Vive La Butterfat

Of course, it would be just plain irresponsible if I were to discuss croissants and not talk about butter. What is a croissant after all, other than a butter delivery system? There are croissant recipes out there that are fully half butter (too much even for Joe). This week’s is one-third butter, which is about as lean (ha! just saying the word sounds funny) as I recommend you go with a croissant. Eat one or don’t, but if you’re going to go, you might as well go all the way, know what I mean? There’s nothing more fundamentally disappointing than a poorly realized indulgence.

That said, how far should you go when it comes to butter quality? There are many types of butter on the market, after all, from the cheap generic to the very expensive imported. What’s the right choice? My feeling is that in recipes where butter is the star (and there’s clearly no greater starring role for butter than a croissant) there’s no such thing as going too far. And that means a European butter. Euro butters are fresher and cleaner tasting, in part due to their higher butterfat content. It’s only a few percentage points (2-3%), but that little bit makes all the difference when it comes to a truly authentic-tasting croissant.

Trouble is the truly top of the market stuff can run you ten bucks a pound or more. Granted it’s amazing, but then I’m a mortal, and my bank account can’t take that kind of pressure. Which is why I settle for the merely fabulous: this bad boy right here, Plugra. Not actually a European butter, it is in fact a Euro-style butter made right here in the US. Plugra means “the most fat” in pseudo-French marketing speak, and as far as American butters are concerned, it has it. It’s not quite as good as the genuine article, but it’ll only run you about 50% more than supermarket butters (which is to say around six bucks a pound) and that strikes just the right balance as far as Joe is concerned.

Realize of course that all this is pure academic nonsense (sorry honey!) if the butter in question isn’t fresh. I’ll take a fresh-from-the-dairy Corner-Mart special over a two-week-old Beurre d’Isigy any day. So check labels and ask questions. If the butter’s not fresh, find some that is. Failing that you can always do what the French do and make your croissant from margarine. Funny as it sounds coming from a butter snob like me, it can be a darn good option, especially if you’re a dunker.

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