BUTTER! BUTTER! BUTTER! There’s no flavor like it for cookie baking and beyond!
Substituting margarine for butter in a recipe that calls for shortening is like kissing your cousin. It works, but the real thing is so much more satisfying and produces far more exciting results!
Using butter takes a baked product from bland to suave and from mediocre to sublime. It adds smooth richness and depth of flavor that elevates the taste and crumb of a cookie to a higher level.
Years ago, I switched from using salted butter to unsalted butter as the shortening in my baked goods. Why, you ask? I wanted to be able to adjust the salty flavor with the actual salt crystal. Salt is added as a preservative to butter to help promote a longer shelf life. Plus, it adds flavor. Did you know that when using salted butter in baking, it is advisable to decrease the amount of salt in the recipe by 1 teaspoon per pound of butter used? In other words, if your recipe calls for 1 stick of butter (4 ounces) which equals 8 tablespoons or 1/2 cup, decrease the amount of salt by 1/4 teaspoon.
Now, then, a tip that just adds total richness to a recipe is to brown the butter before adding it to the batter. My, oh my, you will have people begging for your baked treats when you add this step to your baking process. However, only use this French technique if the recipe originally calls for the butter to be melted! Using this little technique has helped me garner some championship baking ribbons.
Browning butter is easy to do…put the required amount of butter into a small frying pan and place over low heat. I like to begin with butter that is room temperature. Stir occasionally but watch closely as the butter will turn from yellow to light brown (which is the color you want to achieve) and have a nutty aroma that will hover over your stove and cause your nostrils to rejoice! Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool. This cooling will help prevent the butter from advancing from a smell of pleasantly nutty to nastily burned.
Butter freezes well, so stock up when it is on sale. Yes, please let it come to room temperature before using in baking.
AS AN ASIDE-One hot Saturday summer afternoon when I was a preteen, I was baking in our warm farmhouse kitchen and experimented with making cream puffs. They turned out beautifully and were so easy to make. Now, realize I had never made whipped cream before. Up to this point in my life, my sole participation in making whipped cream was licking the beaters after mom had whipped cream for Fruit Cocktail Salad. I was whipping cream to use as filling for my freshly baked cream puffs when mom said to me, “Janine watch that closely. If you whip that cream too long, it will turn into butter!” By golly, it did. She also told me many times, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Fortunately, we had more fresh cream in the refrigerator. My second attempt yielded beautiful whipped cream with a divine creaminess! I love the words of wisdom from my mom! To this day, she is with me in my kitchen!