Ingredient Insights

To Butter or not to Butter?

I thought that since I’m now over a year old I would branch out a little bit and do more of an opinion piece this week than a practical one; and it has more to do with eating a baked good than producing one.

I remember back in highschool getting together with some friends and having biscuits with strawberry jam, and one friend was horrified at the thought of spreading jam on a biscuit without putting butter on it first. I hadn’t really thought much about it, sometimes I put butter on my toast before the jam, and sometimes I didn’t. It wasn’t a necessity for me. But after that I started to wonder if I was crazy for not always putting butter on first.

butter (4)I searched it online a few months ago, just out of curiosity, and discovered that some people had pretty strong opinions on this subject, it was quite surprising. Now, I’ve never been one to jump into a conflict, I tend to take a pretty neutral stance on things; but since reading some of these things, and having some time to taste and think it over I have decided to weigh in on the issue.

I think butter acts as a lubricant for dry toast, making it easier to eat and easier to enjoy whatever spread adorns it. I think if you use salted butter, it enhances the flavours of whatever spread is used. I don’t think butter is mandatory, especially if you are trying to watch what you eat; leaving it off is an easy way to cut down on a small bit of fat consumption. I do not think butter should be used if you are using peanut butter as your main spread. I do think that if you have honey on your toast, or cinnamon sugar, butter is a must, there’s just something about those combinations. And my final thought is that we live in a society where people should be free to use or not use butter on their toast and biscuits without fear of being judged either way. So you can use butter or not, and I will not think any less of you; even if you disagree with me and think butter with peanut butter is a good thing.

I may judge you, however, if you use shortening. That’s just gross.

Baking - Breads, Ingredient Insights

Secret Ingredient for Fluffy Biscuits

Many years ago I cut out a tip that was written on a flour bag: “The Lemon Juice Secret for baking bread naturally.” It suggests that adding 1 tablespoon of lemon juice for every 4-5 cups of flour will add lightness and volume to your yeast doughs.

I am more inclined to make quick breads, like biscuits, on a whim for dinner, using baking soda or baking powder rather than taking the time to make yeast rolls or bread. When using baking soda or powder, one needs to add something acidic to cause a chemical reaction and create the leavening; most often a recipe will list buttermilk or cream of tartar.

I always knew that if you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can substitute some lemon juice mixed with regular milk. I often think about that tip I cut out when I’m making biscuits, and in my recipe it lists regular milk and cream of tartar. I used lemon juice and milk instead of cream of tartar a couple times in my biscuits, and since then it’s all I use. The recipe calls for 2/3 cup of milk, and I usually put in 1-2 teaspoons of lemon juice, letting the juice and milk sit to blend for a couple minutes, where it becomes a bit curdled, before mixing it in.

Ever since I started making biscuits that way they have always been light and fluffy, and now it’s the only way I’ll make them. I hope you will have the same result if you give it a try!

Baking - General, Ingredient Insights, Recipe

Butter from Scratch

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. Continue reading “Butter from Scratch”