As a baker I am well aware of the fine balance when making whipped cream, that if you don’t whip enough it slumps, and that if you whip it too much it ends up separating. With all the emphasis on not whipping too much, it never occurred to me that over-whipping could actually be a good thing!
There was an article in the paper a couple weeks ago about making homemade butter. It sounded pretty easy, so I decided to try it out. I took a pint of whipping cream, sealed it into a 1-L plastic container, and shook vigorously until I started to hear a thumping sound instead of a swishing sound, which only took a few minutes. Lo and behold butter had formed, with buttermilk left to drip off. I tried to squeeze the buttermilk through a cloth, but the weave was too large and butter starting squeezing out with it. So I just poured the buttermilk out of the container (holding back the butter) while whipping with a small whisk until it looked like it had completed separating. I got just under ¾ cup of buttermilk, and the rest was butter.
The butter was light and creamy with a rich flavor. Sadly I had no homemade bread on which to spread it, and wanting to try it sooner rather than later, I decided to make biscuits with the buttermilk I had created. I also used some of the fresh butter in the recipe instead of shortening (I generally try to avoid shortening). It is so satisfying to bite into a biscuit still warm from the oven with fresh butter melting into it. And even more delicious knowing how the butter and buttermilk were made.
I tried cooking with the butter that evening, sautéing some swiss chard, and as soon as it started melting in the pan I could see it separating into fat and cream. Real churning obviously creates a more pure butterfat. I could easily have clarified the butter by melting it and skimming the frothy cream off, but I was making soup and thought the remaining cream in my butter would add to the flavour, which it did.
Here is the recipe for Buttermilk Biscuits:
- Sift together 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, 1 Tbsp baking powder, ¼ tsp baking soda and ¾ tsp salt.
- Cut in 1/3 cup butter.
- Stir in ¾ cup buttermilk, mixing just until dough clings together.
- Knead lightly on a lightly floured surface. Pat or roll to ½ inch thickness. Cut with a floured biscuit cutter and place on ungreased baking sheet.
- Bake at 450ºF for 10-12 minutes. Makes 8 large or 16 small biscuits.