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Better butter makes better batter

So, it was better Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter to make the bitter batter better. Wow, that was some tongue twister that we used to recite often as children.

Yet for people who are on a weight-reduction diet, butter is a bitter no-no these days. Is butter really so unhealthy? Not at all. But then you should follow the ‘moderation is the key’ motto.

It existed in ancient times

My studies showed that in our history the first reference to butter was found on a 4500 years old limestone tablet illustrating how butter was made. There are quite few more references to butter. The ancient Asiatic tribes used butter not only as a food ingredient but also as a fuel in lamps and to rub on body to seek warmth during cold weather. The Romans used it as a cosmetic not just to keep the skin smooth but also to make hair shine. You can find some more such references in history.

Butter as we all know is made by churning fresh cream. However, it is not all fat, only 80% is fat and rest is made up of milk solids and water. In a lot of recipes butter is preferred to any other fat. Ever wondered why? Because it is rich, creamy and has a sublime flavour which is difficult to match.

Why is butter better

Because when butter is heated, it develops a wonderful nutty flavour that enhances the taste of the food that is cooked in it. Whether you sauté vegetables or meat, the taste is simply unmatchable. When butter is used to make cakes or cookies, again the taste is supreme.

But there is one thing one must remember while cooking with butter. It has the lowest smoking point when compared to other fats. Butter starts smoking at 265°F whereas olive oil does so at 350°F and other oils at a slightly higher temperature. So, when you need to cook something at a high temperature, butter starts burning quickly which is why one needs to add some oil to avoid burning.

But when butter is made into ghee, its smoking point is raised because it is then pure fat from which milk solids and water have been removed. And it is the milk solids which makes the butter burn at a lower temperature.

Clarified butter is also preferred for sauce making, such as when making a roux. The reason for this is that the water in ordinary butter can cause a sauce to separate.

Salted butter or unsalted butter

The butter that is available in the market has salt added to it as preservative. If the butter is to be kept for a long period then it needs salt added to it. However, if the butter is going to be used up in a short period then it can remain unsalted. In baking, on the other hand, usage of unsalted butter is preferable. This is because salt toughens the gluten in flour.

Baking with butter

When preparing dough for pastry or cookie, it is easier to work the flour with shortening than butter, because butter is harder. But then shortening has no flavour. Furthermore, it does not melt in your mouth as butter does. And this is the reason that icings made with shortening leaves a greasy feeling in the mouth.

Another factor which goes in butter’s favour is that while shortening is pure fat, butter is 80% fat. But then butter has 20% water which could affect the recipe. So, it is best to follow the recipe. For in baking it is absolutely imperative that the ingredients and their proportions be absolutely right.