Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bread and Butter

I think there are few people in the world who could turn down a piece of fresh bread, covered with a layer of silky cool butter.  Some people like to melt butter onto toast but I much prefer the texture of solid butter.  The only way I'll eat melted butter on toast involves an additional sprinkling of sugar, and now that I'm halfway terrified of sugar thanks to this article, that won't be happening anytime soon.  Toasted everything bagel with melted butter though, is something I'm totally on board with.

So the project this weekend was to make some cultured butter (my first time making butter since 4th grade!) and to try out the Almost No Knead bread recipe from Cook's Illustrated.  I can't post the Cook's Illustrated recipe, but here is a quick tutorial on butter-making (so easy).  

Cultured Butter

Day 1: Combine 1/4 cup buttermilk with 2 cups of heavy cream in a bowl, cover and leave overnight.  During my research, it seems that people were advising against using ultra-pasteurized cream.  I'm still not sure why that is, because that's what I used and I got a nice tangy thick cream less than 24 hours later.  It will look like this:

Creme fraiche (that's what you've made!)

Day 2: If your cream is not thick I imagine you'd have to wait longer, but mine was, so onward!  It could not be any easier.  Using an electric beater or food processor, beat the thick cream mixture until it passes through the following stages: whipped cream, broken (you'll see bits of solids come out), butter (the solids start sticking together to form large clumps).  This takes only a few minutes.  I used my electric beater because I don't own a food processor, and the later stage got a little messy as drops of buttermilk kept flying out at me. A small price to pay, I promise.  

Pour out the buttermilk into a bowl for another use.  Then start washing the butter in batches of cold water.  You basically just want to mix the butter around in the water to get rid of any remaining buttermilk, which will spoil your butter.  So just smack it around with your spatula and press against the side of your bowl.  Keep changing out the water until it runs clear.  Here's a picture mid-process:

Washing butter
Try to press out as much water as you can from your butter.  Then mix in 1/8 tsp of salt.  Store your butter in fridge, I think it's good for a couple of weeks or you can freeze for three months.  It has a wonderful tangy flavor.

As for Cook's Illustrated's version of Mark Bittman's No Knead bread, I have to agree with their adjustments.  The bread I made this weekend is superior in flavor to last week's attempt.  The only drag was trying to track down a single bottle of budweiser.  Apparently, it is easy to buy these things in six-packs, but who wants to be stuck with a six-pack of nasty beer when you are only using 3 oz?  In any case, after trekking all over my neighborhood, I finally acquired one can, which was still far too much.

Since this was only added for flavor though, I ended up freezing the rest as ice cubes to save myself some trouble in the future.  And also so I won't be embarrassed to be caught buying budweiser.  Here is my finished loaf.  It was torture waiting 2 hours for it to cool, but a slice was much enjoyed with freshly made butter.  Can't wait to have some with my newly acquired venison pate!


  1. that bread looks really good. I would have suggested using a beer that isnt nasty ass though.

    mmmm...creme fraiche has appeared in some form in roughly 60% of the meals i've eaten this week.

  2. that's awesome. how did the butter taste??

  3. butter was quite tasty. i'm actually impressed by how much butter 2 cups of cream generated.