenian grandmother. Self-taught, she is both a food journalist and a well-known chef. Between 1999 and 2006, she developed the Oxalis restaurant in Lyon, where she applied herself to reveal the richness of her vocabulary in the range of flavors she created. Subtlety, delicacy, finesse, nuance, charm and softness all nourish Sonia’s inspiration and creativity. A multifaceted personality, her cooking is spontaneous and free from rigid technical constraints. She is always inventive and in search of perfection. Sonia Ezgulian has written many cookbooks with her husband, the photographer Emmanuel Auger.


What is your first buttery memory?

It’s both a taste and a cooking technique. An Armenian dessert, the Bourma, crispy rolls filled with nuts, pistachios and cinnamon. To make it, you have to learn how to add the right amount of melted butter and how to handle the generously brushed filo leaves.

What place does butter hold in your kitchen?A place by itself, a place of choice, a special place. Butter is synonymous with gourmet cooking and is used with both simple and sophisticated techniques.
I like making simple dishes in my kitchen. I might drizzle a fish fillet with a frothy herb butter or wrap meat in buttery rolls of puff pastry.

What qualities do you see in it?

Of course. I use flavored butters all year round, using different flavors that complement the dishes. Butter is essential for tasty and crunchy pastry for pies and other “Oreillers de la Belle-Aurore.” And for root vegetables, which I like to glaze with a little honey as well.

What qualities do you see in it?

Its taste above all, because whether raw or browned, it brings a unique touch. I like to use it as a “binder”: browned butter added to a meat sauce a few moments before coating a dish, as a base to make fish rillettes, to make original pasta (speculoos mixed and bound with a little bit of melted butter), etc.

Tips and Tricks for using butter


There are many secrets to using French butter to elevate your dishes. Chef Nobu Lee of The Orchid Restaurant in Taipei adds seaweed, particularly the green and red varieties, to add depth of flavor and color. Executive chef Wenyuan Zhu of Shanghai’s Borage restaurant chooses soy sauce to add a dark brown color to his dish, describing it as the emerging seasoning in Western food. He’s also taken his love of the sauce as color inspiration for his restaurant interiors. Whatever the color of the buttery sauce, the future on our plates is looking bright!

Preparation
Tip #1: Soften it.

To make it easier to spread, remove the butter from the refrigerator and leave it at room temperature for at least 1 hour and 15 minutes. To quickly soften butter that is too cold, just cut it into pieces, wrap it in a damp cotton cloth and knead it for a few seconds.

Tip #2: Give it a bath.

If the butter has absorbed smells in the refrigerator, an ice water bath will give it a second youth. Just dry it afterwards. This can be done as many times as necessary.

Tip #3: Freeze it.

Not using it right away? Butter can be frozen for one to two months.

Techniques
Tip #4: take it off the heat.

To make a butter sauce, the butter must always be incorporated by whisking it off the heat.

Tip #5: avoid the splatter.

Calm down crackling in the the pan by adding a pinch of salt before melting the butter, then a pinch of flour when it is melting.

Tip #6: make your sauces glossy.

To prevent the formation of a skin on the surface of bechamel sauce, coat it with a little melted butter.

Secrets of Flavor
Tip #7: add a little interest.

Mix some unsalted butter with a little horseradish or wasabi from a tube, melt gently and serve with grilled meat. Or mix your butter with hazelnut powder and cover a fillet of sole with it.

Tip #8: use it in place of oil.

Replace the oil in a dressing with melted butter, perfect on steamed baby vegetables.

Tip #9: let it take the main stage.

Mix some unsalted butter with a piece of Camembert and add toasted almonds. Spread on lightly grilled croutons. Serve as an appetizer.

Tip #10: let it shine in a simple sauce.

Butter sauce with salted butter: Melt the butter over a low heat. Using a whisk, mix in the juice of a lemon over a low heat. This sauce is perfect to accompany pasta or a skate wing.