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A cooking essential that is prized for its flavour and rich taste. Butter is one ingredient most kitchens can't do without. The pale yellow colour is generally derived from colouring agents like carotene and annato, for commercial butter and the organic varietal has its butter coloured so due to the animal's feed. Generally, butter must have a minimum fat content of 80%, a max of 18% moisture content and fat solid at 2%. Hand churned the old fashioned way or machine churned the modern way, it's no secret that Indians love butter naturally made or otherwise more than any other nation in the world. After all, we allocate almost half our nation's annual milk pool to butter production.
How to select
• Depending on the purpose of butter usage you can choose from the commercial assortment of butters classified under the salted and unsalted category.
• Unsalted is best for cooking and baking as the lack of salt doesn't affect the overall taste of the dish.
• If your requirements are specific, for example; low fat, less sodium...etc. You will find butter brands that cater to that. While not commercially available everywhere, select specialty stores will stock them.
• Remember good quality butter should have uniform colour, waxy texture and be absent of any free moisture.
• If purchasing flavoured butters or compound butters (beurres, composes) then they should have the specific flavour characteristic to that butter. For example; garlic butter, moutarde (mustard) butter... etc.
• Sandwich breads need to be buttered as the fat acts as a deterrent to the moisture content of veggies like tomato and cucumber.
• Bakery products will never be the same without the buttery, flaky goodness and rich flavour that only butter affords. Cookies, crisp pie shells, light flaky puff pastry, tea cakes and most baked goodies have butter as the hero ingredient.
• Soup and sauces, from French classics like buerre and roux, where equal quantities of butter and flour are cooked together before the addition of spice flavoured milk to make white sauce. With butter and egg yolk, the classic Hollandaise and Béarnaise sauce are born.
• Breadbaskets filled with bread rolls and breadsticks with little bowls of plain and flavoured butter.
• Pure ghee, which is nothing but clarified butter is obtained when butter is heated and the moisture content evaporates. It has a higher keeping quality and is the common cooking medium preferred by households in India, especially during festival times.
• When making jam or preserves, apply a cube of butter after cooking to prevent foaming, skin and scum formation on the surface, while giving the product a buttery sheen.
How to store
• Since butter is a perishable product, it needs to be stored under refrigerated conditions.
• It is wrapped in greaseproof or foil lined paper.
• Since it has a tendency of absorbing odours easily, it is recommended to be stored well wrapped and away from strong flavoured foods.
• Keep away from sunlight as it tends to go rancid faster.
• Butter is by nature a very rich, natural food with high energy value (750 calories per 100gms).
• It's saturated fat contains calcium, phosphorous and vitamins A and D.
• Selenium, which is technically important for playing a critical role in reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism, DNA synthesis, to name a few, is found in butter.
Melting butter is simple. Heat the pan on low, add your butter in and rotate the pan gently for the butter to cover its surface. If you would like to melt the butter in the microwave, place the butter in a microwavable container, without a lid and set the timer for anything between 20-40 seconds.
Soft, room temperature butter is attained when you plan beforehand and place the required quantity of butter on your kitchen counter for an hour or two,(depending on the weather) before cooking. Take your finger and gently apply pressure to the surface of the butter if it gives way easily, it means it's at the right temperature. If it feels softer than that, place it back in the fridge to harden up for about 30-40 minutes.