Sour cream butter and 6 other things you should know about butter

sour cream butter

Butter is the chef’s best friend. At least in the western world. Try to imagine the French cuisine without butter. Impossible. And I’m sure that even the Italian chefs use butter now and then even though they claim that they prefer olive oil.

Olive oil is also one of the most useful things you can have in a kitchen, but it can not always replace real butter. Think mushrooms fried with butter and parsley, Beurre Blanc, or fried herring with mashed potatoes and lingonberries.

The last dish is a classic Swedish course, so many of you may not know about it. But I can assure you that it is as impossible for a Swede to cook it in anything but butter as it would be for a Frenchman to use margarine in Bernaise sauce.

But the butter has also been questioned for a long time because it is considered to cause health problems. It contains saturated fat, and everybody knows that saturated fat is BAD. It’s not as dreadful as trans fat, but almost.

Photo from Pixabay

But lately, voices have been heard that claim the opposite. Maybe butter isn’t that bad after all. Maybe it can even be good for you.
What is right and what is wrong?
The truth is probably somewhere in between. I think butter is a natural food that contains a lot of nutrients that are good for the body. But I do not believe that one should exaggerate the consumption of it.

But it’s impossible to resist butter completely. Few ingredients can alone transform a dish from being mediocre to excellent. Butter is capable of doing that because it tastes so divinely.
So now that you know that you have to use butter, at least sometimes, here are some useful tips.

You don’t have to store your butter in the refrigerator.

Butter is about 80% fat and has a low water content. That makes it less susceptible to bacterial growth. But it’s advisable to store only salted butter at room temperature as the salt adds protection.
Store it in small batches, covered to protect it from light and air, not more than you use during a week. Because finally, it will go rancid.
It’s not dangerous, but it tastes bad, and the only thing to do is to waste it. Wasting food is something that we must always try to avoid. Especially something so magical as butter.
But what’s the benefit of storing butter at room temperature?
It will be easier to spread it on your breakfast toast.
Butter that is taken directly from the refrigerator is almost impossible to spread on soft bread. And sometimes some recipes require softened butter.

You can soften butter by grating it.

Maybe you are still suspicious about leaving the butter out on the counter. No problem. You can still bring it to room temperature quickly by grating it with the cheese grater. The thin slices will soften in no time.

It’s possible to fry in very high temperatures with butter.

But first, you have to clarify it. In addition to fat, butter also contains protein, sugar, and water, and it’s the protein and sugar that causes it to burn.
Let the butter melt over low heat in a saucepan until you start to see white foam on the surface. Skim the foam off the surface. Now you have a layer of pure fat over a layer of white liquid in the bottom.
Gently pour the fat into a suitable container, leaving behind the white liquid from the bottom of the pan.
Now you have clarified butter that can handle high temperatures and can replace most oils for frying. It is also an excellent replacement for Ghee which is included in many Indian dishes.
It is also almost lactose-free as most of the sugar was left behind in that white liquid, remember?

Use everything when you make brown butter.

You have probably heard that you shall strain the brown butter from the particles in the bottom of the saucepan. Don’t do that next time. These particles contribute with a minor taste explosion.

Reuse the wrappers.

Not to wrap new butter of course. But they are perfect for greasing sheets, pans, and casseroles.

When is it advisable to exchange butter for margarine?

Never. Margarine is the foods counterpart to Darth Vader.

I have also included an easy recipe for homemade butter. Some of you have maybe already made your own butter, but have you tried to do it with sour cream? Sour cream will give the butter just a hint of sourness. Spread it on a slice of bread and you don’t need any more toppings. Perhaps the way butter tasted when the Vikings introduced it to the rest of the northern Europe. At least my ancestors could do something right, and not only create a huge mess wherever the went. But the Frenchmen got their revenge for all plundering and misery. Today they sell their butter expensive in Swedish delicatessen stores.

whisking cream
Whisk the cream until the butter separates.
Separated butter in buttermilk
This is how it should look like.

Sour cream butter

 

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Sour cream butter
Give your butter an extra dimension by making it from sour cream. Spread it on a slice of bread and you have created a masterpiece.
Servings
Ingredients
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Pour the cream in a big kitchen bowl, and whisk it with a hand mixer on medium speed. Continue to whisk until the butter starts to separate. It will take some time, so don't lose your patience.
  2. Pour off the buttermilk. Rinse the butter by pouring ice water over it and pressing the remaining buttermilk out with a small spatula or a spoon. You can also knead it by hand if you can stand the cold water. When the water starts to go "milky" it's time to pour it off and add some new. Continue like this until the water is completely clear and all buttermilk is pressed out from the butter.
  3. Add salt and work it trough the butter.
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How to make, and bake, with raisin yeast

Levain bread

First time I was baking with raisin yeast, I was surprised at how easy it was. I was a newbie to sourdough baking, and I had struggled with my wheat starter for a while. It’s funny how easy it sometimes sounds when you read instructions for how to make a sourdough starter. Just mix flour with water and place it somewhere warm. And in a couple of days, you have a bubbling starter.

Yeah, sure.

Most of us who have tried know it’s usually not that simple. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you’re taking care of your starter. You’re still just rewarded with some tiny bubbles on the surface. At best. Sometimes it looks dead as a mummy.

As we become more experienced, we learn how to keep our starter mature and lively, but in the beginning, it can be a bit daunting.
That’s why I think it can be a good idea for beginners to take a break from the traditional starter and try raisin yeast instead. It may look complicated at first glance. It’s circumstantial, but it’s in fact not that difficult. And the chance of being rewarded with a bubbly starter is bigger than if you just mix flour and water and hope for the best.

According to some bakers, a traditional levain must be started with raisin yeast. I have no opinion about whether it is correct or not, but I do know that you get excellent bread.

Raisin yeast ( together with other types of fermented fruits or berries) sometimes goes under the definition wild yeast or natural starter to distinguish it from the traditional sourdough starter. I don’t think that’s correct. The only type of yeast that doesn’t qualify in the wild yeast family is commercial yeast.

Now, I’m not claiming that commercial yeast is something bad. It’s perfect for certain types of bread. But it won’t give you bread with that special, tasty crumb with a crunchy crust that only a bread made from a natural starter can provide. Raisin yeast is no exception.

As I have mentioned before, I find it very easy to bake with raisin yeast. Up to this date, I have never failed. I have however heard about bakers that have faced some problems. Some claim that you should only use raisins not coated with oil. I have used both types and never experienced any problems, but if you can find any without oil coating, preferably organic, I encourage you to use them. Unfortunately, the producers sometimes use palm oil, something that can only be considered as vicious.

The procedure to make the yeast is just as easy as to mix a sourdough starter. All you need is some raisins, lukewarm water, and some sugar. Add everything into a glass jar with airtight lid.
Shake the jar until all sugar has dissolved, and place it in a warm place. Now you only have to wait. After 3-4 days, you will hopefully see some bubbles from the raisins. The yeast is ready when all raisins are floating and releasing lots of bubbles. Pour everything through a strainer, but take care of the liquid. It’s the liquid that is the actual yeast.

Raisin yeast

Raisin yeast

You don’t need the raisins anymore so you can waste them. Or you can use them in some bread or pastries. Be creative. Food waste is BAD.

Now you can make your first raisin starter dough (a weird word, I know. But I don’t know what to call it). You mix raisin yeast with flour and let it ferment for at least 4 hours. I use to let it ferment overnight. If you follow the recipe below you will get som leftover yeast. Pour it into a jar with an airtight lid and store it in the refrigerator.
There it should keep for several months.

It’s time to refresh your starter dough, and you do that by adding som water and flour. Knead everything into a smooth dough that you let ferment for 3-6 hours depending surrounding temperature. It should double in size.

Finally, it’s time to mix the levain. I advise you to do that the evening before you want to bake. Let it ferment overnight, and you are ready to bake the next morning.

The levain can be used as a starter in many different recipes. I have included one below that I use on a regular basis.
Make sure that you spare some of the starter dough. You can keep it in the refrigerator for 10-14 days. When you want to bake, you just have to refresh it with flour and water to a new levain. If you do it in the evening, you are ready to bake again in the morning, and you don’t have to start all over again.

And don’t forget that you now have a powerful ally in the refrigerator. A tablespoon of that leftover raisin yeast can wake up the most sleepy sourdough starter. I promise.

About flour.

The flour I used has 11.5-12 % protein. You may have to increase the water amount to get the same result if you are using a much stronger flour.

Print Recipe
How to make, and bake, with raisin yeast
Bake bread with wild yeast made from raisins. Raisin yeast is easy to do, but it's an excellent tool for making top notch sourdough bread.
Servings
loafs
Ingredients
Raisin yeast
Starter dough
Refreshment of starter dough
Levain
Pain au levain
Servings
loafs
Ingredients
Raisin yeast
Starter dough
Refreshment of starter dough
Levain
Pain au levain
Instructions
Raisin yeast
  1. Heat water to approx. 35 °C. Mix sugar, water, and raisins into a large glass jar with air-tight lid, and shake until sugar has dissolved. Place the jar in a warm place, preferably ca. 25-30 °C, if possible. Otherwise, it is good anywhere at ordinary room temperature. It will work. It will just take a little bit longer to start the fermentation process.
  2. Let it ferment 4-6 days. The yeast is ready when all raisins are floating and releasing lots of bubbles. Pour everything through a strainer, but take care of the liquid. It's the liquid that is the actual yeast.
Starter dough
  1. Mix raisin yeast with flour and let it ferment for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
Refreshment of starter
  1. Add water and flour to the starter and knead it to a smooth dough. Let it ferment for 3-4 hours.
Levain
  1. Mix 100 gram of the starter dough with flour and water and knead to a smooth dough. let it ferment overnight, or at least 4 hours.
Pain au levain
  1. Mix all ingredients except salt in a dough mixer until the dough is elastic. Use window pane test. Add the salt the last minutes. If you prefer to knead by hand you can use a stretch and fold technique. You will find a link in the recipe notes
  2. Let the dough ferment until doubled in size.
  3. Spread some semolina on a lightly floured working surface. Form the dough into two loaves with an oblong batard shape. See link in recipe notes. Let the loaves rise in bannetons or on lightly floured parchment paper. Place kitchen towels on the sides to support the bread if you don't use bannetons. Always use rice flour when you are preparing your bannetons. It's superior compared to ordinary flour.
  4. Let the loaves rise until doubled in size, about 60-90 minutes.
  5. Preheat your oven to 480ºF / 250ºC with two oven plates. One to bake the bread on and one just below.
  6. Score each loaf along the side and place them in the oven. Lower the heat to 440ºF / 230ºC. Pour some water on the plate below and bake each loaf in 45-50 minutes.
  7. Let the bread cool on wire racks.
Recipe Notes

Follow this link for instructions regarding stretch and fold technique and forming the loaves.

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