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Brown Butter… How and Why? (Developing Flavors Part 1)

10 Jan 2017, Posted by Chris Waltman in Chris' Corner

Brown Butter (aka the nutty delight)

Butter is a dairy product made by churning fresh or fermented cream/milk; this churning process separates the butterfat from the buttermilk. Commercially made butter contains at least 80% butterfat. The other 20% of the mixture is milk proteins, lactose, water and sometimes salt. This mix is not ordinarily supposed to go together, making it an emulsion by forcing the water and fat to bind.

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The how…

In layman’s terms, Brown Butter is achieved through a process of low temp simmering butter until the water evaporates and the milk proteins and lactose begin to caramelize at 245°F.

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Basic Brown Butter

Prep Time – 0 min

Cook Time – 15 min

Ingredients

  • 1 # Butter (salted or unsalted)

Instructions

  1. In a medium sized sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat.
  2. Turn the heat down to low and let the butter begin simmering.
  3. The foam you see is the water being cooked out of the butter.
  4. The color will slowly progress from white/yellow to a gold/caramel color.
  5. Once the milk solids have become a toasty brown and rich nutty aroma is produced, pull the sauce pan off the heat.
  6. Transfer the butter to a heat resistant container to cool.

Carefully watch the butter. Once it begins to turn colors, the milk solids can burn quickly.

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Finished product:

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The why…

Caramelizing the milk solids (through the Maillard reaction) adds a rich, complex and nutty flavor to the already delicious flavor of butter. It will add a deep flavor without adding extra sugar or fat. Therefore adding brown butter in lieu of regular butter will have your achieve a more satisfying flavor profile.

What to do with the brown butter:

  • Fold into batter (pancakes, waffles, and cakes)
  • Beurre Noisette (brown butter sauce)
  • Grate into dough (biscuits)
  • Sear with steaks
  • Melt a knob into a sauce
  • Saute with vegetables
  • Confit
  • Cream into sugar (cookies)

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What about Ghee?

Ghee is basically the clarified version of brown butter. To take your butter one step further and produce ghee, strain the browned milk solids off after the brown butter has been cooked. Due to this process will increase the smoke point to 485°F. Most noteworthy is without the water and milk solids, the ghee does not need to be refrigerated and will hold for up to 1 year.