Butter is produced by churning
cream until the fats separate from the liquid (buttermilk) and the butter is in
a semi-solid state. Most butter sold today is from cow's milk but butter
can also be produced from the milk of buffalo, camel, goat, ewe, and mares.
It is believed that the Nomads first discovered butter-making by mistake.
They are said to have collected milk from cattle and goats, separated the cream
from the milk, and continuously mixed the cream until it turned into butter.
North America butter must contain at least 80 percent butterfat, a maximum of
16% water and 2% milk solids. Sometimes a coloring agent (Annatto) is added to
butter to give it a deep yellow color. Annatto is also used for consistency of
color year round as the natural color of butter can vary from a creamy white to
a golden yellow. The color depends on the diet of the dairy cow. Regions that
have the richest pasture land are said to produce the best butter.
Butter is graded by
letter code, and sometimes a numerical number, according to flavor, color,
texture, aroma and body. AA (93 score), A (92 score), and B (90 score) are the
letter codes and numerical scores used. The characteristics to look for in a
good butter at room temperature are that it is dense with no air bubbles, should
not be lumpy, sticky or brittle, and no sweating.
Butter comes in two
forms salted and unsalted (sweet). Unsalted butter has a shelf
life of around 3 months refrigerated because it contains no preservatives.
Salted butter has a longer shelf life (up to 5 months) because salt acts as a
preservative. However, salt can overpower the sweet flavor of the butter and
can also mask any odors. The amount of salt added to salted butter can vary
from manufacturer to manufacturer and it is hard to know how much extra salt to
add to your recipe. The rule of thumb is that if you are substituting salted for
unsalted butter in a recipe, omit the extra salt in the recipe (i.e. Omit ?
teaspoon of salt per 1/2 cup (113 grams) of butter).
Most butter has an
expiry date on it. It should be stored well-wrapped in foil away from any
strong odors and in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Foil is used to
prevent exposure to light and air which can cause the butter to oxidize and
become stale. Check your butter's freshness by cutting a small slice and the
outside of the butter should be the same color as the inside. If the outside is
a darker color than the inside the butter has oxidized. You can freeze butter
for around six months. Just make sure you defrost the butter overnight in the
refrigerator before using it. It is best not to use butter that has been frozen
for baking, as freezing can affect the texture of the butter and change its
moisture content. When the butter thaws it can be grainy with droplets of
Butter adds flavor and
texture to your baking and helps to keep it fresh. The temperature of the
butter is very important in baking. When room temperature butter is used in
your recipe this means your butter should be between 65 degrees F (18 degrees C) and 70 degrees F
(21 degrees C). This
temperature allows the maximum amount of air to be beaten into your batter. This
creaming or beating of your butter or butter and sugar creates air bubbles that
your leavener (baking powder or baking soda) will enlarge during baking. Most
experts recommend 4 to 5 minutes of creaming the butter for maximum aeration.
Cold butter is used in
some baking (pie crusts). With this method the butter is not absorbed as much by
the starch in the flour and layers result when baked creating flakiness.
is butter that has had air whipped into it to increase its volume. It should never
be used in baking. Whipped butter is easier to spread, even when cold.