Those butter questions just keep a-comin’

Though I’m technically onto another project, it’s hard to say no to more questions about butter. The topic is just that interesting. Reader Austin asks:

You mentioned that winter butter has more saturated fat in it than summer butter. Why?

Great question. The reason is simply because pasture grasses have more unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in them than grain, and grain is what dairy cows are/were traditionally fed in winter. What, you didn’t think plants had fat in them? They do. From reader Sally:

I remember from an old post that shortening has no water, can it be used to make laminated pastry?

It can be, but shortening doesn’t have much flavor, plus it’s got a greasy mouthfeel. A better choice is margarine, which is also 100% fat. Many croissants produced on the Continent are in fact made with margarine. It tastes similar to butter of course, yet margarine still presents a problem with greasy texture. The reason is because unlike butter, which melts at around 90 degrees, margarine has a melt point around 105, which means it doesn’t liquify in the mouth. Classic “c”-shaped croissants can legally be made with margarine in France. However straight ones must be made from nothing but whole butter. Or do I have that backwards? Reader Ed comments:

Francisco Migoya, chef instructor at the CIA tells the story of how me made croissants using fois gras instead of butter – thinking he would have the richest, most luxurious of all pastries – as they were baking the whole kitchen smelled of fois gras. The finished croissants were nicely laminated, but had almost no fois gras flavor. A very expensive lesson and not one that would have been made in a for profit restaurant, God bless academia!

He also asks:

Instead of trying to cook the water out as in brown butter, could you not dry butter in the fridge? Assuming you had, let’s say an old fridge you keep in the basement – to keep, I dunno, beer cold? And if this mythological fridge were cleaned well, to remove as much odor as possible, couldn’t the butter be cut into cubes, spread on a cookie sheet and left uncovered in the fridge overnight?

I suppose it’s possible, but I’m a little skeptical that enough water would evaporate from the butter to make a difference. However here’s another thought offered by Chef Laura:

The New French Baker (Sheila Linderman) describes a technique for drying out butter (as an alternative to adding flour to it). She says that if you pound the butter, beads of water will come out. You pat the butter dry as it exudes moisture during the pounding process.

Or I suppose you can just make your own butter and squeeze the heck out of it like reader Evan suggested in the cultured butter post.

UPDATE: Chef Laura says:

Supermarket brands of margarine have water in the ingredients. I think that there are specialty margerines produced that are specially formulated for making laminated doughs.

Thanks for helping to keep me honest, Laura! Reader Joe from Israel adds:

Here is what I would do to try and create dry butter: Boil off all the water and filter the solids. Then combine the newly created 100% butterfat with regular butter at a ratio of 1:2. I start with butter containing 82% fat. By adding one part 100% butterfat with two parts 82%, I get butter 88% fat (In Israel, standard butter is 82%, dry butter is unobtainable). In the US, I’d start with 80% butter and the process would yield with ~87% fat – I probably can’t tell the difference of the 1% fat. I have read that buerre sec is around 86%-88% fat (reference to be quoted later).

I might even get better crystallization properties, first because I combined twice the regular butter together with the 100% butterfat. The second reason is based on conjecture: perhaps in way similar to the way seeding uses crystallized cocoa butter to influence non-crystallized cocoa butter in tempered chocolate, the crystallized butter might influence the non-crystallized butter when combining them at the right temperature – for instance 68 degrees. We can try it and find out how it behaves.

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