"Eat butter first, and eat it last,
and live till a hundred years be past."
Old Dutch proverb
For many years we were told to use margarine in cooking. First because it was "healthier".
Then we used low-fat versions because we believed we should be avoiding all saturated
fats. But now that we're low carb, we know better...
We've learned that the transfats
in margarine are the real danger and we're back to real butter.
But do we
know what the differences are when cooking? Do we know the real benefits of butter?
Should we use salted or unsalted when a recipe just says "butter"?
If you haven't had real butter in awhile, you have a treat awaiting you! There's
nothing quite like the sweet richness of real dairy butter.
Butter is a natural dairy product made by churning or shaking cream
until it reaches a semisolid state. Margarine is made from a single
oil, or blend of oils, sometimes including animal and vegetable fats.
In order to make it more solid and "act" like butter (either in spreadable
form or solid stick), margarine must be hydrogenated making it a
transfat. Transfats are known to raise triglyceride levels, have been
implicated in cancer growth, and in the case of low-carbers, are known
to hinder weight loss in many individuals.
There are many differences between margarine and butter to keep in mind when cooking...
First, butter burns more easily than margarine.
Butter has a narrow melting range, 82.4°F to 96.8°F, so it will melt quickly
even at low temperatures. To avoid burning, melt butter on low temperature
settings and watch carefully. For high heat applications, you might want to
Clarified butter is a purified, thicker form of butter that's been melted
and has had the water and milk solids separated from the clarified or clear
part. Because the water has been extracted, clarified butter will not spatter
when it cooks, and because the milk solids have been removed, it will not burn at
high temperatures, and therefore is most commonly used as a fat for cooking,
or as a base for sauces like Hollandaise and Béarnaise (see recipe section.)
You can buy clarified butter in better groceries and specialty stores, or you
can make it yourself. To make one pound of clarified butter, you will need
about 1 1/4 lbs. of
unsalted butter. Melt butter over moderate heat. Stir butter but don’t let
it boil; this allows the milk solids to separate from the liquid butter. Upon
heating, butter will separate into three distinct layers: foamy milk solids
on top, clarified butter in the middle and milk solids on the bottom. As the
butter continues to warm, skim froth from the surface and discard. When
froth is eliminated, carefully pour off clear, melted clarified butter into
another container, leaving the milk solids at the bottom of the saucepan.
Discard milk solids. Clarified butter can be used immediately or kept in an
airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three or four weeks.
Re-melt to use.
For standard baking applications, regular butter works great. There is
a difference in salted and unsalted butter.
Salt acts as a preservative and adds flavor to butter. Lightly salted
butter is sometimes called "sweet cream butter," and is best used as a
table butter and for general cooking needs. Unsalted butter, too, is
"sweet butter," but is used mainly for baking. Although unsalted and
salted butter may be specifically recommended for cooking or baking
particular items, they can generally be substituted for one another.
Enjoy the richness real butter brings!
Copyright © January 2004 Lora Ruffner and Low Carb Luxury
Title photo Copyright © 2004 Neil Beaty and Low Carb Luxury