What exactly is “dry butter”?

Several questions have come in along those lines the last few days. “Dry butter” is a term that French pastry chefs frequently employ, usually in regard to the cultured butter they use for laminated pastry. I confess I don’t know what the technical definition of dry butter is in France (France being France, I’m sure it’s codified under law somewhere). I do know this: normal American butters are usually about 80% butterfat, 17% water and 3% protein. That’s “wet” by European standards, where butter is more like 82% fat and 15% water. That, according to some pastry chefs I’ve talked to, makes standard European butter “dry.”

However butter can get quite a bit drier. The Vermont Creamery, I know, makes cultured butter that is 86% butterfat, which is the driest American butter I’m aware of. Is French “dry butter” drier still? I honestly don’t know. Perhaps someone out there who knows would care to weigh in.

One thing I do know is that no matter how dry American butters may get, they will not have the same combination of dryness and firmness that French “winter butter” has, for reason I explained below. Just like French flour, some ingredients simply can’t be reproduced in other locales. We must do the best we can with what we have. As must the French when they set out to make blueberry muffins.

11 thoughts on “What exactly is “dry butter”?”

  1. Hey Joe, What are you doing with that gun in your hand?
    Sorry, couldn’t resist! How are you? I did send you a mail btw.
    Dry butter, Beurre Sec/Beurre de tourage, is butter with 84% fat.
    (Regular gastronomic unsalted butter is 82% fat.) Beurre sec is used by professional bakers to make Viennoiseries, Croissants etc etc and it is difficult for ordinary cooks to buy. You need a chum in the business.
    To make really good puff pastry you also need Farine de Gruau.
    This is like all purpose wheat flour T55, but it is strong, containing 13% gluten (i.e. protein), which gives you extra lift. In regular all purpose flour you have 10% gluten.
    Again you need to buy this flour from a baker friend.
    These special butters and flours do make a difference but you can drive yourself nuts getting hold of them.
    I’ve been making perfectly decent puff pastry for years long before I ever heard of Beurre sec or farine de gruau.
    Of course, being obsessive, I go to enormous lengths to get what the pros use. Lets catch up when you have time. All the best

    1. Just to add this thought. You could make your own dry butter. Take 250g of best quality gastronomic unsalted butter, 82% fat, preferably from a farm.
      Gently melt it in a bain marie. This will release the butter milk which is mostly water.
      Now, you want to make dry butter with 84% fat, so, you need to reduce the water content, by 2% which equals 5g.
      Remove a 5g teaspoon of the butter milk and then beat what remains back in to the butter fat as it cools. What do you think? Should work.

    2. Thanks Ian! I appreciate all the good info! I didn’t notice an email from you but I shall look again!

      Cheers,

      – Joe

    3. Hi to all,
      Dry butter can be also 82% fat. Right, this is typically French. My point of view is that this “dry” thing is a sales positioning. The reality is that puff pastry butter with high melting point is produced by recombination of fractionated fat. This technology is not give to all producers. See my point? Merry Merry Xmas to all and Happy New Year from France!!

      1. Fascinating, Godefroy!

        Thank you for the information and have a merry Christmas yourself!

        Cheers,

        – Joe

  2. Hi Joe,
    I’ll look for it again and resend. It was a while ago.
    Hope all is good healthwise and family too.
    We must catch up.

  3. I make my own tourage butter by beating 1kg regular unsalted butter (80%) with 200g of Ghee (clarified butter – 100%) I use the paddle attachment on a stand mixer. This gives me 83% butter and great plasticity for laminating. Also – ghee is usually made with cultured butter so the mix has the slight tanginess of Normandy butter.

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