Is there a “best” butter for pastry?

Yes: firm. The best butters for making laminated pastry are firm for reasons that should be clear at this point: because they won’t melt into the dough as quickly or easily (during rolling and/or in the oven). And that means a flakier, higher-rising finished product.

Certainly, firmness is a factor of temperature. However it’s also a factor of the butter’s fatty acid makeup, and as I wrote yesterday, that’s largely determined by the breed of the cow and the cow’s diet.

Though I can’t afford to buy much French butter, I do know people who insist that butters from Normandy are the best in the world. But in what sense do you mean “best”? If you’re talking about a butter that’s better for spreading, binding sauces and so forth, then Normandy butters probably are among the world’s best. However many pastry chefs in France prefer the butters from Charentes-Poitou because of their firmer texture.

For the day when you feel you’ve truly mastered laminated dough making, you might want to treat yourself to some. Celles sur Belle is a brand of Charentes-Poitou butter that can be found in many specialty shops in the US. It’s probably the most expensive butter I’m aware of (sixteen to twenty bucks a pound), but for the closest possible imitation of fine French pastry, it’s the butter you want.

Failing that, you can asses the relative quality of butters for pastry by giving them a simple squeeze. Standard butters, even when thoroughly chilled, will give a bit under pressure. Try squeezing a tube of Celles sur Belle sometime and you’ll see: it’s hard as a rock when it’s refrigerated. So the next time you’re out hunting for good pastry butter, make like you’re in the produce section and squeeze (just don’t let the grocer see you).

10 thoughts on “Is there a “best” butter for pastry?”

  1. Hi again!
    Love your site…
    Do you make your croissants using American or European butter? I followed your instructions to the “T” and although. Y croissants turned out very tasty, buttery and soft, they did not that amazing delicious flakiness of the bakery ones. I used American butter. Should I have used butter like Plugras or that Irish one?
    or am I completely off and there is another reason for the flakinessless?
    Thank you!
    Ps. I drafted a long email a long time ago asking the same question when you had your old site. Never sent…

    1. Hi Denise!

      You know, I try to use Euro-style butter whenever I make laminated dough. It has less moisture and that helps preserve the flakiness of the finished pastry. I’m sure I blogged about that at the time I was making croissants and Danishes, but for some reason neglected to make a note of that in the ingredient lists. I shall make that correction right away. So sorry about that. Please try it again and let me know if the result is any better.

      – Joe

  2. Hello Joe, I found this article whilst searching for a butter suitable for pastry, especially laminating. Do you recommend any type of brand in the supermarket? there is not a lot of difference among the one which can be found on the supermarket shelves. thanks in advance for your feedback,
    ben

    1. Hi Ben!

      When in doubt I always go for Land O’ Lakes…it’s bankable everywhere. For laminated pastry a cultured Euro-style works the best because of the high acidity….it actually tastes less “fatty”. Plugra is a domestic cultured butter that’s found in more and more stores. Imported butters I like include Lurpak and Kerry. You want the unsalted for sure. Good luck!

      – Joe

  3. In response to your recommendation of Land O’Lakes butter; I have used it for years as did my mother and her mother before her. But I had a real problem with my latest batch of croissants. (I make them every year with LOL unsalted.) When I pounded the butter,little water droplets sprayed out of the butter onto my board. I have never seen this happen before. The dough was really hard to roll out, almost as if there was glue in there instead of butter. Each successive fold/roll got worse. The dough was super springy… maybe I over-kneaded it, but I don’t think so. I rested it… it didn’t help. Forming the croissants was a nightmare, like rolling sponge rubber. When I baked them, the tops didn’t brown, they burned on the bottom and were soggy in the middle. I think they had too much water in them from the wet butter. Today I remade the rolls with Plugra. No problems. LOL is sending me coupons, but I’ll never use their product in laminate pastry again.

    1. Very odd, Beth. Sounds like you got a bad batch there with residual buttermilk in it. I’ve never had that experience with Land O’Lakes, but I believe it’s possible. I generally recommend a Euro-style butter for laminated pastry anyway since the flavor is generally a bit better. Hope you don’t have any more troubles!

      – Joe

  4. Dear Joey, I love this part of your message:
    “So the next time you’re out hunting for good pastry butter, make like you’re in the produce section and squeeze (just don’t let the grocer see you). ” 🙂 🙂 🙂

    1. Hehe…I like being called Joey! 😉

      Cheers and thanks for the comment, Asiya,

      – Joe

  5. I have tried to make croissant more than 3 times, using all kind of unsalted butter we can find in big stores in the US. ( American or European style) . I can’t even work on the dough .the butter has 17 % of fats only. It contains too much water . I love croissant and I think fresh croissant are really expensive. I hope you can give me a name of the butter you are using ,so I can make croissant at home

    1. Hello Moumna,

      I tend to use fairly expensive butters. Kerry is an Irish butter that works very well. Lurpak is also terrific. An American-made European butter called Plugra is also very good for croissants. Good luck with the croissants, I’m sure with some practice you will solve the problem.

      – Joe

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