February 4th, 2007

About Butter

Butter

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So far in previous posts I have written facts & tips on how to use the essential baking ingredients: flour, eggs & sugar. This week is about Butter. Just like the others, knowing how best to work with butter is vital for successful happy baking!
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What is butter?
Butter is essentially the concentrated fat of the milk with some water. It is made from milk, cream or both of these ingredients. Commercial butter may even be made from whey which is taken during the cheese making process. The colour of the butter varies from dark yellow to creamy white – this is due to what the animal’s are fed on, or is sometimes manipulated with food colourings. The basics of butter making is simple – they produce it by churning the milk/ cream until the fats separate from the liquid (buttermilk).
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What is the best way to store butter?

  • Storage of unsalted butter: up to 2 weeks refrigerated & up to 5 months frozen from day of purchase.
  • Storage of salted butter: Salt gives better shelf life; up to 2 months refrigerated & up to 6-9 months frozen from day of purchase.

Make sure it is properly sealed in its foil packaging to avoid it turning rancid from exposure to air, & away from smelly foods as it readily picks up odour. The best way to defrost is to place the required amount in the fridge for 6 hours – never leave it in room temperature as it’ll end up with water droplets sweating out of it.
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How soft is room temperature butter? How do I achieve it?
You can tell wether you’ve achieved ‘Room temperature butter’ when the softness allows you to ‘easily’ depress the surface with your finger, at the same time not melting.
To obtain it, all you have to do is to leave the quantity of butter your recipe requires (still in its packaging) out in the room for 30 minutes. – I never have the time nor patience to do that (or indeed remember to take it out in advance), so I just cube my block of butter straight from the fridge & zap it in the microwave at 10 second intervals at first & then careful 5 second gaps until the right consistency is reached. Easy peasy.
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How do I cream butter? And Why?
To cream butter, first start off with cubed butter that has been softened to room temperature. Place in a deep mixing bowl (so that it doesn’t spit everywhere) & using the mixer, beat it till it is ‘creamy’, soft, smooth & light from incorporating the air. Use immediately.
Typically, many sponge recipes require you to whip the butter to a cream texture before you add the sugar. Once sugar is added to correctly creamed butter, it has incorporated the air in to it which would then cause a foaming action in sponge cakes. (when the cake batter is in the oven, the incorporated air is like a bubble, trapped, & it eventually ‘sets’, leaving tiny holes in your soft sponge).
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Why do baking recipes call for ”unsalted’ butter’?
Salted butter is tasty for spreading on your morning toast, & its shelf-life is a lot longer than unsalted. But for baking, the taste of salt gets in the way, & besides, salted butter browns faster. So even if a baking recipe such as madelaines, pies, and buttercakes call for salt, you’d use unsalted butter and then sprinkle in the salt separately to control its saltness.

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How do I make home-made butter?
Please follow this link for an online recipe I found.

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Health facts:
One tablespoon of butter (14 grams) contains 100 calories, of which 7 grams are saturated fat, and 30 milligrams of cholesterol. In other words, butter consists mostly of saturated fat and is a significant source of dietary cholesterol. For these reasons, butter has been generally considered to be a contributor to health problems, especially heart disease.

Also, people with milk allergy need to watch out.

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Can I substitute butter with margarine?
In principle yes – they are both fats. But if you are doing it for health-conscious reasons, you’d have to be aware that there are loop-holes. Some margarine contain trans fats (the main dietary culprit in raising blood cholesterol) so please read the back carefully. The water content is slightly different between the two, & because of this, the careful balance of the recipe will be mucked about & the result will not be perfect. Also the melt point is different (butter melts at body temperature, while margarine melts at higher than 98.6 degrees) which can only get you further away from what the recipe had originally been planned to do.
I personally never will substitute my butter. Margarine lacks flavour & is greasy on the palate. Butter is a natural ingredient, & is in these baking recipes for a purpose, for such examples as giving a rich buttery flavour & to enhance the other ingredients.

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x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x
This week:

After last Saturday’s successful return to the market after my 1 month break, I’ve cranked up my energy & work-volume to Max & am buzier than ever with making n’ baking!

14 Comments »

  1. Hi Tamami,
    I have benn reading ur blog and i simply adore it & finds it addictive. owever I have a question.I will like to ask, if we r baking butter cookies, do we still use unsalted butter? because I baked it with unsalted butter n finds it lacking of some taste. Thanks

    Comment by Angelia Giam - May 24, 2008 5:01 am

  2. Hello Angelia.
    Wow, thank you for the lovely comment. It’s weird y’know, this blog. I really have no idea who’s reading this, & wether what I’ve been writing is a worthy read for anyone. So it’s nice to get a comment like that from you – it keeps this going! ^^
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    Regarding butter-cookies: I would definately use unsalted, & then grind salt in to the dough. If you think it lacks taste, I would add spices such as vanilla that would enhance ingredients like butter.
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    Also, a really important step when making cookies is to REST the dough in the fridge before rolling out. (More than 2hrs.) Not only would the gluten from the flour relax, the melted (or softened) butter will stabilize, resulting in maintaining its full, butter-y flavour.
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    ALSO it’ll help if you:
    - The dough must be tightly wrapped with cling-film when it is in the fridge to avoid unwanted fridge odour .
    - When rolling it & then cutting shapes out, make sure you’re not over-ly touching the dough with your warm hands.
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    Well, hope this helps a little – & good luck with the cookie!

    Comment by tamami - May 24, 2008 5:43 pm

  3. Hi Tamami,
    Thanks so much for ur promt reply. I actually experimened it again to night and ur tips really help me alot. I had actually used the Vanilla sugar that u had written in ur blog and the result is actually wonderful.

    I am actually test baking the cookies for my son’s BD party’s door gift for the other kids. I thought homemade stuff r alot better than what we get from the super market.

    Please continue writing cox ur blog is simply wonderful n informative. I really love to read it.

    Thanks

    Comment by Angelia - May 25, 2008 12:04 pm

  4. Hi Tamami,
    Sorry to bother but i have another question?
    Why is it that when I fold the flour into the creamed butted mixture, it dosent’s turn into a dough but instead, the whole thing becomes very crumbly and i have to knead it alot wih my hands before it turns ino a dough. and when rolling out, there will be cracks and i have to touch it with my hands again.

    Thanks so much and sorry for all he questions.

    Comment by Angelia - May 25, 2008 1:08 pm

  5. Oh I’m so happy that my tips helped :)
    I’m sure homemade cookies will go down great at your son’s birthday party. – Mind you, I once made fairy cakes for my son’s nursery class, & it turned out that some kid was allergic to eggs…
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    re: your question:
    Not knowing the recipe you’re using, it’s difficult to tell… but, when mixing the flour in, ofcourse it’ll seem at first crumbly – and mixing it more would bring the dough together. Professionals use a “plastic dough scraper” with oval edges to mix it instead of using warm hands which would melt the butter. It is a really good investment if you intend on making cookies often.
    - Another tip is not to over-knead the dough. It’ll produce gluten & the cookie will not rise as much.
    - When resting the dough, try to shape it quite thin to avoid much “rolling-out” later on. Basically, less handling, the better. Not sure what to say about the cracks though.
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    As you can tell from my lengthy replies, I’m getting v. eager on this subject! Maybe I’d have to write a post about it very soon!

    Comment by tamami - May 25, 2008 7:58 pm

  6. Oh no your reply is not at all lengthy to me. U r just so professional and I really admire your knowledge for baking and food.

    As for my Son’s little friends, they r all my hubby’s collegue’s kids n i know that they r not allegic to egg or milk. Thanks so much for your reminder.

    I am actually a Singaporean but I m currently based in Queensland Australia due to my hubby’s work. And I am not into baking n cooking till I came here because eating out is so expansive.
    Also because where I stay is a subhurb, it is not easy to get the nice cakes and chocolates that I will like.

    Moreover when we r at the supermarket, my son will always ask me to buy him cookies of the shelf and I thought why not I bake it for him myself.

    Therefore, when I chanced upon ur blog I was so happy, it really aroused my interest in baking which I do not have the time to do in S’pore and also S’pore is just so convinent.

    By the way I have always been wanting to tell you that ur daughter is so lovely. I am so envious. But I have enough on my part because I have 2 very active boys. :)

    Here is the recipie I using:
    150g Butter
    1/3 cup Vanilla Sugar
    1 Egg Yolk
    2tsp Milk
    1 cup Plain Flour (Sieved)
    1 cup Corn Flour (Sieved)
    1 pinch Salt

    As for the method,
    1. I had use ur method in creaming the butter before adding the sugar.
    2. I added the egg yolk n milk.
    3. I added the salt
    4. Sieve in both plain flour and corn flour

    This is the part where no mater how much or long I fold, the mixture still remain crumbly. Therefore it resulted in too much handling because I have to use my hands.

    I have already modified the amount of flour and butter because the previous recipie calls for 125g butter and 11/4 cup of plain flour and corn flour respectively and the result was not quite how I like it. but after reducing the amount of flour, I still have problems with the crumbly dough. It seems too dry.

    Please enlighten me and sorry for the long post cox it feels so good communicating with you. And I am also very eager to read the post that you r going to write about.

    Now I know baking a simple butter cookie really require so much knowledge.

    Thanks

    P

    Comment by Angelia - May 26, 2008 12:24 am

  7. Hello Angelia!
    Thank you for writing back! (love the way you spell Singapore – S’pore!!)
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    You know what? I’m really crappy with ‘cup’ measurements – I’m a strictly metric (grams) person – so I’m sorry to say, I can’t judge from your recipe wether the flour is too much or not… sorry to be a pain…
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    But, the principle ratio is:
    1:sugar
    2: butter
    3: flour
    The egg is 5 % of the above combined.

    Maybe try mixing the flour in stages…? And make sure your butter/egg/sugar mixture is creamy, like mayonnaise…?
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    Hope that helps!

    Comment by tamami - May 26, 2008 11:01 pm

  8. Hi Tamami, You have already help me alot. and I should be the one saying sorry for bothering you.

    Hope you dun mind if i convert it to gram for you cause my measuring has the indications on it. Sorry to trouble you again.

    1 Cup (250g) Plain Flour
    1 Cup (250g) Corn Flour
    1/3 Cup (80g) Vanilla Sugar.

    Thanks ao much and sorry too

    Comment by Angelia - May 26, 2008 11:18 pm

  9. Anyway upon reading carefully abt what you have told me, I think I have got you mean. I will try again. Thanks so much for you help tamami.

    Really appreciate it :)

    Comment by Angelia - May 26, 2008 11:22 pm

  10. hi Angelia!
    ah ha! sounds like we’ve located the problem! It was the amount of flour & cornflour combined! It should be something in the region of 240g. (But I would try JUST flour, no cornflour first – and see if you like it.)
    .
    Glad to be of help! Ask anytime. ;)

    Comment by tamami - May 26, 2008 11:28 pm

  11. Ya when I read the ration, that was what I thought so too. Thanks

    I will let you know the result tonight. hahaha Thanks so much :)

    Comment by Angelia - May 27, 2008 12:19 am

  12. pleasure ;)

    Comment by tamami - May 27, 2008 9:16 am

  13. Hi Tamami,

    Thanks so much and the cookies have turn out really lovely this time round. (“,)

    Comment by Angelia - May 27, 2008 12:38 pm

  14. Wow! That’s great! It was fun solving the problem! Have fun making them for your son’s party guests!!

    Comment by tamami - May 27, 2008 2:07 pm

 

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