Baking with Butter: a few recipes and tips

Some thoughts on butter

Meyer Lemon and Dried Blueberry Scones are delicious.  We couldn’t stop eating them at our brunch on Sunday morning.

Cheddar, Bacon and Sage biscuits are also delicious, especially as part of an egg cheddar cheese biscuit sandwich.

Both of the above came together in under an hour but both looked like a million bucks.

If I may expound for a moment on the use of butter in creating light, flaky pastries and baked goods.

To be more specific, let me speak for a moment about the different between cold butter and warm butter.

It’s simple really.  The more your butter warms up and melts before it goes into the oven, the more homogenous your dough is, the more your butter mingles with all the other ingredients.  The more mingling and homogeneity, the flatter and heavier the dough.  The flatter and heavier the dough, the greasier the pastry feels in your mouth and in your hand.  The greasier the pastry feels, the less appetizing it is.  All of a sudden the calories and fat aren’t worth the experience.  And we all know what happens to unappetizing biscuits.  They end up as hockey pucks or bird food.  It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that the success of the brunch (especially here in the South) can hinge upon the temperature of your butter.

Consider what happens instead when your butter is chilled and mixed into the dough fairly quickly.  In this case your butter stays in a pretty solid state pre-oven and thus can’t mix too much with the rest of the ingredients.  It’s like each little piece of butter is kind of introverted and doesn’t want to mix with all of the other fun ingredients around.  Then in the oven, the surrounding dough starts to cook and solidify and the butter has no where to go.  It just melts into a glorious little layer, exactly where it started.

Layers=flakiness and lightness.  Flakiness and lightness are the opposite of greasy and heavy, which is important for holy-cow-fattening things like biscuits, croissants, and other fun buttery goods.  It’s like people forget that they are ingesting pure butter fat.  Layers bring to mind words like fluffy, moist, heavenly might come to mind.  People like fluffy.

Which means for crowd-pleasing biscuits, you either need to be super speedy or you need one frigid stick of butter.

As I am not known for having the fastest kneading hands this side of the Mississippi, I have a few tricks to ensure that my dough stays cold, my butter stays introverted and my biscuits disappear into my guests tummies faster than I can spell-check Mississippi for this blog post.

Tip # 1.  Freeze your butter.  No need to leave it in a snowbank for days, an hour or 2 in the freezer is just fine

Tip #2.  Mix your dry ingredients together and throw them into the freezer too.

Tip # 3.  Leave said dry mix and butter in the freezer until all of your guests arrive and are almost ready to eat.  There is a biiiiiiiiiiiiiig difference between piping hot, fresh out of the oven biscuits and “sat on the counter for an hour before you got here” biscuits.  All I can say is that one is infinitely more tempting.  This might not be super practical for entertaining big groups, but for a few friends hanging out in your kitchen it works out just fine if they have to sit and watch you knead dough for a few minutes.  And the payoff is a big boom goes to dynamite.

Tip #4.Grate your butter into the dry ingredients with a cheese grater.  This keeps you from touching the butter too much and gets the butter incorporated quickly so you don’t have to touch it (i.e. melt it) too much.  Your dough will be a bit more crumbly but its nothing a little extra liquid can’t help.


2 thoughts on “Baking with Butter: a few recipes and tips

  1. Pingback: A Salad Success & Discovering Brown Butter « Hot Pot

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