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Butter 101

"If you're afraid of butter, use cream..." Julia Child

Before we begin talking about how to make clarified butter, ghee, or brown butter, let's first review the "anatomy of butter". The following information will help you understand how and why each is derived, and inevitably, excellent uses for use them in your kitchen.

What exactly is butter? Simply put, it is a an emulsion of fat (milk fat), water, and milk solids.

Butter is formed when globules of fat from cream sticks together when churned, which creates a larger mass. This mass is kneaded to make butter.

Let's break down each component; milk fat, water, and milk solids.

MILK FAT: Butter is comprised mostly of milk fat. By law, butter must contain at least 80% milk fat. Regular unsalted butter contains 81%-82% fat, whereas premium brands contain 83-86% fat.

WATER: Butter is comprised of approximately 15% water!

MILK SOLIDS: Milk solids are everything else in butter that is not pure fat or water. That includes protein, lactose and salt. They are rich in protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Milk solids comprise 1-2% in butter.

The preparation of clarified butter, ghee, and brown butter all vary according to those three components of butter and how they are processed. I have separate recipes and videos for each recipe here:

MAKING CLARIFIED BUTTER - recipe and video

MAKING GHEE - recipe and video

MAKING BROWNED BUTTER - recipe and video - coming soon

Another butter topic, often debated:

SALTED vs UNSALTED BUTTER --- which to use and why?

I use unsalted butter for a few very important reasons:

  1. I can control the amount of salt .

  2. Salted butter naturally contains more water, which can negatively effect baked goods.

  3. The salt can disguise butter's inherently sweet flavor when used in certain dishes.

  4. Although a rare occurrence, especially now, if butter is not optimally fresh, it will be harder to recognize it as such when the butter contains salt.

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