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French Butter: It’s hard to beat for the Holidays

French Butter: It’s hard to beat for the Holidays

When Julia Child spoke…America listened and laughed.

Julia Child famously said “With enough butter, anything is good”.  And she lived by her word. Butter was an essential part of practically everything she cooked. This took quite a lot of bravery on Julia’s part. At the time, Americans were being told to be terribly afraid of butter.  Instead, they flocked to Margarine, a wartime butter substitute that turned out to be very unhealthy as it was loaded with trans fats.  Now Butter is back—and used in moderation, butter is actually lower in calories than oil and it’s the only fat that has natural Vitamins A and D.

French Butter Explained.

The butter Julia Child undoubtedly preferred was, of course, French butter. She’d learned virtually everything she knew in France where butter is king.  French butter has a nuttiness and a tang that American butter just doesn’t.  There is a difference in the butterfat content of just 2 percent. American butter has to have a minimum of 80 percent, French 82 percent.  French butter has a lower water content, is made with cultured cream so that its texture is preferable especially for baking.  In France butter takes many forms, textures, flavors, and colors.  There’s ran butter, extra-fine butter, fine butter, pasteurized butter, salted butter, flavored butter, butter with its own appellation d’origine, light butter, cooking butter, concentrated butter, and clarified butter.

Finding French Butter is easier than you may think.

Recently, I was introduced to a collection of French butters, unlike anything I had tasted before. There were distinct differences in texture.  Some were smooth as silk. One had “butter buds” throughout. One had a distinctly smoky flavor, unlike anything I had tasted before.  Finding these kinds of butter in New York through an on-line search, they showed up on Amazon where they were sold in bulk.  Buying in bulk makes sense for bakers because French Butter is great for baking Christmas Cookies among other seasonal delights. Smaller quantities were available at a place called Marky’s (www.markys.com) and there was even one brand at Walmart.  I am a huge fan of the French butter sold at Trader Joe’s. It’s called Brittany butter because that’s exactly what it is: Salted butter from Brittany.  This is fine for today’s recipe for Pure Butter Chips, but for the composed butters that follow, you need unsalted butter.  Echiré is at Marky’s. And I found 6 varieties of Beurre de Baratte which translates to “Churned Butter” via the website www.mercato.com which uses your zip code to point the way to French butter purveyors close to home.

A very simple recipe yields a butter Cocktail time treat…in 3 flavors.

This and our cover photo courtesy the CNEIL

Along with our new-found appreciation for French butter, we discovered two great French Butter treats.  The first was a terrific little cocktail hour accompaniment, Pure Butter Chips. These bite-sized morsels are crisp and buttery at the same time. And in a single batch, you can make 3 different flavors–Sesame, Poppyseed and Chili Pepper. The recipe yields enough of these melt-in-your-mouth crisps for 6 people.  If you have a marble or granite countertop, put the Phyllo dough right on it.  Brush the melted French butter over the phyllo as described.  And go to it.  The recipe follows after the next paragraph.

The hit of the season may very well be these wonderful Flavored Butters.

There’s almost nothing you can’t use to make flavored butter, also called compound butters.  Enhance flavor with these incredibly easy combinations. See what they do for vegetables, on roast meats, or added to steaks just before serving. Or you can simply smooth them over bread or crackers to serve with drinks.  Just a couple of rules of thumb: Always use unsalted French butter.  Let the butter sit on the kitchen counter for two hours. Use finely chopped or spice powders to keep the texture smooth. You can either roll your flavored butter in cling wrap to form cylinders. Or keep them covered in ramekins or bowls.  Put the butter back into the fridge to do two things: melding the flavors and making them easy to slice into disks.  And if you want to keep a supply on hand, freeze them for use in dozens of different ways.

There’s no limit to the flavors you can bring to French Butter.

Photo Credit: The CNEIL

Here are some ideas for making your own flavored French butter: To make Moroccan flavors, add harissa and finely chopped mint. To go Italian, use finely chopped dried porcini mushrooms and a little red wine.  Make Thai Flavored butter using basil, ginger and grated lime zest. Indian flavored butter puts cumin, turmeric, coriander, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, and kosher salt together. Shredded red beets, dill, lemon zest add a touch of Russian to French butter. Chipotle and lime zest bring Mexico to the table. And the simplest one of all—incorporating chives and kosher salt may be the one you use most –on steaks, pork or lamb chops and on potatoes—simply boiled or mashed. Use your imagination and create your own signature French Flavored Butter. And when you do, please leave us your suggestions on our Comments page…below.

 

 

 

Pure Butter Chips

December 10, 2019
: Enough Chips for 6
: 10 min
: 8 min
: 18 min
: Easy once you get the hang of handling Phyllo Dough

Buttery crisps that melt-in-your-mouth.

By:

Ingredients
  • 2 oz. Semi-Salted Butter
  • 4 Phyllo Pastry Sheets
  • 1 tsp. Sesame Seeds
  • 1 tsp. Poppy seeds
  • 1 tsp. Espelette Chili Powder
  • 2 pinches of Fleur de Sel
Directions
  • Step 1 Melt the butter. On the kitchen counter, spread a phyllo pastry sheet and brush it with melted butter.
  • Step 2 Cover it with a second sheet of Phyllo.
  • Step 3 Brush the second sheet with melted butter. Cover one-third of the sheet with poppy seeds, one-third with Espelette Chili Pepper, and one third with Sesame seeds.
  • Step 4 Cover with two sheets of phyllo brushed with melted butter.
  • Step 5 Using a 1.5-inch cookie cutter, cut up disks and place them on a sheet pan or cookie sheet.
  • Step 6 Bake the disks at 400 degrees F for 6 to 7 minutes.
  • Step 7 Sprinkle fleur de sel on the disks and let cool on a rack. Savor these crispy chip plain or with soft cheese.


4 thoughts on “French Butter: It’s hard to beat for the Holidays”

  • Hi Monte,
    I really enjoyed your article on butter. I’m Indian, married to a Breton so unsalted butter is grounds for divorce ! We live in Bordeaux and I just finished a book pairing Bordeaux wines with Indian haute cuisine from chefs in the US, the UK, and India. I looked up your tour de Bordeaux; sounds fascinating. If you can, please spend a little time at rue des Remparts which has such a lovely collection of stores including a magnificent cheese store, a Basque store, an olive oil store, you get the idea. All of these do tastings and Basque wines are quite a delicious discovery. We often take our friends to a tour of Bordeaux (historic, slave trade, Alienor etc) done by a French woman who is an art historian and it ends with an aperitif at her home, which is an ancient chai. I hope you have a wonderful visit and t hank you for showcasing French butter.
    Warm regards,
    Ujwala

    • Hello again, Ujwala. How very kind of you to take the time to write. How fascinating a book yours must be! I really appreciate your Bordeaux recommendations. This is just the kind of thing we hope to discover on our wonderful trip. My best to you, Monte

  • I can sometimes get “French” butter from an Ontario dairy. They call “Churn 84” and claim it to be European style. It IS a wonderful butter!
    Your Butter Chips also look addictively delightful and not too heavy for a pre-dinner snack. How well do they keep or even freeze? I plan to make some for an upcoming visit with friends.

    • Dear Dan, Thanks so much for writing. In all honesty, I am not at all sure now long they keep as mine were all eaten in a flash with nary a one left over. My guess is that if you keep them in a cookie tin, you should be able to store them for 3 days. I would not refrigerate or freeze them, simply because it might affect the butter. Please let us know what you did and how it worked out. Merry Christmas!

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